Erika from The Sleep Dept gives us the lowdown on the interaction between baby sleep and the food they eat!
Sleep and food…not only are both things your body needs to survive, they also happen to be two of life’s most simple pleasures. But when it comes to your bundle of joy, the two don’t always mix so well. In fact, if your bub won’t sleep through the night, what they are — or aren’t — eating could be the culprit. Of course, there are plenty of other reasons your little one is having trouble settling, like teething or an age-related sleep regression. But many people underestimate the effect of diet on baby sleep.
Read on for some common baby diet mistakes I often see new mums make, plus what you can do to fix them!
1. Not feeding them enough
Many new mums are worried about overfeeding their bubs, which is a completely valid concern. However, as a result, they sometimes end up underfeeding them. If you’ve ever tried to get to sleep when you’re on a diet, you’ll know how hard it can be to dose off when you’re hungry! While it’s important to feed your little one according to the recommended amounts for their age, it’s also crucial to pay attention to signs that they’re still hungry. Generally, when your bub closes their mouth and turns their head away, it’s a good indicator that they’ve had enough. Some cues that they are still hungry are smacking or licking their lips, opening and closing their mouth, sucking on their hands, fingers or toys, fidgeting and, of course, crying (their cries are normally short and low-pitched with lots of rises and falls when they’re hungry.)
2. Overfeeding them
By the same token — yes, overfeeding your bub is likely to lead to disrupted sleep. In a recent study of 600 newborn babies, doctors were able to identify which ones were going to have sleep issues by the age of 12 weeks simply by monitoring the number of feeds given to them. Some signs of overfeeding in both breast-fed and formula-fed babies are frequent possetting, excessive urine output and weight gain. It’s important to ensure you’re feeding them the recommended amount and not resorting to feeding as a way to settle them.
3. Not feeding them the right things
Up until about six months, the two food choices for your bub are pretty simple — breast milk or baby formula. Thankfully, both of these things include tryptophan — the amino acid that helps the body make the sleep-inducing neurotransmitters, serotonin and melatonin! However, as your bub gets older, things get a little more complex. Many commercial baby foods are heavily processed and include artificial ingredients that may affect your baby’s digestion and impact their sleep (not to mention, their overall health!) Look for baby foods that are completely free from added salt, sugar, flavours or additives. As your baby or toddler starts on solids, it’s also important to include foods that are natural sources of tryptophan, including dairy, oats, pumpkin and banana.
4. Feeding them at the wrong times
When your baby starts on solids, the timing of your baby feeds is almost as important as the foods themselves. Feeding them too close to bedtime can work against you (especially if they’re on solids) as can lead to digestive discomfort. Plus, it can create sleep associations where your bub needs his midnight (or 7pm!) snack to dose off — which will make it harder for them to get to sleep without your help later down the track. A good rule of thumb is to allow at least an hour between their last meal and putting them down to sleep.