Implementing a sleep intervention while supporting mothers’ breastfeeding
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Behavioural infant sleep interventions (BSI’s) have assisted parents in providing strategies to encourage their infants to sleep through the night without parental involvement for many years. However, recent comment in the literature has suggested they may create a barrier to successful breastfeeding. The purpose of this study is to establish whether breastfeeding mothers of infants above the age of six months can undergo a successful sleep intervention with their infants, without experiencing any risk to their breastfeeding capacity. In addition, the study sought to document mothers’ experiences and any perceived challenges they faced with breastfeeding throughout the intervention process.
The study was split into three parts. Part One documented sleep intervention effectiveness and breastfeeding outcomes by way of visual analysis for three infants and their mothers. Part Two of the study sought to combine the quantitatively measured breastfeeding outcomes of mothers from Part One with the intervention and sleep outcomes of mother infant dyads who had participated in a previous sleep study (Akdoğan, 2018). Part Three of the study involved qualitative analysis of interviews about breastfeeding experiences throughout a BSI with all mothers from Part One and five from the Akdoğan study.
All mothers who underwent a BSI managed to continue breastfeeding throughout the entirety of the intervention and most continued for at least two months after, with the exception of two mothers. Ten themes emerged from the qualitative analysis: There were mixed early breastfeeding experiences; breastfeeding patterns prior to the intervention were largely on demand; there were several reasons for night feeding prior to the intervention; mothers reported mixed feelings about stopping breastfeeding overnight; maintaining breastfeeding during the intervention was predominantly straightforward; outside of some changes in day feeding there were few changes to breastfeeding throughout the intervention; breastfeeding continued until after the end of intervention; reasons for later discontinuing breastfeeding included both parental decisions and child-led weaning; timing of stopping after the intervention varied; and stopping lead to no, or positive effects.
Clinical implications include evidence to assure parents and clinicians that infants sleeping through the night and breastfeeding are not mutually exclusive. Research implications include the need for more objective measures of breast milk intake and research with larger samples and younger babies.