Breastfeeding and Infant Sleep – Does Timing Matter?

POSTED BY Kimberley | Jun, 06, 2017 |
Breastfeeding and infant sleep - does timing matter

Calling all old mums, new mums, and mums to be, this ones for you..

We all get told over and over again how important it is to breast feed – e.g. release of mother-baby bonding hormone oxytocin, immunity, optimal nutrient intake to growth the list goes on.

But did you also know that your milk composition changes within a 24hour period?

In a recent post graduate assignment, we were asked to look at the literature behind a couple of articles published on the Daily Mail a few years back, that made the claims that “Bottle fed babies should not be fed “morning” expressed milk, at NIGHT”.

This is based on the discovery of bio-active sleep inducing compounds in breast milk.

  • Melatonin,

  • Tryptophan,

  • Neucloetide/neucleocides,

  • Vit B12.

You always have to treat headlines with caution, but after burying myself in literature for the last two days its looking like these articles might actually have some truth.

Heres a summary of what I found:

1. Your breast milk DOES in fact contain these sleep promoting components for your baby, which are NOT found in formula milk.

2. Melatonin (our sleep inducing hormone) has shown a very clear circadian rhythm in breast feeding women, with concentrations unmeasurable during the day, then peaking at 3am.

3. Tryptophan (pre-cursor of melatonin) has also shown to have a circadian rhythm in breast milk, peaking at 3am, and associated with improved sleep quality, longer sleep duration, and consolidating sleep wake cycles in infants.

4. Neuclotides – 5 Neuclotides have been identified in milk samples of healthy women, 4 of which show clear circadian rhythms. But the effect on sleep quality still needs more research (few human studies available – most done on rats)

So what does this mean for women who are breast feeding and want to starting to moving on to bottle feeding?

Well, of course this is just another thing to add to your list of “good reason to breast feed” – Sleepy baby!.But there also might be some logic for women who are bottle feeding with their collected milk to at least TRY to keep morning collected milk, to the day time and night collected milk to night time.

Bigger sample sizes are needed to confirm these findings, but its pretty interesting what they’ve found so far. Just another example of how incredible and complicated the human body is. I do love science!

Happy breast feeding 🙂

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