Sleep and night feedings, what’s the deal?

Toddler in bed with bottle of milk

How Nutrition effects Toddler Sleep

We don’t often relate bad eating to bad sleeping when it comes to toddlers(12 –36 months). It is considered a baby issue, yet it can have a major impact on toddlers. It can often lead to bad habits that are difficult to change.
At Good Night we are SLEEP experts and NOT feeding experts BUT with this very intricate relationship, it is something that we can assist with.

Nutritional factors that influence your toddler’s sleep

From my experience, these are the major nutritional factors that can influence your toddler’s sleep:

1. Drinking milk during the night.

This is by far the most common nutritional issue we pick up when it comes to toddlers. This can have a large impact not only on their sleep but it can also have a domino effect on their nutrition and health.
For healthy toddlers older than 12 months, solids (normal food) should be their main source of nutrients. Milk becomes secondary to solid meals and should only be seen as a source of calcium and to quench their thirst.
Offer milk WITH a solid meal and rather as a separate meal on its own.
It is normal though for a toddler to have milk until he’s about 2 years old, especially if you have a milk lover or if you are still breastfeeding. Limit the milk to two feeds a day: one as part of breakfast and one as part of dinner. This also means that your toddler does not need to drink milk during the night.
The reality is that milk during the night can do more harm than good after 12 months for the following reasons:
  • Your toddler is at a higher risk of having iron deficiencies if they drink more than 710 ml of milk during the day.
  • Drinking milk during the night can cause tooth decay.
  • Filling them up with milk at night can fill them up with nutrients that they don’t need and cause them to be picky eaters during the day.

2. Sugar

Sugary sweets, snacks, and juices should be avoided especially just before bedtime. When toddlers consume sugar, their blood sugar levels increase and then drop significantly. Their tiny bodies work hard to re-stabilise their blood sugar. In doing so, their bodies release adrenaline (a stress hormone) which can cause toddlers to experience restlessness.
This, in turn, can have a major effect on their sleep.
The temptation of sugar is everywhere, but caregivers are in an influential position to introduce kids to more nutritious foods early on. The more healthy foods toddlers enjoy while they are young, the better. Click here for some tips on age appropriate feeding guidelines.

3. Delayed bottle weaning

Paediatricians recommend that babies be weaned from their bottles by age one, and never later than 18 months for many reasons:
•Dental health. If your toddler frequently drinks milk from a bottle at night, their teeth could experience permanent damage and serious decay.
•Sleeping with a bottle can lead to ear infections.
Toddlers are emotional beings and changes are a lot more challenging to administer and champion, but all these changes are for good reason and they will be healthier because of it.


The big deal

Creating healthy eating habits not only impacts your toddler’s sleep, it impacts their overall wellbeing. Focus on healthy habits, day and night to give your little one the opportunity to thrive.

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Managing Director of Good Night and mother of two. Jolandi has helped hundreds of families, and believes sleep is the fundamental building block of healthy living. She considers the education around better sleep as a passion rather than a job.

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