Breastfeeding Behavior and Sleep of New Mothers in a Predominantly Low-Income and Ethnically Diverse Sample

Thursday, 25 July 2013: 9:10 AM

Therese Doan, RN, PhD, IBCLC
School of Nursing, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA
Kathryn A. Lee, RN, PhD, CBSM, FAAN
Family Health Care Nursing, Unviersity of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA

Learning Objective 1: The learner will be able to understand sleep in relation to breastfeeding, conceptualized as a healthy behavior of new mothers.

Learning Objective 2: The learner will be able to apply this knowledge into promoting health and well-being of women and infants in the first month postpartum.

Purpose: To add to current knowledge about sleep and breastfeeding behavior of new mothers in order to promote exclusive breastfeeding in the first month postpartum, a vulnerable time frame for infant formula supplementation and early breastfeeding cessation.

Objective: The objective of this study was to describe and compare the sleep of women who exclusively breastfed at night to those who used formula in the first month postpartum.

Methods: Both objective and subjective measures of sleep were obtained using actigraphy, diary, and self-report data from a predominantly low-income and ethnically diverse sample of 120 first-time mothers. Measures were collected in the last month of pregnancy and at one month postpartum.  Feeding diaries were used to group mothers by nighttime infant feeding type.

Results:  Mothers who used at least some formula at night (n=54) and those who used breastmilk exclusively (n=66) had similar sleep patterns in late pregnancy.  However, at one month postpartum, there was a significant group difference in nocturnal sleep as measured by actigraphy. Total nighttime sleep was 386±66 minutes for the exclusive breastfeeding group and 356±67 minutes for the formula group. The groups did not differ with respect to daytime sleep, wake after sleep onset, or subjective sleep disturbance at one month postpartum.

Conclusion: Exclusive breastfeeding women averaged 30 minutes more nocturnal sleep than women who used formula at night. New mothers should be encouraged to breastfeed exclusively since breastfeeding may promote sleep during postpartum recovery.