Updated: Oct 12, 2020
CCK (cholecystokinin) hormone in newborns makes them feel sleepy and prevents thgem from working too hard or too long. Finding information on CCK has been difficult since there isn’t that much information available about it, but tracking down what I could get my hands on, has helped me and mothers I support in understanding why breastfeeding can be such an tiresome, lengthy process. ￼
It is the sucking action in the baby which releases this hormone. As CCK levels rise, baby is lulled to sleep while at the breast. Then 10–20 minutes later, usually as mum tries to get on with neglected day-to-day tasks or is hoping for a proper sleep, the CCK level drops, acting as an alarm clock in baby who then wakes up wanting more feeding.￼
As women’s confidence in their bodies working properly is probably at an all-time low, mums often blame themselves for not having enough milk, and being unable to satisfy their baby. At this stage, many reach for the formula...
However, if a mother can be helped to understand this hormone then she'll understand that the release of CCK ensures that baby’s sleep happens and also ensures her supply stays strong with the extra feeding. Ideally mum would feed baby a second time, and odds are that the baby would then be satisfied and start to drift off into￼￼ a heavier sleep.
Sucking a dummy also releases CCK. This is the reason why many breastfeeding entities discourage the use of dummies, especially in the early weeks. Babies can fall asleep with a dummy, thinking they have been fed. In reality what has happened is that baby has been fooled out of a meal, and mum has lost a feeding’s worth of milk remova,l which encourages milk production. The end result might be a slow weight gain in baby and a lack of milk supply in mum.
In the middle of the night when baby wakes again and again, this￼￼ can be a trying time. My solution has been to get mothers to tune into their babies' patterns and signals, by asking themselves if they feel the baby has had their full feed or will baby wake again in 10 minutes asking for more.￼￼￼
Almost always mother knows best – if she feels baby will wake again quickly, she can change nappy and then offer the second breast. If the nappy is clean, she can try winding baby and having a little cuddle until baby becomes alert enough to go on the second breast. When baby has ‘topped off their tank’ so to speak, this may help mothers to get a bit more rest in the wee hours - a great benefit for all concerned.
In researching this topic, it’s important to mention the nurturing aspect of breastfeeding, not just the provisions of nutrients to baby. Many mothers feel guilty, or as if they are harming their child when they are breastfeeding￼￼ babies to sleep.￼￼￼ In addition to CCK hormone, we must consider that breastmilk also includes amino acid, melatonin, nucleotides and other sleep inducing hormones. Therefore we can conclude that breastfeeding is designed to comfort and help the child to sleep. Breastmilk is a sleep inducing product!