Broccoli will keep your baby awake
Yoghurt will sabotage your baby's sleep
So many of my clients have been concerned about giving their baby the ‘forbidden foods’ with fear it will disrupt their baby’s sleep. I was equally concerned about this advice so I went and did my research! I have skim read many chapters of baby sleep books (because they were so boring), browsed the internet, revised my physiology of the human body and looked more in depth into the evidence of what hormones control sleep (my brain hurts). Before I launch into my findings, a couple of quotes from the internet just about made me fall off my chair.
‘Yoghurt will sabotage your baby’s sleep’
‘Food pouches are cupboard drugs’
I hope your now understand my drive to get to the bottom of this. The internet can be a dangerous place as your sole source of information on health topics as a vast majority is not scientifically sound and many use pseudoscience to confuse the casual observer.
It seems apparent to me that someone came up with this supposedly scientific reasoning as to why certain foods will sabotage your baby’s sleep and what foods will help your baby sleep. It does not stop here, did you know you also MUST not give your baby red meat or acidic foods before bedtime because it is difficult to digest and might give your baby a tummy ache? Don’t miss the advice around portion size, this MUST only be the size of your baby’s fist otherwise you may be breeding obesity. Rules, rules, and more rules…I am tired of them! Especially because they are a waste of time listening to, let alone investing time in following them.
If it was true that red meat was difficult for babies to digest then giving it at lunchtime instead of dinnertime is not going to help. Foods take 24-48hrs to pass through the human digestive system. If you avoid high fibre foods like broccoli to help baby sleep better, the unintended outcome will be constipation – then your baby really will have trouble sleeping.
Let me answer the question, will introducing solids make your baby sleep through the night? NO. However, if you are following rules like the above then I would probably guess that since starting solids your baby has been waking MORE frequently.
In a nutshell, there is no evidence that the introduction of any sequence of foods is any better than any other. The latest guidelines recommend a variety of foods from 4-6mths. With the only exception being cow’s milk not to be given until after 1 year of age. The risk of botulism from eating honey is pretty much non-existent: Honey imports are very tightly controlled by the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) and there have been no notifications of human botulism in New Zealand through the notifiable diseases surveillance system since records began in 1987.
It’s like someone came up with this idea that nobody challenged and so instead everyone copied and pasted it onto their website. Giving parents false hope that giving their baby banana and avocado and avoiding broccoli and yoghurt will solve all their problems.
The truth is that all these foods are very nutritious as are baby food pouches and we should be trusting that our baby will self-regulate their own intake. Yes, babies do eat a lot from an early age even before they are active enough to burn it off but this is developmentally appropriate and once children reach primary school age they begin to change shape, and becoming taller and leaner.
Unfortunately, if your baby is having sleep challenges, then eliminating foods from their diet is not going to be the magic quick fix.
More importantly than all of this is the early learning that occurs from birth until 2 years, and how parental influence can effect food preferences and eating behaviour which will in turn shape growth and development. The rules above can influence dietary patterns for example fussy eaters or grazers and result in a dietary deficiency in micronutrients such as iron (being a very important mineral for growth). Certain foods needs to be offered up to 10 times before some babies will become familiar with it and accept it.
Back to this supposed scientific reasoning - certain foods contain an amino acid called tryptophan that causes sleepiness and foods that contain tyrosine which is an something of a stimulant. Without delving into the more heavy-going side of human metabolic feedback these hormones are involved in the control of the thyroid and the thyroid can control our sleep: it is true. However, this system runs largely independently from our dietary intake and the amount we consume via these foods has no more impact than an alkaline diet can affect our overall body’s pH.
Your baby’s digestive system is immature and still developing but this is the rationale for offering them a wide variety of foods so that they can adapt and learn to tolerate all foods. Often when babies wake in the night we hunt for reasons why that happened and during the introduction of solids looking at the foods, a certain new food can be an easy target. However, this is way more often than not the wrong reason and we confuse correlation with causation. Why are people trying to over-complicate things and looking for complex solutions when the simple solution is steering then right in the face? Everything in moderation.
Firstly, my intention of writing this blog is for mothers that cannot breastfeed or choose not to breastfeed to feel at peace with that option and feel supported to do so. It is NOT my intention to fuel a breastfeeding versus bottle feeding debate – us mums, we are better than that and quite frankly we don’t have the energy for it!
Amy and Elspeth