It is completely normal to wonder whether your baby is hungry at night, sometimes they are! We often hear from well-meaning friends or relatives, ‘maybe she’s hungry?’ when we say our baby isn’t sleeping well. Not the most helpful of advice when you are bleary eyed and trying to hold it together after a broken night’s sleep! It is outdated advice, but you may hear people advising to introduce solids early, or even put cereal in bottles to help fill baby up to make them sleep (especially if they are a bigger baby).
I want to reassure you that your breast milk or baby’s formula is enough for them until around 6 months old (I say ‘around’ as some babies can be ready slightly earlier). Milk is actually higher in calories than puree, or cereal – so it’s better to give them more of their usual milk if you are concerned.
Giving your small baby a rusk or cereal in their bottle has the potential to be quite damaging. Not only is your little one’s digestive system not ready for solids, it has the real risk of choking.
There is no evidence to suggest it will help them sleep longer. In actual fact, introducing solids too early can have the opposite effect. A baby who is struggling to digest solids can be more wakeful at night. Many baby cereals and rusks also have a fairly high sugar content – as sugar is a stimulant this will not help them settle to sleep! As well as a choking hazard, filling your baby up with cereal or a rusk can cause them to miss out on the nutrition of their milk.
Your baby naturally knows how much breast milk or formula to drink, trust them to take more milk if they are having a growth spurt. If your baby is waking because they are hungry, more milk is the best solution. However, perhaps they are waking for another reason? Too hot, too cold, want a cuddle, wet nappy… the list goes on. You know your baby best, not your neighbour, friend or auntie.
Remember – only put breast milk or formula into a bottle:
- Cow’s milk is not suitable for babies under 1 year of age.
- Do not give fruit juice or squash in a bottle.
- Do not give your baby tea (this can reduce your baby’s iron uptake)
- Do not add sugar, rusks or baby rice to your baby’s bottle.
Sleep can always be improved, but its rarely solids that will be the answer. Its better to focus on the other things you can look at:
- Setting up a great sleep environment
- Work on a predictable routine where your little one’s sleep is balanced during the day (not too much and not too little!)
- Practice ways of settling your baby in the night to work towards independent sleep.
If you would like to work on improving your little one’s sleep, or setting good foundations for sleep later on do check out our online courses.