Will formula or solids help my baby sleep through the night?

Of course there is no right or wrong way to feed your child whether it be breast, bottle or a combination, however, if you are considering changing from breast milk to formula, or introducing early solids simply to help your baby sleep more, then read ahead.

Firstly, lets deal with the myth that formula makes a baby sleep through the night. This is entirely not the case, and is probably a bit of folklore you’ve heard from your mother in law. Yes, in newborns, formula may mean a baby might sleep longer, as formula is not digested as quickly and easily as breastmilk, so the baby stays fuller for longer, but overall, the entire amount of sleep in a 24hour period is the same.

A 2015 study by the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine of babies 6-12months old found that night waking’s and night feedings did not differ between mothers who breastfed or formula fed. Also parents of infants who were breastfed in the evening slept on average 45min more overnight than formula feeding mothers. So, if you are wanting a few extra zzzz’s, then keep up with the breast feeds.

Also, a huge consideration is the fact that night time breast milk is different to day time breast milk- night time breast milk is rich in tryptophan’s- a sleep inducing amino acid that is also a precursor to serotonin. Serotonin is a vital hormone for brain function and development, and also helps with sleep cycles.

Now if we are talking about solids, sadly I know a number of GP’s will recommend starting solids at 4months to help a baby sleep through the night. But the World Health Organization and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend exclusively milk fed until 6months, unless there is a medical reason why babies should start solids. The amount of food that a baby would eat at 4months is so insignificant that it would not “fill a baby up”, and if anything, may cause more overnight waking’s to make up for missed milk calories during the day. Sleeping through the night is a sign of development that reflects neurological maturation, and NOT starting solids.


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