Sleep and Breast Milk

While you are feeding and caring for your infant, instincts are initiated and hormones are regulated. There are many subtle messages between our bodies and our baby’s body. Those are important messages.

It is endlessly fascinating how subtly tuned breast milk is to the developing infant’s needs. We know that breast milk changes as your baby grows over the months and years. More specifically, breast milk changes over a twenty-four hour period.

Research* has shown how changes in milk composition affect sleep in babies, even help a baby’s brain to develop a circadian rhythm. In the first weeks, infants need to feed a lot… during the day and the night. They have no circadian (day and night) rhythm. However, as an adult, you do… your developed brain has varying levels of melatonin and tryptophan that regulate your sleep quality and cycle. You are more aware of day and night cycles, which makes night feedings tiring for you.

Importantly, research has shown that breast milk has a higher level of tryptophan at night. When your baby is breastfed at night (or given nighttime pumped milk), the melatonin and tryptophan in the breast milk influences your infant’s growing brain. This helps your baby develop their own circadian rhythm, usually by three to four months old. (To be clear, this is a gradual growing. A bottle of night-time breast milk is not a sedative.)

There are many other things that influence a baby’s ability to settle and sleep. It’s important to understand more about the science of sleep and infant development.

Join us at this free, one hour webinar on the topic of Infant Sleep. It’s part of a program of four free webinars. This is sponsored by the Maine State Breastfeeding Coalition to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week.

for the Infant Sleep webinar.
Tuesday August 2, 2022   12 noon -1p.m. Free.
Infant Sleep 101: “Opening Up the Shades to Baby Sleep Success.”
Jenna Marion, CPSC, CLC, REMedy Pediatric Sleep Coaching

Jenna Marion, is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Strategist and Certified Lactation Counselor. She will talk about the science of baby sleep, steps to independent sleep, supporting breastfeeding while sleeping safely, and setting realistic sleep expectations.

* Cubero J, Valero V, Sánchez J, Rivero M, Parvez H, Rodríguez AB, Barriga C. The circadian rhythm of tryptophan in breast milk affects the rhythms of 6-sulfatoxymelatonin and sleep in newborn. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2005 Dec;26(6):657-61. PMID: 16380706.