Does drinking milk before bed help baby sleep better?
A child’s sleeping behaviour is huge concern for a new parent. Many parents stay up, prepared for a call, as babies frequently wake up at night looking to feed. It happens because newborns are not used to the diurnal rhythm (day and night cycle), and can digest breastmilk faster than the formula. The quick digestion makes them hungry and needing to be fed.
However, as the babies grow older, they tend to sleep for a longer period. Consumption of solid food also helps them sleep through the night. But the pattern is not the same for all the children. Many parents believe warm milk helps a child sleep better. But is it the right thing to do?
Will warm milk help a baby sleep better?
We have all heard our grannies say, ‘drinking a glass of warm milk at bed time can lead to restful sleep.’ The science says, milk contains sleep-inducing properties - amino acid tryptophan and a compound called melatonin. Tryptophan helps in the production of two compounds - neurotransmitter called serotonin and Melatonin.
Serotonin promotes relaxation and melatonin is a sleep hormone that helps regulate the circadian rhythm. It prepares your body for a restful sleep cycle. So, why not give your baby a glass of warm milk before bed time? Well the jury is still out on whether milk can truly make you sleep.
Some scientists are not sure if a glass of milk has enough tryptophan to induce sleep while others believe that tryptophan-containing foods does not produce the same hypnotic effects that pure tryptophan does. They believe, it happens because the other amino acids present in the foods compete with tryptophan to get into the brain, thus, diluting its effect.
Many experts believe that milk’s sleep-promoting potential is related to the establishment of a bed-time ritual that signals the body the time to sleep.
Disadvantages of feeding milk at night
Milk is an excellent source of calcium and can provide your child with the bone building nutrient, necessary at this age. However, if milk is being fed to a child at bed time, it is important to ensure that proper care is taken.
This is, especially so, if your child who is above six months, is being bottle fed. It is common to see parents bottle-feed their child, who nods off to sleep, with the tip in their mouth. This poses a hazard of choking on the milk. The higher sugar content of formula feed in the mouth through the night can also increase the risk of dental caries in the budding tooth.
Therefore, it is important that parents take steps to slowly phase out these complexities before bed-time feedings. Or at least, ensure there is a gap between milk time and bed time.
Provide your older child with milk in an open cup long before bed-time. Also, mouth-cleaning before sleeping is a must. Do not allow your younger child to sleep with the bottle. Providing a couple of spoons of water (babies over 6 months) can also discourage caries formation.
Milk’s sleep-inducing effect is not definite. However, if you would like to feed milk to ensure your child sleeps well, maintain a gap between the feeding and sleeping time. It might also help you identify other reasons that may be responsible for causing sleep disturbances.