Are you wondering whether adding cereal to your baby’s bottle could make them sleep through the night?
Newborn babies are utterly exhausting and so it’s understandable that new parents reach for solutions when trying to get more sleep at night.
Although its is now less common, some parents still wonder if adding cereal or rice to their baby’s bedtime bottle can help their baby settle for longer stretches, giving everyone in the house more sleep.
There’s also now a trend for what’s be dubbed the “knockout bottle”, where milk is mixed with cereal and a little painkiller to help lengthen baby’s sleep.
In both cases, paediatricians and nutritionists say it is a big no-no to put solids in your baby’s bottle. Even in a small quantity.
The idea to add baby cereal or baby rice to a bottle of either formula or express breast milk is often likely to come from older generations in the family. It was quite common 30 to 40 years ago to add a little baby food into a bottle.
The idea behind it is that baby cries all night because they are not getting enough calories from milk. Giving them a little cereal or baby rice helps to fill up their tummy and so they do not wake screaming with hunger.
The trouble is there are many issues that can arise from adding cereal or baby rice to the bottle, including:
- Overeating and excessive weight gain
- Tummy pain
- Lung problems if baby aspirates the feed into her lungs
We’re going to explore the issues adding cereal to your baby’s bottle can cause a little more, as well as what you can do to help when your baby is waking frequently at night.
Does adding cereal to baby’s bottle make them sleep longer?
In short, no. There is absolutely no evidence to support this and more importantly it can actually do more harm than good to your baby, especially if they are under six months.
A study back in 1989 gave babies one tablespoon of cereal in a bottle. When compared to babies not having cereal in a bottle before bed, the study found it made zero difference to overnight sleep!
It concluded: “There was no statistically significant trend or a consistent tendency of one group to have a higher proportion of sleepers than the other. Therefore, feeding infants rice cereal in the bottle before bedtime does not appear to make much difference in their sleeping through the night.”
Adding cereal to the bottle can not only make zero difference, but you may be doing more harm than good.
Doctors know way more now about infant digestion and feeding than they did 20 years ago. The current advice is baby’s delicate digestive system is only ready to start taking on solid foods such as baby cereal and rice at six months.
If you introduce solids any earlier than this, your baby is at risk of developing allergies.
While your grandmother might insist that her kids were absolutely fine having cereals in their bottle, there are several other issues that giving solids in a bottle can lead to.
A baby who is used to milk at a certain consistency may struggle with the thicker texture when their milk is mixed with cereal.
This can lead to choking, and may lead baby to inhale the milk into their lungs. This can then lead to pulmonary problems.
Babies self-regulate their eating rather well in the early weeks. They take what they need when they need it, which is why on-demand feeding is recommended.
By adding additional calories to the bottle your baby’s ability to regulate their intake is compromised and this may lead to excess weight gain for your little one.
If your baby is formula fed you need to follow the ratio of powder to water very precisely to ensure baby does not become dehydrated and constipated.
It’s a similar story with breastfeeding. If your baby is suddenly introduced to solids before their digestive system can cope, it can interrupt digestion.
Constipation causes pain which can actually keep your baby up at night, which is the opposite of what you want!
What’s a “knockout bottle” and why you shouldn’t feed them to your baby
In more recent years a new and worrying trend has emerged for a “knockout bottle”. This takes the bottle mixed with cereal one step further by adding medicine, such as a painkiller.
Parents have taken to Facebook boasting of how the “knockout bottle” got their parents sleeping for six hours straight.
One mother’s post about a knockout bottle has been shared more than 20,000 times.
She wrote: “Y’all parents today!! Don’t know these knockout bottles! S**t worked every time. Especially when [the baby] is sick, add some Tylenol. Awww man out like the kite [sic].”
But experts have urged parents to never use medication unless your baby is actually sick and the same rules apply in terms of risk of adding cereal to the bottle.
Charlotte Stirling-Reed, a Nutrition Consultant who specialises in maternal, infant and childhood nutrition, said: ‘Knock-out bottles put babies at risk of choking. It’s not ideal and not recommended to offer babies solid foods from bottles. The action of drinking milk is very different to the action of swallowing solid foods, and therefore this could potentially put babies at risk of choking. Additionally, formula milks need to be made using very specific measurements and so it’s not ideal to alter the proportions of milk/water in a baby’s bottle.”
Specialist Paediatric Dietitian and founder of UK Kids Nutrition, Bahee Van de Bor, told the Mail she was ‘shocked’ by the photos. She advised: ‘Adding solids into a formula bottle increases babies risk of choking. It can also increase a baby’s intake of calories (above and beyond their requirements) and wouldn’t necessarily promote sleep. It’s perfectly natural and normal for babies to wake up two or three times overnight. It’s a natural instinct to try to stop babies from crying at night, but research suggests that letting babies cry a little bit with your loving support to teach them to learn to fall back to sleep, could help babies learn to soothe themselves when they do awake.’
So how can I get my baby to sleep for longer at night?
While crying and frequent waking in babies is exhausting for parents, it is totally natural for babies to do this!
The best thing you can do is feed your newborn baby on demand and provide comfort when they cry.
Swaddling, white noise and movement can all help to stop baby crying and get them off to sleep. If you suspect your baby is constantly demanding to suckle at the breast for comfort, then consider introducing a dummy.
As your baby gets older, you can start to monitor their pattern of feeding during the day. Make sure they are getting most of their feeds during the day, so that they do not pack all of their feeds into the night.
Once your baby is six months and starting on solids, then you can start to think about gentle sleep training.
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