Will My Baby Sleep Better If I Give Them A Bottle?

Will My Baby Sleep Better If I Give Them A Bottle?

You may have been advised by a sleep coach, maternity nurse or any other infant sleep specialists to top up the bedtime breastfeed with formula or give a larger formula feed.

Well, Let Me Tell You, None Of This Advice Is Based On Evidence!

There will always be someone who claims that one of these strategies was a miracle cure for their baby’s sleep, but in general, the large studies have not found that this will make a huge difference to the way your baby sleeps. Despite what older relatives may tell you, it is a myth that feeding a baby a larger feed before bed helps them to sleep. You will not meet a reputable Baby Sleep Consultant or find a baby sleep program which will advise you to feed your baby to sleep, which surely speaks volumes in itself.

This sounds sensible though, doesn’t it? However human digestion doesn’t quite work that way and how quickly your infant will empty their stomach isn’t entirely dependent on how much is consumed in one go.

The fact is, babies, can’t store up ‘fuel’ to keep themselves going for extra time, hence feeding them more will not make them sleep longer. Some research has even shown that the opposite is true, and the larger the feed volume, the faster the stomach will empty.

Did You Know That Breastfed Babies Will Drink Approximately The Same Amount Of Milk Over 24 Hours Between The Ages Of 1 To 6 Months? 

Despite what many people still believe, if your baby suddenly starts breastfeeding more often, it has nothing to do with trying to increase your milk supply. If a baby suddenly wants to feed more frequently, this could be due to developmental changes, not just hunger. What will happen is they will likely drink less at each feed if they begin to feed more often. Again, some research suggests that this is to do with the changing milk composition, faster stomach emptying time, or an increased need for comfort. Whatever the reason, it is important to know this, because if the total daily milk volume stays about the same, then giving extra milk on the assumption that your baby is extra hungry will not work.

baby sleeping happy after a feed

The Risk Of Overfeeding Your Baby

Overfeeding is another problem with giving a baby extra milk, often parents ask can you overfeed a baby? And the answer is yes! This can have a negative effect on your milk supply (if you are breastfeeding), but it can also stretch your baby’s stomach, leaving them feeling too full or uncomfortable. Think about what happens to us when we overeat, how do you feel? You likely feel very sleepy, all you will want to do is relax and sleep it off, right? Not to mention feeling uncomfortably full and bloated. But, if you keep doing this, your appetite increases as your stomach stretches. The same can happen with a baby. I have experienced this over and over again. Overfeeding your baby will not stop them waking up, but often this will make them wake up even hungrier. As parents, we certainly don’t want that to happen!

Too often we are told that the only reasonable excuse for waking up at night is because of a genuine need for food and that the other reasons are unnecessary.

Parents often believe that the baby wakes up at night mostly because they are hungry, and feeding them is the only way to get them back to sleep. Particularly with breastfed babies as it can be hard to know how to stop breastfeeding throughout the night especially as, in the early stages, the night feeds are so important to milk supply.

The truth is Babies may wake up for many reasons, such as warmth, connection, comfort or they might be in pain. Yes, feeding will help them to get back to sleep, but we have missed the important message the baby is trying to communicate to us. As parents, we need to recognise the difference between comfort-nursing and hunger.

I have worked with numerous babies, both breastfed and bottle-fed. Night wakes are usually an indication of something else going wrong, which once identified and dealt with correctly will usually solve the problem fairly quickly.

sleep friendly children's room

How Do I Make My Child’s Room Sleep Friendly?

  • Set the thermostat to a slightly cooler temperature to support your toddler to feel sleepy. Aim for between 16 – 18 degrees. Breathable cotton clothing can also help with keeping cool at night.
  • Top Tip – put socks on your baby, under their sleep clothes and the sleeping bag. Room temperature normally drops at around 5 am, this can  wake your child as their feet suddenly get cold. Often the extra pair of socks can help with early rising.
  • Keep the bedroom quiet or consider using a white noise machine to mask outside sounds – particularly if your child has been used to this as a baby. Use dark curtains to block out light.
little girl happy sleeping in her sleep friendly bedroom

What To Watch Out For In Older Child’s Bedroom? 

  • Attend to any objects that cast potentially frightening shadows at night. This could leave a child frightened. You can ask your child if there is anything they want to take out of their bedroom to get a sense of what may potentially scare them.
  • If your child plays in their bedroom, involve them in tidying away toys before bed, so there is a clear separation between “play time” and “sleep time”.
  • If your child shares their room with a sibling, ensure each child has a separate space to call their own.
family with a newborn baby in the moses basket

Bedroom Set Up For A Newborn To 1 Year Old

  • In the room you should have cot or Moses or travel cot or carry cot. Use a good quality, firm, flat and waterproof mattress covered with cotton sheet. You will need a sleeping bag for a baby and light cellular blankets (remember to tuck those in, never have them loose in the cot with a baby).
  • Avoid using sleep pods or nests, sleepyhead, sleep positioners, hammocks, cot bumpers, pillows, duvets, loose heavy, non-breathable blankets, comforters or soft toys for children under 1 year old. Make sure to always follow  Lullaby trust safety recommendations! to prevent your baby from SIDS.
children's bedroom shelves with soft toys

Bedroom Set Up For Older Child

  • Use comfortable bedding and pillows that are appropriate for the temperature of the room – don’t forget to let your child help select their bedding or make it relevant to their likes and interests.
  • The Lullaby Trust recommends no bedding until after 12 months and ideally not until the child is using a toddler bed as opposed to a cot with raised sides. In these sleep guides you will find great techniques that will help you with transitioning from co-sleeping, transitioning to the cot or how to transition to a toddler bed.

How To Avoid Any Bedroom  Anxieties:

  • You can leave an item or an object that reminds your child of you to support your child to manage any sense of separation anxiety. For example, they could place one of your pyjama tops under their pillow as a reminder that you are never far away. A photo could serve a similar purpose.
  • Many children have a transitional object: a particular favourite teddy or blanket that helps them to feel secure when you are not there. This can be a great support to a child. If your child has a transitional object, encourage them to take this into the bedroom at sleep time. You can use “teddy” as a means of talking about sleep needs. For example, “teddy has had a busy day, and wants to be quiet and calm now. Can you keep teddy company and help him drop to sleep?”

Have you downloaded your freebie yet? Top 10 Baby Sleep Coach Tips To Help Your Baby Sleep Better Guide! If not, then make sure to click here.

For more advice on how to help your baby sleep and find a baby sleep solution that works for you and your family, you can check out our
 1 : 1 consultation services or our new baby sleep guides which come with free access to my Sleepy Village Facebook community for easy access to get your questions answered.

Will My Baby Sleep Better If I Feed them Every 4 Hours?

Will My Baby Sleep Better If I Feed them Every 4 Hours?

Should You Only Feed The Baby Every 4 Hours?

I am sure you have heard this before: “If You Feed Your Baby Every 4 Hours, They Will Learn How To Sleep Better.” 

This comes from the idea that babies only wake up due to hunger and making sure they are ‘not just feeding for comfort’, will make them sleep better.

There are a couple of reasons why people might think why this would work is

  • The baby is feeding for comfort, and this is unnecessary.

  • The baby must be taught to only feed when they are actually hungry.

If the baby is actually waking up hungry, then feeding them less isn’t simply going to work. They will initially just cry for the whole time until they get fed.  (Yes this will stop at some point, they will give up on crying – they will give up letting you know their needs). When it comes to feeding your baby, they are going to be exhausted from crying, and they might not even finish their feed. They will ‘crash out’, their cortisol levels (stress hormone) will be very high and they will most probably struggle to stay asleep past their first sleep cycle.

If they not hungry and feeding for comfort, then we will need to figure out other ways to comfort them, because the need for comfort isn’t just going to go away if we start feeding them every 4 hours.

Yes, you could ignore their need, but that might not be such a good idea later on. This is why:

Some babies have a very small appetite and if you feed them less often, you risk them not being able to get enough calories during a 24h period. You are risking them getting dehydrated and getting sick very quickly.

If the baby is bottle-fed this might stretch their tummies, which might impact their appetite regulations later on.

If the baby is breastfed, this strategy is risky because it assumes that:

  • The breast always makes the same amount of milk each time, which they DON’T.

  • You can control how much milk a baby drinks in one feed, which you CAN’T.

  • The mother can store larger amounts of milk necessary for less frequent feeds, which is not always possible.

asian baby girl sitting on gras drinking her formula milk from a bottle

To summarise this, babies feed frequently for many reasons.

Just because they might settle better after the feed doesn’t mean that hunger was why it was appropriate to feed them. Feeding and hunger are not always the same thing. We’ve come to think about this with an adult mentality of equating comfort-feeding with over-eating. But while eating too much food isn’t a good idea, it’s not really a principle that can be applied to long breastfed infants, as there are many complex mechanisms to regulate and control milk intake and appetite in a breastfed baby.

It is more possible to over-feed a formula-fed baby, but as long as you keep an eye on the total daily volume, you still don’t need to worry about it too much.

This theory is really old fashioned, so please feed your baby if they hungry, don’t let them wait for 4 hours. You can still keep you baby in a lovely relaxed routine without too much interruption to their natural needs. If you stuck or confused, book a free call with me, I will surely help you to work out the right routine for your baby.

references: Lets talk about your new family’s sleep, Lindsey Hookway, 2020

So To Answer Your Question Is NO, Your Will Not Necessarily Teach Your Baby To Sleep Better, If You Feed Them Every 4 Hours, This Will Not Solve Your Baby’s Sleep Problems.

Have you downloaded your freebie yet? Top 10 Baby Sleep Coach Tips To Help Your Baby Sleep Better Guide! If not, then make sure to click here.

For more advice on how to help your baby sleep and find a baby sleep solution that works for you and your family, you can check out our
 1 : 1 consultation services or our new baby sleep guides which come with free access to my Sleepy Village Facebook community for easy access to get your questions answered.