I have suffered from insomnia, on and off, all my life. Insomnia isn’t actually a sleep problem, it’s an anxiety problem – an anxiety about not sleeping.
Because of this one of my main fears about having a baby was the sleep deprivation and night wakes! But even though I was obviously woken up multiple times in the night once Poppy was born… my insomnia vanished. The effects of the magical breastfeeding hormones prolactin and oxytocin were so strong that I found it really hard to be anxious at night and would just fall straight back to sleep after a breastfeed. Sometimes if I was struggling to sleep I would feel reassured that Poppy would be waking me in an hour for a feed – my own special sleeping drug! In a 2014 study, women who breastfed exclusively averaged 30 minutes of extra night time sleep compared than women who fed their babies formula at night- maybe those magic breastfeeding hormones?
When I night weaned at around 15 months, although I was still breastfeeding in the day, the hormones weren’t strong enough anymore and my insomnia came back… So ironically, although I thought not breastfeeding at night would give me better sleep the opposite actually happened… I no longer had my special breastfeeding sleeping pills to hand! Poppy’s now two and just like every other two year old nights are quite hit and miss. Sometimes she sleeps through the night but more often than that she starts shouting from her room that she needs a poo at 3am… insomnia when looking after a little person is hard and I REALLY struggle to get back to sleep after she wakes me. I often think about how much I miss those insomnia reducing breastfeeding hormones