In this post, I would be talking about the relationship between food and sleep, and how parents can effectively take advantage of this to improve their baby’s sleep. This post is applicable to parents of babies older than 8 weeks. For babies 0 – 8 weeks, please feed as often as baby needs, do not overthink it.
It is safe to say all parents have an appreciation for how frequently children need to eat to meet the demands of their growing bodies. Well into toddlerhood, be rest assured you would still be “complaining” about how many times your child eats in one day. Children need to feed very often because their stomachs are small, and they need plenty of nutrition.
However, if you want to get any sleep, it is a good idea to know how much food your baby needs and more important to make sure at least 80% of their daily food needs are met during the day. The rest of their caloric needs can be given at night, drastically reducing how many times your baby wakes up for a feed.
Here are my 3 top tips for getting your baby to eat more during the day and less so at night:
1) Know your numbers: how much milk does a baby needs per day
For mums breastfeeding exclusively, you do not need to worry about the numbers. There is no way to know that, except what a pumping session tells you roughly. Wet and dirty diapers and growing baby is all you need to know if your baby is getting enough milk.
For formula-fed babies, remember that babies are different, and some eat more or less than others. However, the numbers below are scientifically recommended guidelines based on average weights per age. All children need an average of 100kcal for every kg of their weight and this total per day comes to ;
0 – 8 weeks: milk on demand
2 – 5 months: 840ml – 960ml
6 – 12 months- 960ml to 1020ml
2) Cluster feed
Cluster feeding, in this case, is slightly different from the type initiated by your baby during a growth spurt. Here, you initiate feeding more frequently and closer together such that even though your baby can survive for up to 3 hours in the day before getting hungry, you feed your baby earlier than that
Note: Infant reflux, the condition where babies regurgitate some of their milk is quite common and usually harmless. If your baby is healthy and growing well, infant reflux should not be a cause of concern in the first 18 months of life. If you are worried, kindly visit your doctor
I appreciate that this can be quite difficult to do particularly for breastfeeding mums who have to work. However, if you are home with your baby, try feeding them very often and closer together during the day. This ensures your baby gets more food and are less likely to need it at night. This applies to bottle-feeding parents as well, feed often and try to get baby to eat at least 80% of their food requirement during the day.
3) Consider supplementing with formula after 6 months
Because babies are just starting to be introduced to solids and lots of it ends up on the floor or down the sink, it is particularly important not to drop milk feeds; keep intake same till 12 months. However, it may become impractical for breastfeeding mums to continue to cluster feed as previously suggested. In this case, you may want to consider supplementing breastmilk and meals with formula.
Breastmilk can no longer meet the iron requirements of a child after 6 months. It is important to use iron supplements for their development and because iron is a key mineral necessary for good sleep
As your baby starts to grow, they may begin to get distracted while feeding, eat in bits and then get hungry at night. To prevent this, carry out day time feeds in a dark room- free of distractions, maintain eye contact and/or sing to your baby while breast- or bottle- feeding.
Best of luck getting your kiddos to eat and sleep. Stay strong…xx!