Breast milk plays an important role in teaching babies about night and day: Study

Breast milk plays an important role in teaching babies about night and day: Study

Tried every trick in the book but your baby won't sleep at night? Consider changing how you feed your breast milk!

Struggling to put the baby back to sleep even after a full feed at night time?

Mummy, you aren’t alone. Despite the hard graft of constant pumping and expressing to keep your little one fed full with nutritious breast milk, it can seem like it’s not enough. Especially at night time! “What more can I do?” Well, there’s one more thing you can tweak to your routine! Feed your baby night-time breast milk and watch him sleep like a log! This is all down to the melatonin in breast milk and the science of chrononutrition!

Sleep cycles and disrupted sleep – a parent’s worst nightmare!

Melatonin in breast milk

Image: Shutterstock

As your little one grows, he will begin to differentiate between day and night from 3 months onwards! But if you find your baby is still confusing day and night, don’t fret. After all, he didn’t come out with a set body clock when he came out into the world. And all babies are different—from their appetite to their sleep schedules. Your little one might not respond to certain cues, whereas other babies get drowsy as soon as the sun sets.

While there isn’t enough research available on how and why circadian rhythms come online for your little ones, there is something you should know about breast milk and the difference when it’s expressed in the day and at night. It has been found to play a big part in helping your baby tell the difference between night and day!

Melatonin in breast milk – why timing your baby’s feeding is important

Melatonin in breast milk

Image: Shutterstock

While your baby might not pick up on all of the environmental cues to help set a circadian rhythm and settle into a sleep routine, studies show that breast milk is an important type of “chrononutrition”. You can think of it as a type of food that communicates what time of day it is for your little one.

Milk produced in the morning has 3 times more cortisol than the evening, and double the amount in the afternoon! This hormone is associated with stress levels as well as staying awake!

On the other hand, melatonin can barely be found in milk produced in the daytime, but peaks at midnight. Melatonin is associated with better digestion and better sleep.

It’s still not fully clear what the health benefits are of appropriately-timed feeds. However, if your other cues fail, this might be the key to helping your little one learn what is day and night!

3 practical ways to time your breast milk

Melatonin in breast milk

Image: Shutterstock

To take full advantage of this, it’s worth trying to ensure you feed your little one with breast milk that was expressed or produced at the same time of day. While regulating circadian rhythms might seem intimidating, the core concept is simple—if it’s night time, feed your little one milk that you expressed at night time! If you’re working and can’t feed your little one straight away, then try these tips to make timing your breast milk easier.

Express and bottle your milk

Many years ago, drinking milk directly from the breast was the only option mummies had to feed their babies. It’s so common that over 85% of mothers express their breast milk and store it. Knowing how to do store and handle breast milk can be done with the proper tools. And once you’ve got a stash, remember to label the times you pumped (e.g. Morning or night), in addition to the dates! Consider colour coding the writing so you can pick up a frozen pack when you wake up groggily in the middle of the night!

Feed your baby on demand

Babies are very different from grown-ups. Their feeding habits can seem all over the place. But this doesn’t mean you should try to shoehorn your little one into having a breakfast, lunch, and dinner feed. Despite their stomachs being so small, your baby might want several feeds in the space of one hour. 

Look for his cues, like rooting reflexes or putting his hand in his mouth. When you can spot them, get some milk ready!

Work with your partner!

Remember, mums! Breastfeeding isn’t a solo journey. Studies show that breastfeeding is more effective when both parents are involved! You will enjoy the process and be able to do it for longer than 6 months, where over 60 per cent of mums decide they can’t carry on!

 

We hope these tips will give you support to start feeding your little one breast milk pumped at the same time of feeding. And ultimately, we hope he ends up falling asleep for longer!

 

Sources: Nature

Got a parenting concern? Read articles or ask away and get instant answers on our app. Download theAsianparent Community on iOS or Android now!

Written by

Vinnie Wong

app info
get app banner