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Will Starting Solids Cause Problems with Sleep?

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Cara Dumaplin

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For little ones who have a strong sleep foundation, adding solids does not derail sleep. For some, however, there may be a few bumps in the road, so what should a parent do if nights suddenly become disrupted after beginning solids?

Ask yourself these questions:

Are solids replacing necessary milk intake?

Remember, during the first year, breast and bottle feeding is the main source of calories. Exposure to solids should never replace full bottle/breastfeedings. If calories are insufficient, night wakings will occur.

This doesn’t mean you need to limit your baby’s solids, simply follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid rigid feeding schedules.

  • Always be responsive to a baby’s hunger cues by offering the breast or bottle every 2.5 - 3.5 hours during the day on a flexible feeding schedule.

  • Offer solids 30-90 minutes after breast/bottle feedings.

Offer fresh and nutrient-rich options.

Your sample schedule when introducing solids to a 6-month-old could look like this:

6:30am Wake Up
6:30am Breast/Bottle Feed
8:30-10:00am Nap 1
10:00am Breast/Bottle Feeding
11:00am Offer solids
12:30-1:30pm Nap 2
1:30pm Breast/Bottle Feed
4:00-4:30pm Nap 3
4:30pm Breast/Bottle Feeding
7:15pm Breast/Bottle Feeding
7:30pm Bedtime

*Please don’t try to replicate this schedule exactly. Always be responsive to your baby’s hunger cues as you fit necessary feedings around nap times. The time of day when you offer solids can be whatever best fits your lifestyle and your baby’s temperament- in the morning, afternoon, or evening.

Your daytime routine for a 7-9-month-old could look like this:

6:30am Wake Up
6:30am Breast/Bottle Feed
7:00am Offer solids
9:15am Breast/Bottle Feeding
9:30-11:00am Nap 1
12:30pm Breast/Bottle Feeding
1:15pm Offer solids
2:00-3:30pm Nap 2
3:30pm Breast/Bottle Feeding
5:00pm Offer solids
6:45pm Breast/Bottle Feeding
7:00pm Bedtime

*Please don’t try to replicate this schedule exactly. Always be responsive to your baby’s hunger cues as you fit necessary feedings around nap times. The time of day when you offer solids can be whatever best fits your lifestyle and your baby’s temperament- in the morning, afternoon, or evening.

Is my baby having a negative reaction to the food introduced?

Exposure to new foods has the potential to cause a negative reaction- anything from itchiness to swelling and more. Please don’t let this cause unnecessary concern. (Avoiding high allergen foods is no longer recommended after 6 months.) Introduce new food options to your baby one at a time and watch their reaction. Talk with your doctor about anything concerning. Keep in mind, any foods causing itchiness, discomfort, or pain can impact sleep.

Are tummy issues causing problems?

As we begin introducing solids, a baby’s digestive tract may need a bit of time to adjust and, for some, this can impact sleep.

You may find your little one has bowel movements less frequently than before and/or the stool is more formed. This is normal and shouldn’t impact sleep. If your baby is experiencing pain and a firm belly (possible constipation), this can interrupt sleep and should prompt you to contact your doctor.

Expert Tip: Be sure you are offering a couple of ounces of water in a sippy cup as you offer solids too.

On the other hand, some foods may cause your baby to have more frequent bowel movements. When these poops occur at night or during the early morning hours, it will impact sleep. Simply keep track of what your little one ate and at what time. Try moving those specific foods earlier in the day. This issue typically resolves fairly quickly as your baby becomes more accustomed to eating solids.

At the same time solids are being introduced, babies are facing huge developmental strides including: increasing mobility, expanding interest in the world around them, and changing sleep needs. Although it can seem like the culprit of interrupted nights or naps was the introduction of solids, this is often coincidental. Truly, your rough nights may have nothing to do with beginning solids. THESE tips can help!

Beginning solids is a huge milestone for your baby and is one that should be celebrated. Exposing your little one to many different foods and offering solids regularly can prevent allergies, widens their taste palate, and lays a healthy foundation about food. Although introducing solids isn’t the magic solution to all your sleep troubles, neither should it be feared that it will cause a good little sleeper to suddenly start waking. If your baby is having trouble with sleep, my classes can help. My blog on Which Class Should I Take? has all of the information you need to choose the best option for your family.

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