The “Stuffing Baby at Bedtime” Syndrome

I bet there’s no parent out there who hasn’t heard the advice to “stuff” your baby with cereal or baby food before bedtime to help him sleep better (by which they mean, not wake up as much during the night.)  But not only does this filler fallacy not work, it may actually create early problems in appetite control, leading to later-on obesity.

Between the ages of six to nine months, babies can begin to taste “real” food, such as mashed banana and rice cereal. But up to a year of age, all the nutrients a baby needs are obtained through breast milk or formula. For a baby that’s nursing, there’s no reason to rush into solid food, which will only be taking the place of more nutritious breast milk.

Despite this fact, there are those who think that solids will fill your baby’s tummy better because they are more, well, solid than milk.  It would be logical to think that baby will wake less often to nurse if his tummy feels fuller. Nevertheless, controlled studies show that infants who are fed solids before bedtime do not sleep through the night any sooner than infants who do not get this extra meal.

Instead of focusing on ways to get your baby to sleep through the night (which, by the way, is defined by five hours of uninterrupted sleep–not eight or ten!) it would help to understand your infant’s sleep patterns, and why frequent night waking is actually beneficial to your baby’s health!  All babies reach the milestone of “sleeping through the night,”  but it is something that will happen when baby is ready.

Source: The Baby Book. See also Dr. Sears online

feature image: WebMD: Common Baby Feeding Problems

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