The relationship between babies, food and sleep
My second guest blog post is by the lovely Helen from My Baby Sleeps (pictured below). Helen is a certified sleep consultant who helps families get the sleep they need and deserve. She knows first hand the struggles associated with parents and children not getting enough shut-eye, so it’s her mission to get sleep back on the cards! You can read more about Helen on her website – https://mybabysleeps.co.uk/project/about-me/ – and follow her on Facebook or Instagram where she shares loads of great tips for families with children of all ages.
How many old wives’ tales have you heard about food and sleep with babies? Put rice in their milk? Wean off night feeds as soon as possible? Change from breast to formula? Sadly these are just that – old wives’ tales and are at best, useless and at worst, dangerous.
But there is a HUGE relationship between food and sleep for babies and young children! Here are a five easy to implement top tips to think about if you have a sensitive sleeper…
1. Well fed young babies under six months are more likely to sleep better. When I talk to the parents of young babies, one of the first things I ask about is milk intake (breast or bottle). If a baby isn’t feeding well, then they won’t sleep well. So if you have a sensitive sleeper, this is a good place to start.
Check feeds are consistent in size, fed on demand (although your baby may have naturally started showing hunger signs at certain times of the day), taking the majority of their milk during the day, latch is good and they are well burped. Ticking these boxes will help to ensure that their tummies are full and comfortable, and that it’s not hunger or gut discomfort that is causing sleep disruption.
2. Iron is important in older babies.
Babies have good iron levels from when they were still in utero, however these start to run out between six months to one year. Therefore, it is important to look at weaning guidelines when thinking about your baby at this age. A lack of iron can cause sleep challenges. The WHO (World Health Organisation) recommends introduction of solids at six months, and delays to this can be a contributing factor to low iron levels.
3. Time evening meals about 1.5 to 2 hours before bedtime.
Us adults can feel uncomfortable going to bed on a full stomach with lots of heavy food to digest, and it’s the same for young children. Timing food in the evening so that digestion has started enough that it’s not uncomfortable can help aid a good night’s sleep. Personally I prefer to avoid protein rich foods in the evenings until babies are 9-10 months old, but this is entirely a parent’s choice. (This guidance does not apply to milk – it is far easier to digest than food at this age so it doesn’t cause the same issues).
4. Tryptophan foods are brilliant for sleep.
You may not have heard of tryptophan, but it is a building block for melatonin production (the sleepy hormone). My general advice is to do anything that encourages melatonin production! Eating a diet rich in tryptophan is a good start – foods such as avocado, or banana for breakfast is a great idea.
5. Be mindful of sugar.
We all know that sugar spikes our blood sugars and gives us a big hit of energy, then a crash. Children are no different. Yes, all children love sugary foods – it’s entirely natural. However, if you have a sensitive sleeper, just have a think about what they may have eaten that day and see if this may have had an effect.
There are tons of great blogs out there with loads of child friendly recipes, and children are naturally inquisitive when it comes to food. Food is fun – let them explore it, try cooking, mixing, tasting and feeling as many different foods as you can. Cooking is science after all!
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