As I have supposedly started working on my thesis, I spent most of yesterday evening reading.
This process was complicated by spending most of the rest of the day painting, which left me somewhat high and dizzy from solvent inhalation. Hence the digression.
What I was trying to say was that I was reading about the neurobiological components of sleep, including the effects of sleep deprivation of various kinds and the restorative qualities and psychological function of sleep. Pretty intense, but also very interesting.
As I was reading, half waiting for Bolle to wake for her dream feed (her idea of a dream feed is about 2130, when she thinks either I or her dad should join her in bed, though we are pushing it back again to 2200).
This got me thinking about how my sleep has been affected by having children.
Surely this must affect a whole lot of other stuff? Like my cortisol excretion rates, the amount of REM and Slow Wave Sleep, and melatonin production.
I’m guessing sleep and sleep quality is mediated by breast feeding, as breast feeding affects oxytocin and lactation-hormone-name-I-can’t-remember levels, which are probably not directly related to sleep as such, but oxytocin helps you relax.
And how about post-natal depression? Does breast feeding affect that? I know PND often preceeds giving up breastfeeding early, but then again they have a lot of the same risk factors (low education level, low partner support, young age in mother) so who knows about the causality.
I had a look for actual peer-reviewed studies.
There are hardly any which have taken quality physiological measures of e.g. cortisol levels, or measured EEG during sleep in breastfeeding women.
I appreciate that breastfeeding looking like the photo accompanying this post (and yes, that’s me.. don’t ask) would be tricky, but in the name of science, I’d do it.
I can’t believe how little research is done on this, considering how many people it affects.
We get all this «whatever sleep approach you think is best» bullshit all the way from getting knocked up until we send the poor kid away to university (apart from breastfeeding, which is best for everyone).
I strongly doubt this is actually the case. I’m sure there are physiological measures which could help figure out how feeding your child every hour for nine months affects your neurobiological makeup. I’m sure some outcomes are in fact better or worse than others, that some affect your ability to be a responsive parent be it day or night. I would like to know.
At least some have now shown that cortisol is bad for your brain so maybe crying it out for weeks in a row isn’t so good for the infant brain? And breast milk contains tryptophane, the levels of which follow a circadian rhythm, acting like a zeitgeiber for the baby.
So yes, actually there are some better-ers and worses. Of course, you won’t kill your baby by letting them cry and bottle feeding them, but there are elements indicating it’s not the optimal solution. Go on, shoot me. I’m just very tired of being told that whatever works for me is best for my baby. Maybe it’s not.
But I did find a review reporting that breastfeeding women are recorded as having less sex than those who formula feed. So at least the most important issues (for men) have been covered, then.