One thing we often don’t consider when we have an unsettled, wakeful baby or a restless, irritable toddler is food – this can include natural, healthy foods as well as additives in processed foods. One group of food chemicals that can affect littlies’ sleep (or lack of) are salicylates. These are naturally occurring chemicals which are found in otherwise healthy foods such as broccoli, grapes, berries, apples, oranges and tomatoes as well as in some processed foods. Parents I work with have reported remarkable changes in their baby or toddlers’ sleep patterns, with simple dietary changes.
Tracking down offending foods in your child’s or your own diet (if you are breastfeeding) may take some effort, especially for already exhausted parents, but in the long run it could gain you more sleep. If you think that sleeplessness may be related to foods in your diet passing through your breast-milk, keep a notepad handy and jot down your baby’s crying times and what you eat to see if they are linked. If there appears to be a ‘cause and effect’ between foods in your diet and your baby’s crying, an inexpensive and simple solution is to eliminate the suspect food for at least a week, preferably two weeks. If your baby’s sleep patterns improve, you can either be thankful and avoid the suspect food, or you can reintroduce a small amount of the food into your diet – if the night-waking or allergy symptoms re-occur, you can be pretty certain you have ‘nailed’ the culprit.
Elimination of foods may take anywhere from a few days to several weeks to make a difference to your baby or toddler’s behaviour so allergies and food sensitivities are difficult to prove or disprove, but if it calms your baby (and you), modifying your diet is a small sacrifice - Pinky McKay
Pinky McKay, International Board certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and best-selling baby care author is the creator of ‘Boobie Bikkies’ , nutritious cookies for breastfeeding mums made from all natural and organic ingredients to boost your energy and encourage a healthy milk supply – without upsetting your baby! Find out more about Pinky’s books, including ‘Sleeping Like a Baby’ (www.pinkymckay.com.au )and her Boobie Bikkies (www.boobiebikkies.com.au )
If your baby sleeps for forty-five minutes or so a stint, you may be advised to ‘resettle’ him. In my opinion, this can be a waste of time and energy and could simply create added stress as you spend all day trying to make your baby sleep instead of enjoying her. If your baby is happy when she wakes and seems ready to play, why not enjoy her company? After some time out and about walking in the fresh air, playing in the yard or at the park, she is sure to have another, perhaps longer, sleep as she becomes tired again.
If your baby is genuinely tired (and grumpy), one way to stretch his naps is to pre-empt his waking: forty-five minutes is the length of one sleep cycle, so perhaps your little one is moving between sleep cycles and arousing but is unable to move back into the next sleep cycle. So, instead of waiting for him to wake and yell, go in and watch him when he has been asleep for half an hour and as he comes up into a lighter sleep, put your hand on him and gently rock or pat him to help him move through this arousal into his next sleep cycle. After doing this for a few days, you may change his pattern so that he gets used to taking a longer nap.
Other options to encourage at least one longer sleep each day include either carrying your baby in a sling as he sleeps, or lying down with him and taking some much needed rest yourself. Then, as your baby stirs, you can either rock him, or if you are breastfeeding, nurse him back to sleep.
Pinky McKay, International Board certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and best-selling baby care author, runs a private practice in Melbourne specializing in gentle parenting techniques. Pinky’s books (including ‘Sleeping Like a Baby), seminars and her free newsletter ‘Gentle Beginnings’ can be found on her website www.pinkymckay.com.au