Will Starting Solids Help My Baby Sleep Through the Night?Dec 15, 2022
Is your baby nearing the age when they are ready to begin eating solids? This is an exciting milestone for you and your little one! And while some parents use their baby’s night wakings as motivation to begin introducing solids because they think it will help their baby sleep more soundly, this is actually not the case for most babies .
If your little one is having night wakings and you’re at a loss for why and how to help them get some longer stretches of sleep, check out my Mastering Baby Sleep 101 sleep guide!
This isn’t to say that starting solids will hinder your baby’s sleep either, though. For some babies, it may be beneficial to keep their bellies fuller for longer. But, starting solids should not be the sole answer to getting your little one to sleep through the night.
How Starting Solids Can Affect Your Baby’s Sleep
It’s common to think that after your baby begins eating solids, they will become a more sound sleeper. Yes, babies wake in the night when they are hungry, so it would only make sense for offering more food to be the answer, right? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.
Babies wake in the night for many reasons, not just because they are hungry. Your baby’s night wakings could also be related to:
- Waking between sleep cycles and not knowing how to fall back to sleep independently
- Experiencing a “regression” of sleep
- Going through a developmental milestone
- Experiencing discomfort
- Waking due to a reinforced habit
Studies have shown that starting solid foods doesn’t make your baby any more likely to sleep through the night, and doesn’t affect the length of time they sleep . So, if your baby is having frequent night wakings well past the newborn phase (which is to be expected, since they need to eat every 2-3 hours anyway), it’s best to get to the root cause of those wakings, rather than try to solve their sleep problems with more food!
Check out this blog for more about night wakings and what you can do to fix them.
Since many babies are developmentally able to sleep through the night by 6 months of age , it’s likely that you may already have a rockstar sleeper before even starting solids. If you do, that’s great! Their sleep shouldn’t be thrown off course from experimenting with new foods.
However, if your little one who is typically a great sleeper is suddenly experiencing sleep disruptions after starting solids, keep these three things in mind:
Solids should not replace breastmilk/formula feedings in the first year.
The AAP recommends introducing solids to your baby at around 6 months (if they are showing signs that they are ready); however, these feedings should not replace any of the breastmilk or formula feedings in the first year . Your baby’s main source of calories is breastmilk or formula, and it should stay this way even after incorporating some new foods. Since your baby is just learning to eat solids, they won’t be getting enough calories from solids alone. And if calories are lacking, your baby will likely have more night wakings due to hunger.
2. You should continue to feed your baby every 2.5-3 hours or based on their hunger cues.
When your baby is beginning solids, you may want to incorporate a schedule of what times during the day you will offer them solids. This is great! Babies thrive on routine. However, if your baby is hungry but you are trying to hold off until their time to eat some solids, it could lead to an overly fussy and hungry baby. This also could restrict their caloric intake and cause sleep disruptions.
Instead, follow an eat-play-sleep schedule and feed your baby based on their hunger cues. These could look like:
- lip-smacking / tongue out
- fist to mouth
- rooting near chest
- pecking/head butting
- clenched fists
Want an easy-to-save on your phone digital chart of these hunger cues, as well as wake windows, nap transitions, and sleep needs by age? CLICK HERE to download my Free Sleep Tips for ages 0-3 years old!
3. Are there any new foods introduced that are causing your baby discomfort?
Introducing new foods to your little one is exciting and can be a fun activity, but it’s also important to pay attention to your baby’s reactions to the new foods in case they have any food sensitivities! If your baby does have an allergic reaction to a new food, like itchiness or swelling, this can cause discomfort and lead your baby to wake in the night. Food allergies are common, so just watch your baby closely when introducing new foods and talk to your baby’s pediatrician and/or pediatric nutrition specialists for guidance on how to introduce new foods and properly watch for allergies.
Some foods may also cause constipation. If this is the case, make sure you’re offering 1-2 ounces of water with their solids (again, this should only be after 6 months of age). On the other hand, some foods may cause frequent bowel movements. This can also cause night wakings since your baby might need to have a diaper change during the night.
Starting solids with your little one can be overwhelming, and it may be disappointing to hear that it won’t be the solution to getting your baby to sleep through the night. But, it is an exciting milestone that has a large range of benefits! Stay consistent with it and if you find yourself still struggling with your little one’s sleep, please know that you are not alone and that I am here to help. Check out my Mastering Baby Sleep 101 sleep guide for step-by-step instructions and recommendations.
Need help transforming your child's sleep? Check out my sleep offerings for children 0-3 years old!
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