Myth Busting: The Truth About Foods to Help Baby Sleep

Baby sleeping

We’ve consulted the foodies at Little Tummy to delve into the myths surrounding baby food and sleep and explain which foods can really help baby sleep through the night.

There are few topics which are more frequently discussed among parents than their babies’ sleep. “Is he a good sleeper?”, or, “Does she sleep through the night yet?”, are questions which make most parents sweat. It is hardly surprising that there are plenty of myths around this topic, but what we do know is that food and sleep are linked closely.

For example, when was the last time you went to bed with an empty or very full stomach and lost a good night’s sleep over it? When it comes to introducing solid foods and babies’ sleep, there are a lot of common truths but not all of them are fact-based.

Dr Sophie Niedermaier-Patramani, co-founder and paediatric expert at Little Tummy, shares three common myths about baby’s food and sleep, and explains the truth behind them:

Dr Sophie Niedermaier-PatramaniMyth: Introducing solids early will definitely help babies sleep through the night

The idea is that introducing solids will make a baby feel more satisfied and hence help with sleep duration. This advice is often given around the age of four months, when babies go through a developmental spurt and, therefore, a sleep regression. A study has shown that introducing solids early increases sleep duration by roughly 15 minutes.

From a nutritional standpoint, breastmilk or formula are more calorie- and nutrient-dense than babies’ first solids, so reducing milk supply in order to introduce solids is not always advisable.

Read More: This is how Much Sleep Your Newborn Needs

Myth: Babies only wake up at night because they are hungry

There are a lot of reasons why babies wake up at night. In fact, only 60% of 6-month-olds and 70% of 9-month-olds sleep through the night. Babies’ sleep patterns are different from adults. This is because babies spend more time in an active sleep phase called REM (rapid eye movements). This is the phase where babies process all the new information and developments they took in during the day.

It is, by the way, perfectly fine to offer your little one a drink during the night. Just as we might wake up thirsty once in a while, your little one might also be warm or wake up hungry.

Read More: 10 Foods to eat When You’re Breastfeeding

Myth: Feeding to sleep is bad for your baby

Offering formula or breast milk to help your little one fall asleep is a physiological way to soothe your little one. There are concerns that this might establish a strong association between feeding and sleeping but this has not been scientifically proven.

Most babies grow out of this habit the older they get and by the age of 18 months, almost all babies will have developed the ability to soothe themselves without feeding.

Read More: How to Cope if Your Child is a Fussy Eater

So, What Foods Can Help Your Baby Sleep?

Complex Carbohydrates

One way to incorporate the right kind of foods to maximise sleep is to prepare a light dinner rich in complex carbohydrates. Offering complex carbohydrates such as lentils, quinoa, oats or whole wheat bread will keep your little one’s blood sugar levels stable and avoid insulin spikes shortly before bedtime. These spikes can lead to your baby becoming hungry again after a short while.

Foods High in Tryptophan

Tryptophan is an amino acid found in dairy, banana, oats and nuts. It is a precursor of two hormones regulating our sleep, serotonin and melatonin. Foods high in tryptophan are thought to benefit duration and depth of sleep.

Spice up Your Meals

Nutmeg has been shown to improve sleep duration and depth. The same is said for cinnamon.

An evening porridge made from whole milk, banana and nutmeg might make a small difference!

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