Will starting solid food help your baby sleep better?

By Sam Kimura

December 28, 2018

Sam is a mother of 2 beautiful children, RN, sleep coach, lactation counselor and prenatal coach. She has a keen interest in maternal mental health and through her work, hopes to decrease isolation and increase community among mothers.

Let’s go back to when our parents had babies. How many mamas have been told that they need to start their baby on “pablum” to help them sleep through the night? I heard this from my own mother when my daughter was 12 weeks old! This concept seemed crazy to me and I remember thinking that she could barely roll over, never mind eat solid food.  To be fair though, this is the information parents were told when many new moms were infants themselves.

What is Pablum anyway?

This is a brand name of rice cereal that was used until the late 1980’s by many parents. Looking back at the history of breastfeeding recommendations, this was often used around 2 or 3 months of age to help fill a baby to the brim before bed. Most babies were not breastfed, but rather formula fed as soon as mothers perceived their milk supply to be diminishing- around 3 months postpartum. We know now, it’s a myth. You may not be engorged once your baby starts to regulate milk supply, but this does not mean that your milk supply is low. Many mothers were taught by health care providers that rice cereal has more nutritional content than breast milk or formula. Pablum in itself is simply the name of a company who made the cereal.  

The Calorie Cup

Think of a 24-hour period as a big cup of calories. Babies regulate their own calories until well over two years old. This means that babies will take as much as they want and need to meet their caloric needs, whether that is in the day or in the night. Newborn babies need to eat every 3-4 hours, night and day, because they use a lot of energy during the first few months just simply growing! Eating uses a lot of energy for newborns, so they require replenishment often so that they can keep up with their metabolic needs. As they get older and are better able to manage their awake time, babies will eat as much and as often as they way so that their meet their calorie cup. Whether that is achieved during the day with breast milk, formula or solid food, babies will get what they need by nature.

An Effective Feed

Babies who are 12+ weeks of age can develop feed to sleep associations that encourage a lot of night feeding. Check out this link to learn more about sleep props in babies. The important piece about night feeding is to watch for effective feeds, either from the breast or from the bottle. Watch for long, drawn out sucks and swallows, and if baby is suckling in a flutter motion, he is likely trying to put himself back to sleep.

When babies take multiple ineffective feeds over night, mama will have multiple letdowns of milk and baby will fill up his calorie cup with cozy night time feeds, and rightfully so! Who wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to have mama put us back to sleep with the help of a full tummy- especially when there is so many amazing things to explore during the day! This can become a vicious circle for moms with active babies. Babies feed all night so they are not as interested during the day, which means they continue to eat all night and the cycle continues.

When should I start solid food for my baby?

Melissa Conniff, Registered Dietician with Calgary Family Nutrition suggests starting solids for baby when they are developmentally ready for solid food. This can be different for every baby, but this usually happens between 5 and 7 months of age. Your baby is ready for solid food when he can

  • fully support his head in an upright position (not just in a support chair like the Bumbo),
  • baby is no longer pushing food out of their mouth with the thrust reflex
  • when baby is in interested in actually tasting food!  

Melissa has completed extensive literary research about the topic of breast milk vs formula composition and states there is no evidence to support that solid food is of any more nutritional value until about 6 months of age. There is no research to support that early introduction of solid food can help a baby sleep longer.

 

If you are concerned about your milk supply and how this can affect baby sleep, The Mama Coach is happy to complete a feeding assessment with you in your home, so you can feel comfortable knowing that baby is getting enough milk.

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