Get access

Infant Sleep and Feeding Pattern: Effects on Maternal Sleep


  • Karen A. Thomas RN, PhD,

    Corresponding authorSearch for more papers by this author
    • Karen Thomas, PhD, RN, is Professor in the Department of Family and Child Nursing at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington.

  • Shuyuann Wang Foreman RN, MS

    Search for more papers by this author
    • Shuyuann Wang Foreman, RN, MS, Ph(C), is a graduate student in the PhD in Nursing Science program at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington.

Karen A. Thomas, RN, PhD, Department of Family and Child Nursing, Box 357262, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195–7262. E-mail:


Factors contributing to maternal sleep when infants are 4 to 10 weeks of age were examined. Twenty-four-hour sleep-wake diaries collected from 37 mother-infant dyads in the home environment were summarized to describe total, longest, and mean sleep period; synchrony of maternal and infant sleep; and feeding frequency and duration. Regression and post hoc analysis of variance were used to examine factors contributing to maternal and infant sleep. Maternal sleep is driven by infant sleep and feeding pattern. The minimum and maximum numbers of infant sleep episodes per day were 6 and 15, respectively, and mean infant total sleep was 13.47 hours (SD 1.73). Mean maternal total sleep was 7.18 hours (SD 1.51), with half of the mothers reporting less than 7 hours of sleep per 24 hours. Mean number of infant feedings was 11.14 (SD 3.27), with 11 infants (29.7%) receiving 13 or more feedings per 24 hours; minimum and maximum times per feeding were 15 and 41.7 minutes, respectively. Male infants had more sleep episodes, shorter sleep periods, and less sleep than females, and these gender differences resulted in shorter and more fragmented sleep for mothers. Findings suggest there is continued need for interventions to improve maternal sleep following childbearing.