Touted by well-meaning grandparents everywhere, the old cereal in the bottle trick has been around a long time! Enamoured by promises of a full night’s sleep and a reduced dependence on caffeine, hopeful parents find themselves cutting larger holes into bottle nipples and adding some rice cereal. While the trick may appear to work at first, parents often find themselves feeling defeated as their baby grows dependent on the bottle to go to sleep and still doesn’t sleep through the night.
Newborn Babies vs. Older Babies
Newborns have tiny tummies and require frequent feeding. They also sleep substantially more than older babies do. Since newborns don’t do much more than eat, sleep, poop, and cry, you can find yourself feeding your baby to sleep most of the time. As baby grows, it’s easy to get stuck in the trap of feeding to get them to fall back asleep.
The theory behind adding cereal to a baby’s bottle to encourage a full night of sleep is that the cereal is harder to digest, your baby will feel full longer and then sleep longer. Studies have shown that there is absolutely no evidence that adding cereal to a baby’s bottle increases the length of time that they sleep at night, still many people swear by the practise. The real problem is that older babies aren’t usually waking because they’re hungry.
So why do older babies wake up in the night if it isn’t about hunger?
Older babies wake in the night because of the way their natural sleep cycles occur.
For infants, cycles of deep and light sleep last 30-50 minutes. This makes them more prone to waking frequently than adults (most adults experience sleep cycles of 90-120 minutes). It’s completely normal for your baby to wake a bit between sleep cycles. If your child has developed a self soothing technique they will be able to go back to sleep easily and without needing to cry out for your support in the night. This means more sleep for everyone.
Falling asleep and self-soothing is a skill, one that needs to be fostered. In the short term it may seem easy to pop a bottle into the crib and drag yourself back to bed, but you’re far better off to assess whether your little one is hungry or just reliant on a warm bottle to drift back to sleep.
Babies need to develop skills for self soothing and falling asleep. This may seem like a challenging thing to learn but I promise your little one is up to the task.
For information and support as you help your little one build self soothing skills and health sleep habits, book a free consultation. Together, we will assess your family’s needs and formulate a plan to get your sleep on track!