Wondering why your toddler isn’t sleeping well at night? The reason could lie in their diet – a factor that’s not often considered when dealing with sleep problems in toddlers. From my experience, these are the major nutritional factors that can influence your toddler’s sleep:
Reason your toddler isn’t sleeping well: They’re still drinking milk during the night
This is by far the most common nutritional issue we pick up when it comes to toddlers. Milk during the night can have a large impact on their sleep, and a domino effect on the rest of their nutrition and health.
For healthy toddlers, solids (normal food) should be their main source of nutrients. Milk becomes secondary to solids, and should only be seen as a source of calcium and to quench their thirst. Thus it should be given with a solid meal and not as a separate meal on its own any longer.
It is quite normal though for a toddler to have milk until they’re about two years old, especially if they love milk or if you’re still breastfeeding. Try to limit the milk to two feeds a day, one as part of breakfast and one as part of dinner.
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This also means that your toddler does not need to drink any milk during the night. The reality is that milk during the night can do more harm than good after 12 months for the following reasons:
- Your toddler is at a higher risk of iron deficiency if they drink more than 710ml of milk during the day.
- Drinking milk during the night could cause tooth decay.
- Giving them milk at night can fill them up with nutrients that they don’t need, and cause them to be picky eaters during the day.
Reason your toddler isn’t sleeping well: They’re having too much sugar during the day
Sugary sweets, snacks, and juices should be avoided before bedtime. When toddlers consume sugar, their blood sugar levels increase and then drop significantly. Their tiny bodies will be hard at work to re-stabilise their blood sugar and, in doing so, will release adrenaline, a stress hormone which can cause toddlers to experience restlessness. This, in turn, can have a major effect on their sleep.
The temptation of sugar is everywhere, but caregivers are in an influential position of introducing kids to more nutritious foods early on. The more healthy foods that toddlers start enjoying while younger, the better.
Good Night specialises in all things sleep when it comes to babies and young children. Their sleep consultants are trained professionals who undergo strict screening and education processes. They believe in creating a start-to-finish solution for families. Good Night is associated with international associations and accredited by the South African Sleep Association.
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