Guest blogger Kate Tuttle: There are a lot of reasons breastfeeding is hard. Lots of new mothers have trouble getting the latch right, many find themselves feeling trapped during those early-evening cluster feeds, and then there's the perpetual issue of getting funny looks (or getting thrown out of restaurants) while nursing the baby in public.
One of the biggest reasons many women give up breastfeeding
very early on is that they feel that night feedings are going to cost them sleep. Many times this worry is amplified by well-meaning new grandparents (and even husbands) who assure the woman that she'll be able to sleep like ... well, a baby, while they get up and handle some late-night feedings by means of a bottle. Before long, even moms who were pretty committed to breastfeeding
find that sleeping through night feedings hampers their ability to produce milk, and then they're locked in to bottles and formula, whether they wanted to be or not. (In most cases, that ever-helpful grandmother has left the building, leaving the tired new mom to handle night feedings on her own anyway.)
But not all night feedings are created equal. Breastfeeding
in the middle of the night can require a woman to wake up only in the most limited sense. If you're co-sleeping, for instance, you can just roll over slightly and make your breast available to the baby, who will happily nurse while you (and she) are mostly if not entirely asleep. Even if your infant is in another room, you merely have to get yourself there to breastfeed her -- no need for a kitchen visit. Night feedings with a bottle
, on the other hand, require a little (or a lot) more mental energy. You have to find a clean bottle and nipple, measure and mix. If your baby likes it heated, you have to heat the bottle without making it too hot.
All of which makes a new study on maternal sleep
completely unsurprising. No matter what your mother-in-law tells you, it turns out that nursing moms are no more sleep-deprived -- and may be less -- than formula-feeding moms. So go ahead and feed your baby the way that works best for everyone in the family
, and don't listen to old wives' tales about how nursing your baby will rob you of sleep. New parents always need more shuteye than they get, but breastfeeding
is not to blame.