Now, you are likely, upon seeing the title of this week’s edition of “The Sleeping Baby Series,” thinking to yourself, “How does feeding have anything to do with sleeping?” Aren’t they (feeding and sleeping) two totally different functions? While seemingly distinct, how and when you feed your baby can have much to do with their ability to sleep and stay asleep.
How do feedings impact a baby’s sleep?
The “how” of feeding your baby pivots on the question of breastfeeding or formula-feeding. Unlike formula, breast milk contains many sleep inducing proteins and other chemicals that serve to calm, relax, and soothe babies.
Anecdotally, many breastfeeding moms have long recognized that when their babies are breastfed, they sleep easier. One such mom is Kelly Smith of Washington,DC. Kelly has been breastfeeding her son, Max, for nearly a year.
“I don’t know what it is, but whenever I opt to breastfeed Max, he is “out” within minutes. So, even though I am using some solids, I still rely on breastfeeding at nap times and at night.”
When should babies be fed to maximize their sleep?
Now that we have answered the “how,” we must now we should answer the “when” question. When you feed your baby can determine how long they (particularly in the newborn stage and depending on their temperament) wake up. This means, if your baby needs to feed every two hours, you can expect that your baby will awaken, even if you just put him/her down, in time for the next feeding.
As many new parents learn, if you put down a hungry baby, you will soon be picking up (again) a hungry (and, often, screaming) baby. The key really is being mindful of when your baby was last fed when trying to determine when the “right time” is to begin assisting them (if they need assisting) into settling down into sleep.
Can’t my baby go longer between feedings if i add cereal?
When your baby reaches the age for rice cereals or Oatmeal, you can, with your pediatrician’s approval, begin introducing cereals and Oatmeal in their diet. Many parents, hoping to extend their baby’s sleeping times, do so as soon as their babies are four months. The four month recommendation mark, however, is often applicable to formula fed babies.
For breastfed babies, it is recommended that they begin to use solids as a complement to breastmilk, by way of rice cereals and Oatmeal, at the six month mark. The reason for this is that formula fed babies need cereal, which is iron-enriched, in order to prevent them from becoming anemic. It is rare, however, that a breastfed baby would become anemic. This is because the iron in breast milk is better absorbed than the iron in formula.
Be sure to check back next week for another topic in the Sleeping Baby series.