feeding women, there was a compensatory reduction in light, non-REM sleep.
Slow-wave sleep is an important marker
of sleep quality, and those with a lower
percentage of slow-wave sleep report
more daytime fatigue.
The most recent study was published
in Sleep, a major sleep-medicine journal
not necessarily known for its support of
breastfeeding. The 2009 study included
2,830 women at 7 weeks postpartum.
It found that disrupted sleep was a major
risk factor for postpartum depression.
But here’s where it really gets interesting.
When considering what disrupted sleep,
the researchers found that the following
factors were related to disturbed sleep:
depression, previous sleep problems,
being a first-time mother, a younger or
male infant, and not exclusively breastfeeding. In other words, mothers who
were not exclusively breastfeeding had
more disrupted sleep and a higher risk
The results of these studies are
remarkably consistent. Breastfeeding
mothers are less tired and get more sleep
than their formula- or mixed-feeding
counterparts—and this lowers their risk
for depression. Doan and colleagues
noted that using supplementation as a
coping strategy for minimizing sleep loss
can actually be detrimental because of its
impact on prolactin hormone production
and secretion. Breastfeeding continuation
and success, as well as deep restorative
sleep, may be greatly compromised for
new mothers who supplement during the
night with formula.
In sum, advising women to avoid nighttime breastfeeding to lessen their risk of
depression is not medically sound. In fact,
if women follow this advice, it may actually increase their risk of depression.
actually get more sleep
—particularly when the
baby is in proximity to
the mother. And that
has major implications
for their mental health.
© istockphoto.com / xxxx
Kathleen Kendall-Tackett is a health psychologist and international board-certified
lactation consultant. She is clinical associate professor of pediatrics at Texas Tech
University School of Medicine in Amarillo, Texas, and editor-in-chief of Clinical
Lactation. Dr. Kendall-Tackett is author of more than 260 articles, book chapters
and other publications, and is author or editor of 20 books on the subjects of maternal
depression, trauma and breastfeeding. She can be found online at uppitysciencechick.com
View article resources and author information here: pathwaystofamilywellness.org/