Relationship between breastfeeding and sleep
It is very important for you to understand the relationship between breastfeeding and sleep. Having a deep understanding of breastfeeding and sleep relationship will help you to know the right time to breastfeed your baby. If you feed your baby at the right time, it is more likely that the baby will be stimulated during the day and sleep soundly at night. Your breast milk contains substances that serve your baby’s need at each time of the day. Ingredients that stimulate your baby during the day and those that help your baby to have a sound sleep at night are contained in your breast milk. Given this, you can turn breastfeeding to your advantage as a nursing mother. All you need is proper timing.
There are three major ingredients contained in your breast milk which induce and relax your baby’s central nervous system. They also and enhance sound sleep in your baby. The concentration of these ingredients in your breast milk varies throughout the day. Researchers of the University of Extremadura discovered that the concentration of these ingredients especially the nucleotides was higher during the nighttime than during the day. This explains why your baby sleeps more at night.
Your breast milk contains wide range of hormones such as prolactin, cholecystokinin, oxytocin and melatonin. These hormones play a vital role in relaxing you and your baby. Melatonin was undetected during the day in a sample of breast milk examined by the researchers. But they detected it during the night. The researchers were surprise to discover this but they were not able to explain the reason for that. It could be nature’s own way of putting your baby to sleep during the nighttime.
Another research conducted in the University of Western Australia also shows that breast milk contains ingredients that cause babies to sleep soundly at night. As discovered by the researchers, the concentration of fat in your breast milk is high during breastfeeding and it continues to increase 90 minutes after breastfeeding.
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Based on the above discoveries, experts recommend that you feed your baby with fresh breast milk. If you express your breast milk, you should not store it in order to feed your baby later on. The concentration of the ingredients in your breast will change. This will affect your baby’s behavior. For example, feeding your baby with breast milk expressed and stored in the refrigerator for few hours can make the baby to keep awake during the nighttime owing to changes in the concentration of breast milk content.
Dr Cristina, the lead researcher in the University of Extremadura likens feeding a baby at night with breast milk expressed and stored for hours to giving a person coffee at night. This is so because your breast milk contains both substances that induce sleep at night and others that stimulate activity in your baby during the day. The concentration of substances that stimulate your baby during the day will be higher in breast milk expressed and stored for hours.
Breastfeeding your baby directly from your breast rather than expressing it remains a veritable means of relaxing your baby. However, if breastfeeding from the source is not possible for you, you can express your milk and feed your baby with that. But as suggested by Kate, you have to store the expressed milk in a refrigerator and then feed your baby with it during the next day at the time it was expressed.