Photo: tiarescott (flickr)
Parents of young infants know just how rare and valuable uninterrupted sleep can be. As it turns out, the timing of breast milk production may help play a role in facilitating sleeping in an infant.
Time Of Day Is Key
Some mothers express breast milk during the day and save it for bottle‑feeding their infants at night.
This strategy allows fathers or other carers to help with the night‑time feedings, and can make late night feeding quicker and easier for the mothers. However, the plan may actually result in a more sleepless night for infants and their parents.
Types Of Nucleotides
It turns out that not all breast milk is the same. Breast milk is composed, in part, of compounds called nucleotides-‑the building blocks of DNA. Breast milk contains many types of nucleotides, thought to be important for tissue development in growing infants.
Three of these nucleotides are also thought to be associated with sleep and sedation.
Night And Day
A team of Spanish researchers collected breast milk over a twenty-four hour period from thirty healthy moms who had been breast‑feeding for at least three months.
They found that the concentrations of these three specific nucleotides associated with sleep and sedation were highest in milk expressed at night, and decreased during the day.
In a follow‑up study the researchers created a night‑time formula for bottle‑fed babies that contained higher concentrations of the three sleep‑related nucleotides than normal infant formula.
Infants who received normal formula during the day, and night‑time formula after six p.m., fell asleep faster and slept longer than when they were given normal formula milk twenty-four hours a day.