Do Bedtime Snacks Help a Baby Sleep Better?
Having trouble figuring out what your baby can eat for a bedtime snack? Read more on what is beneficial and what to absolutely steer clear of. Find out if your baby is ready to move on to the next big step of eating solids to have a better night's sleep!
Most babies wake up at night because they are hungry and need to eat. So it only makes sense to give them a bedtime snack that can hold them over till morning, right? Right, as long as it’s the right kind of snack and your baby is old enough to have it. As with anything else, there are guidelines to follow when it comes to observing a healthy nighttime routine when it comes to giving snacks to your baby.
When can I give my baby a bedtime snack
There really is no one right answer to this question. Although most mums and doctors will agree that anything before the age of three or four months is usually not necessary. The first several weeks of a baby’s life require smaller, more frequent feedings to keep the baby satisfied and growing without overloading their digestive system. They’re brand new and have a lot to adjust to, so give them time to do so. During this stage of life, a bedtime snack will not help them sleep better or longer.
Once a baby reaches the three to four-month mark, however, it is feasible to feed them small amounts of baby cereal (rice or oatmeal is best). Most mums start by adding a teaspoon or two of cereal to their baby’s bedtime bottle. You will probably have to increase the size of the hole in the nipple to allow the thickened milk to pass, but that’s okay. Make sure not to make it so big that the baby ingests too much and chokes or gets sick. If their tummy gets upset and they spit everything up, you haven't gained anything. When done right, however, giving your baby a bedtime snack will allow both you and your baby to sleep through the night. Just remember to take it slowly because introducing solids too soon can actually cause more problems than it solves.
Rice is usually the first choice of baby cereals for mums because it is so gentle on the digestive system. But it also does something else -- it constipates. I know of babies who have become so constipated when given even small amounts of rice cereal that they get a hernia from straining to have a bowel movement. That’s not to say you shouldn’t go with rice, it’s just a warning to go slow. If your baby shows signs of constipation, back off and try oatmeal (only the baby cereal kind).
A baby that is still not able to hold their head up on their own will also not have the reflexes yet to keep cereal in their mouth. Their little tongues will naturally ‘suck’ it right out.
The benefits of a bedtime snack
If it’s the right snack, a bedtime snack will help your baby to sleep better. No complaints there, right? While rice is fine (asides the constipation issue), there are a few other bedtime snacks you might want to try:
- Oatmeal contains melatonin, which is a natural sleep enhancer we have in our bodies.
- Warm formula. You’re likely to be feeding baby room temperature formula. That’s great for day time, but for bedtime, getting it just a wee bit warmer brings out the natural tryptophan in milk. This makes your baby drowsy.
- Bananas. Once your baby is old enough (6 months) to move to strained fruits and veggies, bananas are great for helping your baby get some sleep.
A mum can usually tell when her baby is ready for something new and different. When your baby starts eating more and more frequently, their sleep habits change or when they seem hungry all the time -- that is when you’ll know it’s time to give them more.
Tell us if you have any tips on which bedtime snacks work best for babies. We'd love to hear from you!
For more on bedtime snacks, watch this video: