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Written by Lavinia
Certified Paediatric Sleep Consultant
26 March 2021

Will Solids Help Baby Sleep Better?

Generations of parents, have used the old "cereal in the bottle" trick. It makes intuitive sense that a little bit of cereal in a baby's bottle would take longer to digest than breastmilk or formula, keeping them fuller for longer and facilitate uninterrupted sleep.

However most parents who try this strategy eventually give up on it because, even if it works at first, the effects don't last. I will explain why here.

You can stop worrying about hunger in the middle of the night once your baby reaches a certain age and weight (let's say 6 months as a happy medium). But countless parents are still getting up with their babies multiple times through the night to feed them even past 6 months of age, claiming hunger to be the culprit.

Just because baby may have taken milk from the breast or bottle each time it was offered, doesn't mean they were starving.

The more likely scenario is that baby has become reliant on nursing or bottle feeding as a means of falling asleep/back to sleep.

After all, it stands to reason that a baby who has spent the first six months of his or her life being nursed or fed to sleep through the night, will now have trouble falling asleep without the old comforting ritual.

The "cereal in the bottle" idea is based on the assumption that babies will go to sleep at bedtime and not wake up until morning as long as nothing is bothering them. However that is not how sleep works for any of us. Every one of us goes through periodic cycles of light and deep stages of sleep sleep. Perhaps not completely, but we do rise to the surface of consciousness at some point in the night-time.

This cycle takes about 45 minutes for infants, so even on a good night, they will wake up frequently. And if the only way they've learned to fall asleep is to be nursed or fed to sleep, they'll cry until you come in and do this for them.

So what is the solution to this?

Teaching your baby to fall asleep without your help is the solution. 

That may sound like a lot to ask of a 6-month-old, but I can assure you that they are more than capable of picking up such an important skill. Most babies are incredibly fast learners, sleeping through the night surprisingly quickly.

Many infants will start babbling to themselves, rubbing their feet together, rocking their heads from side to side, or sucking their fingers for a while. Every parent I've ever worked with has a unique (and usually hilarious) trick their infant uses to get to sleep. Let them figure out their own style of getting themselves to sleep and give them some practice time. It's a skill, and mastering skills generally takes time.

Now, I'm not advocating that you should ignore a crying baby, and offer no comfort or attention. Feel free to tend to them and reassure them that you are around, but avoid the temptation to rock, nurse, or cuddle them to sleep. Let them figure out how to complete the task on their own. That way, when they wake up in the middle of the night, they'll be prepared and able to go back to sleep on their own.

Article written by Lavinia
Certified Paediatric Sleep Consultant
Based in Singapore
Trained in the Sleep Sense Program

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