Breastfed or Formula Fed: Which Babies Get More Sleep?

Amy Keyishian

me and penny asleepMy friends who have chosen not to breastfeed often cite a very compelling reason: Formula is supposed to take longer to digest, thereby allowing babies to sleep longer at a younger age. In the battle between bottle and boob, sleep is a major sticking point.

But here’s some interesting news: A study done at the University of West Virginia studied moms who were exclusively breastfeeding, exclusively formula feeding, and combining both methods. Kumbaya, my ladies: we're all alike in having totally disturbed sleep.

According to Hawley E. Montgomery-Downs, Ph.D., one of the studies’ authors:

There’s this urban legend that breast-fed babies don’t sleep as well -- but based on this study, there’s no reason a woman should expect that formula-feeding will give her any more sleep.

The average mom of a newborn gets about 7.2 hours of sleep per night, albeit “chopped up like confetti,” no matter what method she uses to feed the baby.

Why is that? Montgomery-Downs says there are several possible explanations: (a) the earlier studies showing formula-fed babies sleeping longer were wrong; (b) the hormone prolactin, released during breastfeeding, has a sleep-inducing effect, so even if you wake up, you sink right back into sleep again (even in the middle of the day -- oh yeah, I’ve nodded off in a puddle of drool on the couch); (c) bottle-feeding requires you to get up, turn on a light, warm up milk, and basically rouse yourself more, so even if it happens less often, it’s more disruptive.

But the study didn’t address the reasons behind the facts, so it’s anyone’s guess. Of course, the other advantage to formula feeding is that someone else can take the night shift, but of the 80 women who participated in the study, guess how many reported that their male partner took the night shift?



Do you think women get more sleep if they formula feed or breastfeed? Tell us in the comments (but keep it friendly, please)!

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