Do parents who formula-feed their infants get more sleep than parents who breast-feed?

Last updated: February 20, 2022
There is no consensus in the literature on this question. We encourage you to read the study summaries below or the studies themselves if you have access.
This short answer was generated by aggregating the answers that each of the studies below gave to the question (as indicated by State of K members) and adjusting for source quality and other factors. If key studies are missing or the answers attributed to individual studies are incorrect, the above answer could be wrong. For medical questions, don't rely on the information here. Consult a medical professional.
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YES ANSWERS
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NO ANSWERS
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Chart summary of 5 studies examining this question

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SUMMARIES OF STUDIES
Total studies in list: 5
Sorted by publication year
1
Association between breastfeeding and new mothers’ sleep: a unique Australian time use study
"BackgroundInfant sleep is of great interest to new parents. There is ongoing debate about whether infants fed with breastmilk substitutes sleep longer than those exclusively or partially breastfed, but what does this mean for the mother? What expectations are realistic for mothers desiring to exclusively breastfeed as recommended by health authorities?There are both biological and social influences on infant and maternal sleep. More accurate information on average maternal sleep hours for diverse feeding practices may help guide realistic expectations and better outcomes for mothers, infants and families.MethodsUsing a unique time use dataset purposefully designed to study the time use of new mothers, this study investigated whether the weekly duration of maternal sleep, sleep disturbance, unpaid housework, and free time activities differed by detailed feeding method. The study collected 24/7 time use data from 156 mothers of infants aged 3, 6 and/or 9 months between April 2005 and April 2006, recruited via mother’s groups, infant health clinics, and childcare services throughout Australia. Sociodemographic and feeding status data were collected by questionnaire. Statistical analysis used linear mixed modelling and residual maximum likelihood analysis to compare effects of different infant feeding practices on maternal time use.ResultsThere were no significant differences in time spent asleep between lactating and non lactating mothers, though lactating mothers had more time awake at night. Lactating mothers spent more time (8.5 h weekly) in childcaring activity (p = 0.007), and in employment (2.7 vs. 1.2 h, p < 0.01), but there were no significant differences in free time. Those not breastfeeding spent more time in unpaid domestic work.Exclusive breastfeeding was associated with reduced maternal sleep hours (average 7.08 h daily). Again, free time did not differ significantly between feeding groups. Exclusively breastfeeding mothers experienced reduced sleep hours, but maintained comparable leisure time to other mothers by allocating their time differently. Domestic work hours differed, interacting in complex ways with infant age and feeding practice.ConclusionsOptimal breastfeeding may require realistic maternal sleep expectations and equitable sharing of paid and unpaid work burdens with other household members in the months after the birth of an infant."
AUTHOR
Julie P. Smith
PUBLISHED
2021 International Breastfeeding Journal
High Quality Source
No
No
2
Nighttime Breastfeeding Behavior Is Associated with More Nocturnal Sleep among First-Time Mothers at One Month Postpartum
"STUDY OBJECTIVE:To describe sleep duration and quality in the first month postpartum and compare the sleep of women who exclusively breastfed at night to those who used formula.METHODS:We conducted a longitudinal study in a predominantly low-income and ethnically diverse sample of 120 first-time mothers. Both objective and subjective measures of sleep were obtained using actigraphy, diary, and self-report data. Measures were collected in the last month of pregnancy and at one month postpartum. Infant feeding diaries were used to group mothers by nighttime breastfeeding behavior.RESULTS:Mothers who used at least some formula at night (n = 54) and those who breastfed exclusively (n = 66) had similar sleep patterns in late pregnancy. However, there was a significant group difference in nocturnal sleep at one month postpartum 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 (sleep fragmentation), or subjective sleep disturbance at one month postpartum.CONCLUSION:Women who breastfed exclusively averaged 30 minutes more nocturnal sleep than women who used formula at night, but measures of sleep fragmentation did not differ. New mothers should be encouraged to breastfeed exclusively since breastfeeding may promote sleep during postpartum recovery. Further research is needed to better understand how infant feeding method affects maternal sleep duration and fragmentation."
AUTHOR
Therese Doan
PUBLISHED
2014 Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine
High Quality Source
Yes
Yes
3
Breastfeeding and Short Sleep Duration in Mothers and 6–11-Month-Old Infants
"This study examined breastfeeding and sleep in 77 dyads of mothers and infants 6–11 months old. Data revealed no significant difference in sleep patterns between breastfed and non-breastfed infants. Controlling for variables including breastfeeding status, only infant nighttime sleep duration was significant in predicting maternal short sleep duration."
AUTHOR
Jill R. Demirci
PUBLISHED
2012 Infant Behavior and Development
No
No
4
The Effect of Feeding Method on Sleep Duration, Maternal Well-Being, and Postpartum Depression
"When a breastfeeding mother is depressed--or even at risk for depression--she is often advised to supplement with formula so that she can get more sleep. Results of recent studies suggest, however, that exclusively breastfeeding mothers actually get more sleep than their mixed- or formula-feeding counterparts. The present study examines the relationship between feeding method, maternal well-being, and postpartum depression in a sample of 6,410 mothers of infants 0-12 months of age. Our findings revealed that women who were breastfeeding reported significantly more hours of sleep, better physical health, more energy, and lower rates of depression than mixed- or formula-feeding mothers. Further, there were no significant differences on any measure between mixed- and formula-feeding mothers, suggesting that breastfeeding is a qualitatively different experience than even mixed feeding."
AUTHOR
Kathleen Kendall-Tackett
PUBLISHED
2011 Clinical Lactation
Yes
Yes
5
Breast-feeding Increases Sleep Duration of New Parents
"Objectives This study describes sleep patterns for mothers and fathers after the birth of their first child and compares exclusive breast-feeding families with parents who used supplementation during the evening or night at 3 months postpartum.Methods As part of a randomized clinical trial, the study utilized infant feeding and sleep data at 3 months postpartum from 133 new mothers and fathers. Infant feeding type (breast milk or formula) was determined from parent diaries. Sleep was measured objectively using wrist actigraphy and subjectively using diaries. Lee's General Sleep Disturbance Scale was used to estimate perceived sleep disturbance.Results Parents of infants who were breastfed in the evening and/or at night slept an average of 40–45 minutes more than parents of infants given formula. Parents of infants given formula at night also self-reported more sleep disturbance than parents of infants who were exclusively breast-fed at night.Conclusions Parents who supplement their infant feeding with formula under the impression that they will get more sleep should be encouraged to continue breast-feeding because sleep loss of more than 30 minutes each night can begin to affect daytime functioning, particularly in those parents who return to work."
AUTHOR
Doan, Therese
PUBLISHED
2007 The Journal of Perinatal & Neonatal Nursing
Yes
Yes