As an infant sleep expert, I often see well-meaning opinion making the rounds as solid sleep advice. One of these is that putting cereal into your baby’s bottle will help them sleep better. So, will cereal in your baby’s bottle improve sleep?
Maybe you’ve heard this common long-held belief? That adding baby rice cereal to a baby’s bedtime bottle will help them sleep longer.
I’m going to step in right here and say that this practice is not only ineffective, but it can also be harmful to your baby’s health and sleep patterns. Yes, you heard me correctly.
It’s time to debunk the myth of cereal in bottles once and for all. Let’s look at why it’s not recommended.
Understanding Sleep and Nutrition
The idea that cereal in a bottle will make a child feel fuller and sleep longer at night is a misunderstanding.
A baby’s ability to sleep through the night is more about their developmental stage and their ability to self-settle, rather than the amount of food consumed before bedtime.
The one exception may be if your child is underweight. In those cases, you need to discuss this with your child’s paediatrician and be medically supervised. It’s not something you want to try at home for these reasons:
The Risks of Early Introduction of Solids
Introducing solids, including cereal, too early can be risky for your baby:
- Immature Digestive System: Babies are typically not ready for solids until around 6 months of age. Their digestive systems are still developing, and early introduction can lead to discomfort and an increased risk of food allergies.
- Choking Hazard: Cereal thickens the bottle’s contents, posing a choking risk. It increases the likelihood of gagging or even inhaling the thickened mixture into their lungs.
- Nutritional Imbalance: Exclusive breastfeeding or formula feeding is recommended for the first 6 months. Adding cereal can disrupt the balance of essential nutrients.
When your baby is old enough to digest cereal, he or she should be ready to eat it from a spoon. Theres no need to put it in a bottle.
It’s more likely a Sleep Prop issue
Often, the issue with a baby’s sleep is their reliance on sleep props, such as feeding or rocking, to fall asleep. I’ve written about sleep props here. Teaching babies to fall asleep independently is key to helping them sleep through the night.
But what about the extra calories?
Adding a tablespoon of baby cereal to a bottle adds about 57.2 calories. This slight increase in calories is unlikely to significantly affect a baby’s sleep duration. Sleep quality and duration are influenced more by sleep habits and developmental stages than by a small increase in caloric intake.
Your baby only has a small tummy. Adding more calories can also increase the potential for over feeding. And that also leads to more spit up, reflux and sore tummies. Things that are not associated with good sleep!
In essence, adding rice cereal to your baby’s bedtime bottle is not advisable. It really doesn’t contribute to longer sleep and can pose health risks.
Fostering good sleep habits and allowing your baby to self-settle are far more effective for healthy sleep patterns. And that’s where I can help. Helping set up healthy sleep habits is what I do.
And if you’re concerned about your baby’s weight gain and think that can be a factor in their poor sleep, please consult with a paediatrician before changing your baby’s diet (or their sleep routine). Remember, each baby is unique and your child may have different needs.
I’m here to help you on your journey to better sleep. Whenever you’re ready, book in a free initial call to learn more HERE.