Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
© Dr. Neil Stanley 2013-2020
Breast Milk and Sleep Interesting research was recently released showing the importance of human milk to the sleep in infants. The American researchers showed that human milk is a powerful form of, what they term, “chrononutrition” i.e. that it is formulated in such a way as  to communicate time of day information to infants. Infants need a lot of sleep and they will take it at intervals during the day and night without much regard to whether it is light or dark outside. Infants have not yet developed the ability to distinguish day or night, which as adults we are naturally aware, and so breast milk can play an important role in the development of this awareness and thus hopefully improve sleep and assist in the consolidation of sleep in the night time hours as the infants develop. One interesting finding from the study was that some breastfed infants consume some milk that does not come directly from the breast but is pumped and stored in advance of feeding. This may mean that infants receive milk that is not necessarily matched to the actual time of day, e.g. an infant may drink breast milk pumped in the evening on the following morning. The authors of the study say that ingesting such milk may disrupt the infant’s ability to properly develop their circadian rhythms potentially contributing to sleep problems. While this study would suggest that breast-feeding a child may be beneficial to getting the infant to sleep well, the authors also suggest that if you are going to use stored milk that you label it the time of day that it was pumped and use it at the correct time of day. Further research in to the link between human milk and infant sleep is needed but this paper provides good data to suggest that breast-feeding an infant could have benefit for both the child’s, and the parent’s sleep. Hahn-Holbrook, J., Saxbe, D., Bixby, C., Steele, C. and Glynn, L., 2019. Human milk as “chrononutrition”: implications for child health and development. Pediatric research, p.1. here