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How nutrition can affect your little one's sleep!

As a Pediatric Sleep Consultant it’s important for us to get the whole picture before  recommending the right sleep program for your little one. There are so many variants for us to  take into consideration when examining a child’s sleep struggles. One factor that may often be  overlooked by parents is how much of an impact their child’s diet has on their sleep patterns. The  food that children eat during the day greatly influences how easily they are able to fall asleep at  night, as well as the quality of their sleep. 

A good feeding and sleep schedule go hand in hand and it’s important to make sure your child is  getting all of their calories during the day to prevent them from waking at night and needing  those missing calories. Babies who are having more frequent, smaller feedings will wake sooner  and more often. Make sure they are taking in the right amount of ounces per feeding session  which will fluctuate depending on if they are breast/bottle fed, their age and nap schedule.  Breastfed babies feed more often and take less volume than formula fed babies do, due to the  slower digestion of formula. Breastmilk is low in fat and protein but high in carbohydrates and  lactose making it easier and quicker to digest. Therefore, babies who are breastfed reach a fasting  state more quickly.  

Bottle Feeding Guide

It’s recommended to start introducing solids around 6 months and when your baby is showing  signs of readiness. It’s important to remember that breastmilk or formula should provide the  majority of calories during a baby's first year. If you have any questions or concerns always  consult with your physician.

Foods that promote sleep 

Melatonin is a hormone that our bodies produce to help us feel sleepy. Foods that are tryptophan  rich such as meats, nuts, seeds and dairy can aid in the production of melatonin. Studies have  found that eating these foods earlier in the day significantly improved quality of sleep. They also  

found that eating foods higher in complex carbohydrates such as whole grains or fruit and  starchy vegetables are also associated with better sleep quality. Listed below are some examples  of food that may help promote sleep: 

- Dairy products (yogurt, milk and cheese) 

- Nuts such as almonds 

- Tofu 

- Soy products 

- Wheats and oats 

- Bananas, Blueberries, Kiwi 

- Green leafy vegetables 

- Eggs  

- Poultry, especially turkey 

- Fish 

Foods to avoid before bed 

- Caffeine (chocolate, ice cream, granola, protein bars) 

- Foods high in tyramine (a hormone that increases heart rate and blood pressure) such as aged/ strong cheeses, ham, pepperoni, bacon, nuts, avocado, soy sauce and raspberries 

- Cruciferous vegetables because they are full of tough fibres. When our bodies are trying to  digest higher calories meals it raises our body temperatures and in order to get a good sleep our  bodies require cooler temperatures. Examples of cruciferous vegetables are cauliflower, broccoli,  spinach, cabbage and brussel sprouts.  

- Spicy foods as they may cause digestions problems in children and stomach irritation could  result in insomnia.  

- Sugars and sweets as they spike the blood sugar and it comes crashing down after a few hours.  This causes an increase in the stress hormone called cortisol making it difficult to sleep. 

- Heavy fatty and salty meals can also negatively impact sleep quality. 

This isn’t to say that you should never let your child enjoy any of these foods but limiting them  before bedtime can help decrease the risk of disturbed sleep. 


You should offer your child their largest meal mid day with dinner being a bit smaller than lunch  and at least 1 to 2 hours before bedtime. A light and healthy snack 30 minutes before bedtime  may be helpful but avoid heavy meals as this may make it more difficult to sleep. A common misconception is that an empty stomach might cause a child to wake during the night so they  feed them dinner right before bed. It actually takes the stomach several hours to digest a big  meal. If a meal is consumed too close to bedtime it will remain active when we really want it to relax.

If your little one is struggling with night wakings or having trouble weaning from those night  feedings you may benefit from an evaluation of their day time schedule. One of our sleep  specialists would love to help you find the perfect balance in your little ones feeding and sleep  schedule. Visit or click the link below to book your free consultation today! 

-Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant


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