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World Breastfeeding Week 2021: Here's How Breastfeeding Promotes Better Sleep In Mothers

World Breastfeeding Week promotes the importance of breastfeeding for adequate development of children. Breastfeeding offers health benefits to both mother and the baby.

World Breastfeeding Week 2021: Heres How Breastfeeding Promotes Better Sleep In Mothers

The theme for the World Breastfeeding Week 2021 is 'Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility'

Motherhood is a wonderful time but is also challenging in the first few months particularly for a new mother. A woman undergoes significant changes both physiologically and psychologically during the first few post-partum months. Major physiological changes occur following parturition and the onset of lactation, including the withdrawal of oestrogen and progesterone, with a consequent increase in circulating prolactin.

Caring for the child comes as an added responsibility and often adds up to post-partum stress. Hence, sleep becomes vital as a part of overall restorative process and post-partum recovery for the mother. But as we know a mother's sleep is often interrupted for breast-feeding episodes. Several studies have shown that sleep duration is reduced, and sleep architecture is also deranged during lactation period. However, like every other well-being element, sleep is an essential component to stay healthy. It is also important to understand, how breastfeeding can influence better sleep-in new mothers.

We know that breastfeeding is of vital importance for the well-being of maternal health and optimal development of the child. It especially helps keep the mother away from postpartum depression and enable breastmilk production, thus keeping the baby healthy. Hence, many scientific guidelines recommend, exclusive breastfeeding for six months to promote child and maternal health. And this guidance has been implemented by health authorities across the globe.

It is interesting to know that benefits of breastfeeding even extend to the type of sleep a mother receives during the post-partum period. Prolactin is a hormone that is responsible for initiation and maintenance of lactation. Prolactin is released during breastfeeding, and it has been noted that breastfeeding mothers often feel drowsy post a session of breast-feeding.

Clinical studies have also shown that exclusively breastfeeding mothers average 30 min more nocturnal sleep than mothers who use formula at night. Breastfeeding mothers also have more deep sleep due to increase in Slow Wave Sleep (SWS).

Lactation hormones such as prolactin help mothers adapt to the stress of caring for an infant, including fragmented sleep. Lactation hormones influence maternal nurturing behaviour and desire for proximity to the infants. On the other hand, sleep-deprivation leads to high cortisol production, and can delay breast-milk production. Hence, sleep and breastfeeding has a bi-directional relationship. Breastfeeding helps beget better sleep and better sleep begets maternal and child health.

A consistent and healthy sleep schedule along with breastfeeding helps in boosting milk production and decreases anxiety.

While postpartum depression is common in new mothers. It can impact a mother's bonding with her child and thus significantly impact the child's development, causing difficulty in relating to peers and low self-esteem. An increasingly recognised way of managing the postpartum period is breast-feeding and a healthy sleep schedule. Breastfeeding, therefore, is more important than it may seem, as it helps a child's development, decrease morbidities and mortality and ensures maternal health.

Here are a few ways new mothers can adopt to get better sleep:

1. Breastfeeding the new-born helps restoration of maternal physiology and achieve good sleep

2. Eat the right foods: While we may think sugar may help rejuvenate our moods, it is vice-versa, especially for breastfeeding mothers. Choosing sleep promotional foods such as kiwis and bananas that are high in magnesium help the mother relax.

3. Exercise: Post-partum friendly exercises can play an important role in restorative process, but also uplifts mood. Plus, it helps in sleeping well at night.

4. Divide and conquer: Taking care of an infant is a full-time job and cannot be managed by the mother alone.

5. Lastly, do not see the clock to sleep: Resist the urge to see the clock and sleep when the body needs rest. A continuous urge to watch the clock may interrupt a peaceful nap.

Sleep is an essential factor that is most affected during and after childbirth. New mothers must get their sleep-tested for symptoms such as snoring, morning headaches, and continuous fatigue.

(Dr. Sibasish Dey, Head, Medical Affairs, Asia, and Latin America at ResMed)

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