Research Shows Sleep Disruptions Associated with Breastfeeding Resolve Over Time

Research presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in Boston, shows that sleep disruptions associated with breastfeeding, including increased night wakings and sleep fragmentation, resolve over time.  By six months followup, infants who were exclusively breastfed had equal sleep skills.

Jodi A. Mindell, PhD, and colleagues at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and several other institutions, assessed the relationship between breastfeeding and sleep over time in a longitudinal study of infants. They asked 89 mothers of exclusively breast-fed (35) and exclusively formula-fed (54) infants (ages 3-12 months) to complete the Brief Infant Sleep Questionnaire at baseline and at four follow-up visits -- three, six, nine, and 12-18 months). Data were analyzed using MANOVA with a Bonferroni correction of .008 due to multiple comparisons.

According  to the researchers, concurrent analyses indicated that infants who were exclusively breastfed had significantly more night wakings (P=0.002) and were less likely to wake up in their own bed (P <0.001).  These infants also took more frequent naps during the day (P=0.003) than the formula-fed infants. The differences in night wakings (P=0.003) and waking up in own bed (P=0.007) persisted three months later. Additionally, formula-fed infants had significantly longer stretches of sleep at night (P=0.007) three months later.

However, at six month followup, “waking up in own bed” (P=0.007) was the only significant group difference. There were no differences in the length of time to fall asleep or the total amount of sleep during the night at any time point. By the nine month and long-term (12-18 month) follow-up, all group differences in sleep had disappeared.

“Families who breastfeed should not be concerned about establishing any long-term sleep issues,” the investigators concluded.