Child Sleep Patterns

Your Child’s Diet and Sleep Patterns

If your baby or toddler has been having problems sleeping, then you might want to check into their diet, as this can affect their sleep patterns.  Things like restlessness could be caused by food intolerance, or perhaps a food allergy, even if your baby is still breast feeding.

A recent study was done by a UK sleep clinic on 13 month old babies who were persistently waking up during the night.  No other causes were found for these awakenings, so they were taken off of all milk products when it was suspected that cow’s milk intolerance was the issue.  The results were that for most children, their sleep normalized within five weeks, and the number of night time awakenings fell to either none in some cases, or only once per night in other cases.  A subsequent double blind test took place where milk was reintroduced, causing the insomnia to reappear in these children.  One year later, the double blind test was repeated once more and again, all of the children — with the exception of one — reacted as before.

A baby’s chances of allergies are significantly increased if one or both of its parents suffer from allergies that include asthma or hay fever, eczema, or if there is any history of allergies in the family at all.  There are plenty of studies, and evidence, to show that the best way to protect your baby from any type of allergies is to exclusively breast feed for at minimum the first six months of life.  Having said that, if you are bottle feeding your baby and expect that they might have some form of allergy, it’s best that you consult with your pediatrician.  They may recommend one of the hypoallergenic formulas that are on the market, but they can be quite expensive without a prescription.

Any food allergies that the baby that is exclusively breast fed might get will be from foods that you eat, which in turn passes through your breast milk to the baby.  Their symptoms may include things like nausea, colic, vomiting or reflux, eczema, dermatitis, respiratory congestion, and rashes.  It should be noted that there are other medical issues that might cause these symptoms, so you would want to have them ruled out as well.

While pregnant, it’s wise for you to avoid any type of nonessential food that is also a known allergen.  You should even avoid them for the first year after birth, if you plan to breast feed.  The most common source of food allergies is cow’s milk protein, which is found in milk, yogurt and cheese.  Other culprits are foods such as eggs, peanuts, fish, citrus, wheat, and soy products.  Of course, different people — in this case different babies — are going to be sensitive to different foods.  And the level of sensitivity may widely vary as well, where one baby will only need a very tiny amount for allergy symptoms to produce, while another may be able to take a larger amount before it causes them to awaken nightly.

Another source of concern is food additives.  Nearly all processed foods — if not all processed foods — have an abundance of these additives which can not only affect sleep patterns, but behavior as well. Salicylates, which are chemical that are naturally found in a variety of fruits and vegetables including grapes, oranges, apples, broccoli, tomatoes and more, are something else that can cause your baby to become restless.

Given all the information above, it should now be evident that if you make some dietary changes, it’s quite possible that this will have a change upon your child’s sleep patterns and behavior.  However, depending on your diet, it may take considerable time and effort to pinpoint the food that is causing the issue.  Having said that, it’s worth the initial effort, since the payoff is your child sleeping and behaving better.  That ultimately means more sleep for you.

If you’re breast feeding, start by keeping track of the times your baby either has difficulty sleeping, or has crying fits, and what you’ve previously eaten.  How you do that is up to you, whether you simply use pen and paper, your smart phone, or some other device.  It may take a little bit of time to establish a link, but if you do think that you have identified a cause and effect between what you’ve eaten and your babies sleep patterns or behavior, eliminate that food from your diet for a few weeks and then monitor the situation to see if your baby’s sleeping improves.  If it does, then at this point, you have a few choices.  You can either completely eliminate that food from your diet, or slowly reintroduce small amounts of that food.  If you do this and the result is a return of your baby’s symptoms, you can be fairly sure that you have identified the problem food.

Clearly, the identification process is going to be different if you are bottle feeding your baby.  If you do suspect that they have an allergy to dairy foods, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should immediately switch them over to a soy milk formula, since nearly half the children that are allergic to dairy products or cow’s milk protein, will also be allergic to soybean protein.  In this case, do a little bit of a short term test, and temporarily switch them over to see what the result is.  Your child may be in the 50% that does not have a problem with soybean protein.  As mentioned earlier, there is also the option of hypoallergenic baby formulas, but it’s best to check with your pediatrician first, if you’re interested in going this route.

Another thing that should be noted here is that in many cases, symptoms or reactions don’t exhibit themselves immediately.  It may take up to 48 hours for symptoms to appear, so in this case, keeping a very accurate diary of foods eaten and subsequent symptoms is a must.