How did I miss this? Feed expressed breast milk at the same time of day as you pumped it.

express breast milk
Bag of expressed breast milk. Photo by: Haley Miller. (Click to see her blog.)

As if breast milk wasn’t already magical  scientifically superior enough, I just read an article from 2009 that demonstrates its awesomeness further. Turns out there’s yet another function (though possibly an incidental one) of breast milk that my daughter missed out on when she was drinking formula.

A study published in Nutritional Neuroscience said they found that breast milk contains various ingredients, such as nucleotides, which help regulate babies’ sleep. The study said that because of this, when women pump their breast milk, they should try to have the baby fed milk at the same time of day as when it was first expressed. The composition of breast milk changes, apparently, quite markedly throughout the day.

The scientists examined three nucleotides in breast milk (adenosine, guanosine and uridine) and observed how they varied over a 24 hour period. These three nucleotides either excite or relax the central nervous system.  It’s as though the breastmilk is helping the children fall asleep, not just from a full tummy, comfort and warmth, but from actual chemical make-up.

I am amused, thinking of marking the time down on a bag of expressed breast milk just because it reminds me of expiration times on the fried chicken when I worked at a deli as a teenager. I have to assume though, if paying attention to times marked on the bag of expressed breast milk helped a baby have a more pleasant day, I can’t imagine a day care, babysitter, or Grandma who wouldn’t be willing to pay attention.

I also wonder if that same concept could be used to help a baby rest before a car ride or doctors visit though as well. Oh, I know, that’s not its purpose, but armed with this kind of info-ammo, can you honestly say you wouldn’t be the least bit tempted to try feeding a 10PM bag of milk at 4PM if it meant a more relaxing visit to the pediatrician?

What do you think? How many of you were already wise to this? If you were, do you ever use it to your advantage to relax the baby during a stressful event?



  1. I think I had HEARD that before, but never read any scientific information to back it up. I guess it makes sense, our bodies are amazing!

    I guess from now on I’ll mark the time of day on my bags if/when I pump. But, I think I’d just mark them am/noon/pm or overnight. I only ever pump in the am or pm so…

  2. I had never thought about this before, but it makes a lot of sense! It also helps me to understand another reason why my 2 1/2 year old had such a rough transition when we recently stopped night nursing – awake for hours at a time in the middle of the night. Without all the specially formulated breastmilk to help him sleep, he would try and try and try but just couldn’t fall back asleep again after waking up! Finally getting better though, yay 🙂 . Thanks for the post!

  3. Amber

    That’s interesting, I had trouble Breastfeeding all of my girls. My first I actually pumped every feeding for her so she would still get the m1ilk. My other 2 daughters I just switched straight to formula. My first daughter was healthy where as my other 2 daughters ended up with fussy tummies and acid reflux… I wonder if this has anything to do with it…
    I do know that caretakers wouldn’t mind using certain milk before others because the daycare I work at we make sure we use the breast milk that the mom pumped first before the newer breast milk, can’t be wasteful with that!!! It doesn’t take long for a person to read a label to determine which milk to feed the baby 🙂 Especially if it helps the baby have a better day !!

    • Maggi

      Dairy is harder for babies to digest and even in breastfed babies can cause acid reflux.

      Gut issues affect everything. I highly recommend the GAPS diet for people with tummy/gut issues. It detoxes and heals the intestines.

  4. Eva

    :Sigh: Nature is so incredibly brilliant. There truly is no comparing what your body is made to produce vs what you purchase on a store shelf. Liquid Gold is AMAZING!

  5. While I have not heard of this before, it doesn’t surprise me. Our boys have often fallen into “breastmilk coma” after nursing. I haven’t always marked the time on a bag of pumped milk, butI do often nurse after shots, which helps soothe and relax.

  6. charlie

    at waitrose they used to sell “night time milk” which was milk from cows they had milked at night and was supposed to help you sleep better as it contained sleep hormones.. so why not for humans too!!

  7. Rosemarie M. Buchanan

    I nursed my son until he was three, and clearly remember the post-breastfeeding sleeps, particularly for me after a night time feeding. I had an extremely difficult delivery, ending in an emergency c-section, and was ill for six months afterwards (my water was broken manually by a nurse, and my son evacuated his bowels before he was born … the brilliant surgeon didn’t clean me out properly). I was so sick that I needed as much sleep as I could get. I’d bring him to bed with me, nurse him on one side, we’d both fall back to sleep, and about three hours later, he’d wake up needing to be fed again. Roll over, feed him from the other side, both go back to sleep. This was a lifesaver for me, for sure. Now, it makes sense. He was born in 1979 so much of the current science around breastfeeding wasn’t available then. Thankfully, he was strong and healthy (8lbs, 8 oz @ birth, 18 lbs, 8 oz @ four and a half months, only on my breastmilk!). And yes, I know that 32 years later, I probably wouldn’t have nursed him in bed, but when you’re too sick to sit up, what choice did I have? I did the best for him that I could, and as it turns out, it was the best for him!

  8. anna

    I think i knew this as fact. But not from research, but by common sense. Otherwise why would he not nap at the same time every day when we dont nurse? Like when we are in the car all day. I never pump, and our son has been breast fed exclusively, no bottle, for all his 14mos. He uses a cup for water. So i cant say if thing would for sure be different if he was on a bottle too, but i can deffinatly say that this was made just for him at any givin point thruout the day. 😉 great article. Thanx!!

  9. Pingback: “Can’t you just bottle feed your baby your breast milk when you’re in public?” — Everything Birth's Blog on Midwifery, Attachment Parenting, Cloth Diapers and More

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