There is a combination of things that children need to sleep through the night. Some of the key ones are a dark room, the ability to self-settle and a fully tummy. This article looks at the strong link between food and sleep, and offers some tips and advice on how to give your child the best opportunity to get the sleep they need.
I am often asked ‘how much is enough milk?’ There is lots of guidance on the NHS website as to how much milk babies should be taking based on their weight which is a fair guide to measure against, but as a parent you will know how much milk is ‘normal’ for your baby. My first son Teddy wasn’t that fussed about milk, but my second Rafferty couldn’t get enough of it! What was enough milk for Teddy to sleep through the night wouldn’t have been enough for Rafferty. As long as your little one is staying within their weight range, don’t get too hung up on the numbers.
There is a misconception that a breastfed baby has less chance of sleeping through the night than a baby who is bottle fed. Yes it’s true that formula is heavier, but if your little one is getting enough food and milk during the day it doesn’t matter how that’s delivered. Some breastfeeding mothers swear by offering a formula as part of the bedtime routine. If that works for you, that’s great – I say do whatever is working for you and your family! I’m actually a big fan of babies taking a bottle (expressed or formula) as part of the bedtime routine as it gives us Dads a chance to get involved. For so many Dads, bath and bed is their time with the little one when they get home from work.
One of my favourite tips to encourage a full tummy at bedtime is to offer milk to your baby before AND after their bath. By offering a feed before the bath you are giving them enough energy to have a smooth bedtime routine. When they are hungry they may become fussy, and the period before bedtime should be as calming as possible. It also takes the pressure off getting all of their milk into them into one feed after the bath. By this stage in the routine your little one will be all snug in their sleepsuit and sleeping bag; if they are tired, you might find they can’t keep their eyes open to take much milk, and we all know that sucking motion is irresistible to fall asleep on, and to help your baby learn the skill of self-settling, your baby should always be put into their cot content but awake.
As our tots get older it’s not just milk that plays a part in nutrition. We are advised to start weaning our little ones from around 6 months. When your baby reaches 8-9 months old they should have progressed onto three meals a day (this may come sooner, depending on your child’s nutritional needs). By this point you should be able to drop the pre-bath bottle as their dinner should be enough to keep them full and happy throughout bath time. Try and give dinner around 1.5 hours before bedtime to give time for your baby’s food to digest; this also gives them enough time for them to be ready for that post-bath bottle. If your baby is getting enough dinner and milk before bed they should not need any additional snacks or porridge before bed, however we know that this extra snack does work for some parents and babies. If you feel your baby does needs this extra food before bed then Banana Porridge Fingers make a great healthy pre-bedtime snack (recipe can be found at www.scrummytummies.com).
Here are some example meal plans of what you can offer an 8-9 month old baby:
|Weetabix and a banana||Scrambled egg on toast, avocado & natural yoghurt||Vegan bean chilli or chilli con carne & rice|
|Peanut butter on toast & apple||Vegetable soup & bread||Chicken, mash & veg|
|Raspberry porridge||Marmite on crumpets, peppers & hummus||Salmon & mediterranean vegetables|
|Shredded wheat & grapes||Tuna patties & salad||Cottage pie & peas/broccoli|
|Banana pancakes & natural yoghurt||Sweet potato patties, cheese & cucumber||Slow cooker beef stew|
Recipes can be found at www.scrummytummies.com
I’m a baby and toddler sleep consultant specialising in designing gentle sleep training programmes for babies and toddlers. I work with clients on a one to one basis and I also have a series of age-specific online courses for you to implement at your own pace.