Could What I’m Feeding my Toddler be Keeping them Awake?
There’s a lot of old wives tales and urban myths about foods and food ingredients either helping or hindering sleep. However, there isn’t strong evidence connecting specific foods and sleep –either preventing sleep or causing kids to fall asleep (and stay asleep).
Here’s a roundup of the most common foods that we hear are connected with sleep.
A Glass of Warm Milk
A glass of warm milk is a classic trick to help kids fall asleep. However, it’s unlikely that it’s the milk itself that makes kids sleepy. What’s more likely is that it’s the routine that gets kids ready for sleep. Kids thrive with routines. It signals to them what’s about to happen next in their world and it tells them what’s expected from them. This includes bedtime routine.
If you choose to have a bedtime snack, have a bedtime snack every day. Serve your child’s bedtime snack in the same place every day (I recommend sitting at the table). Join your child while he/she’s eating and have a conversation. Don’t talk (negotiate) about having two more bites. Instead enjoy the opportunity to connect, perhaps telling stories, talking about your day, etc. Then brush teeth and continue with the rest of the bedtime routine.
Sitting to eat together is an opportunity to connect with each other and wind down from the day. It’s a fantastic way to get kids prepared for falling asleep.
Interestingly, when it’s tested in scientific studies, sugar doesn’t cause kids to be more active. Yet, countless parents can tell you that sugar makes their kids “hyper”. If your little one is having difficulty falling asleep, try keeping sugary treats as occasional daytime foods (as opposed to evening foods) and see if it has an effect on your little ones’ sleep.
There is mixed evidence in scientific studies about the effect of artificial colours and the preservative sodium benzoate on kids’ behaviour. Some studies have found that there is no effect on kids’ behavior. Other studies have found that some kids don’t react to these foods but some kids do react. The way to find out if your child is a member of the group of kids who may react, is to eliminate all foods with these additives from your child’s diet for a period of time and see if there’s a change in her/his behavior. Label reading for these foods can be challenging. So, if you’re thinking of testing your child’s reaction to an elimination diet, I recommend working with a dietitian to make sure that you’re catching all food sources and still making sure that your child’s getting all the nutrition that she/he needs.
Waking up hungry in the middle of the night can be a side-effect of battling at mealtimes with toddlers who are picky eaters. No-one loves a negotiation like a toddler! Unfortunately, they can enjoy winning the battle so much that they ignore their feelings of hunger resulting in waking up in the middle of the night because they’re hungry.
While it feels awful to hear a child tell you that they’re hungry, resist feeding them a snack in the middle of the night. Feeding snacks in the night rewards kids for not eating at mealtimes. Also, it role models eating snacks in the middle of the night (which we don’t want to encourage). Instead, focus on removing the battles at daytime meals and snacks. How to remove the battles? Well, that’s what I share with parents at my blog. Come check it out!
Kristen Yarker, MSc, RD is known as The Dietitian who Transforms Picky Eaters into Food-Confident Kids. Answering the question: “How do I get my child to try new foods?”
SleepdreamsTM Inc. offers sleep seminar courses on sleep for infants and children by Jennifer Garden. Jennifer is the founder of Sleepdreams, is part of the sleep research team at Children's SunnyHill UBC. She is university faculty and practicing Occupational Therapist registered in BC & Alberta. Get the right information on sleep help for your baby or child by a true professional with trusted qualifications. Jennifer presents at international conferences to health care professionals including paediatricians, physicians, therapists, nurses, respiratory therapist, researchers and other health care professionals. Jennifer is interviewed as a trusted expert on sleep across Canada as interviewed by the CBC, Global News, CityTV, and newspapers from coast to coast. Jennifer's clinical practice in paediatric sleep, experience as a mother of twins and abilities as university instructor provide for an informative, interactive and personal sleep seminar.
NORTH VANCOUVER: January 8th, 2014 at Cactus Club Park Royal @ 9:30 - 11:30 am. Please visit Modern Mama's Page for details and to register.
Go to our Seminars Page for more info!
Before hiring a sleep consultant for sleep help or sleep training with your baby or child you should read this article. Call us if you need more info but it may help you decipher if your baby has a sleep ‘disturbance’ (generally behavioural/environmental in nature) versus a ‘disorder’ which is more related to a medical condition. It is not common for babies to snore (unless of course they have a cold and are congested). If your baby is having trouble sleeping, snores on a regular basis and isn’t sick, give us a call at 604.985.2991 or visit your doctor and get some professional help! Remember our services are covered under many extended health care benefit plans! Here’s some additional great information:
As Registered Occupational Therapists specializing in sleep for infants and children, many extended health care plans recognize and cover the cost of our services. Sleep is an activity of daily living and falls within the scope of practice of Registered OT's. Ask your extended health care provider if they cover Occupational Therapy services. If your health care coverage includes an expense account then OT services should be covered within that umbrella of registered health care providers. Our OT's are registered health care providers and specialists in sleep.
It is critical in the early months for a child’s normal growth and development to get the nutritional intake that they need. Before 6 months of age you should be responding to your child's needs - they need you and its possible they are hungry! The fatty (hind milk) in breastmilk is key to brain development. Feeding plays such an important role in the healthy development of your child and is important when addressing sleep goals. Trust in a professional paediatric health expert at SleepdreamsTM to get the appropriate advice around feeding and sleep.