Parenting advice is always, always, always changing and it can be very frustrating to say the least. Do this. Don’t do that. Maybe try this. I can’t believe you did that. It applies from everything from how to feed your baby to how you bathe your baby to how you dress your baby and more. Today we’re tackling the age old question of feeding your baby before bed – does it help them sleep better or does digestion keep them awake? The latest recommendations we found say a full tummy doesn’t always mean better sleep. Read on to see if you think the shift in advice makes sense!
Most moms assume that an extra full belly will help their baby sleep better and for a longer amount of time. Don’t you get sleepy when you’re extra full? It seems like common sense. But apparently it’s not. We recently saw an article in Babble that cites two studies that have found only a loose connection between feeding and sleep. According to author Heather Turgeon:
“Studies don’t support the idea of feeding a baby rice cereal or formula before bed to fill up her belly. In fact, research shows feeding methods don’t make much of a difference in sleep quality overall. A study in the journal Pediatrics monitored sleep patterns of women and babies between two and 12 weeks postpartum and showed that the number of night wakings, sleep quality, and total sleep time did not differ between the exclusively breastfeeding or formula feeding mom-baby pairs. Having large bottles did not lead babies to sleep better through the night. Another study found that exclusively breastfeeding moms actually slept 40 minutes longer than mixed or formula-feeding moms.”
Along with the idea that you should feed your baby more before bedtime, some parents also try switching to rice cereal at a younger age thinking it will make their baby sleep longer. This article from The Baby Sleep Site says that’s not such a great idea, either:
“There’s no evidence that starting solids helps a baby sleep any better than she did before. In fact, a 2010 study suggests that starting solids before the age of 4 months may actually disrupt sleeping! This study revealed that babies who began eating cereal before 4 months of age slept half an hour less each day than infants who weren’t eating cereal.”
An article on KellyMom explains it even further:
“The idea that solids will help your baby sleep is an old wives’ tale that has been disproven by medical studies. Feeding your baby solids or formula in an attempt to make baby sleep longer is not a good idea for several reasons:
Formula requires a baby’s digestive system to work overtime as baby tries to digest something not specific to the human body. Formula is harder to digest than human milk; thus formula-fed babies tend to go longer between feedings. While this may seem like a benefit, it’s probably not something we want for our babies’ bodies unless there are no other alternatives. There are also risks to formula use (see What should I know about infant formula?). It certainly has a place in infant feeding but probably shouldn’t be used whenever mom’s milk – either directly from the source or expressed – is available.
Recent research suggests that longer stretches of deep sleep are associated with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and babies who sleep longer/deeper may be more vulnerable to SIDS (see in particular the research of James McKenna, PhD). Some scientists are saying that it appears that long sleep stretches are not “natural” for human infants and that sleep interruptions in the early months may provide a protective factor against SIDS. More research is needed on this subject, but parents might want to think twice about significantly manipulating baby’s natural sleep pattern in the early months.”
It looks like the old trick of over-feeding your baby to get a better night’s rest really doesn’t hold up to scientific inquiry. That being said, every mom knows that all children are different, so there is no single method of parenting that works for everyone. If you have good luck with extra large feedings then you can count yourself as lucky, but if this isn’t working for you, you now know that you’re not alone.
Do you put your baby to bed with an extra full tummy? Please share what’s worked for you in the comments!