A lot of parents expect their baby’s sleep pattern to improve once they introduce solids. The idea is that introducing solids will make a baby feel more satisfied and help with sleep duration. What is behind this idea and how can food help to support your little one’s sleep?
Babies have a different sleeping pattern
About 60% of 6 months-olds and 70% of 9 months-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. As this is also a lighter sleep phase, it is easier for your little one to wake up during this phase.
Introducing solids early can help babies sleep better - somewhat
The advice to introduce solids in order to improve a baby’s sleep is often given around the age of four months. This is a time when babies go through a developmental spurt and, therefore, a sleep regression. It is normal that they would go through a phase of rough sleep followed by a phase of improved sleep. This has not necessarily anything to do with having introduced solids. 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 advisable.
How can food help improve your little one’s sleep?
It’s ok to feed to sleep and offer a drink during the night. 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.
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 wake up hungry.
Complex carbohydrates keep blood sugar levels stable
Offering complex carbohydrates such as lentils, quinoa, oats or wholewheat bread will keep your little one’s blood sugar levels stable and avoid insulin spikes shortly before bedtime. Insulin spikes can be caused by foods rich in free sugar and can lead to your baby becoming hungry again after a short while. Our Chickpea, Cauliflower & Kale meal is an ideal dinner for a good night’s sleep.
Offer 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, or try our millet bircher before bedtime.