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Baby & Toddler - Foods that aid sleep

May 1, 2012

After researching the connection with certain food groups and how they affect babies throughout their sleep cycles I decided to put together an article based on my findings.

Recommendations differ regarding the best time to start your baby on solids.  Up until recently the recommended age to commence solids was 4 months.  However, as a result of extensive research into this area, many health professionals are now encouraging parents to wait until their babies are closer to 6 months of age before starting solids. A baby's immune system is not fully developed at 4 months and studies suggest the younger a child is exposed to a food the greater the potential risk of an allergic reaction to that food. It's difficult to predict which children are at risk. A family history of allergies put babies at risk, but even those without a family history can also develop an allergy.

Although, some babies may benefit from solids earlier than 6 months, it's generally NOT recommended to start solid foods before 4 months of age. There are developmental issues that need to be considered too. If a baby cannot support his head steady without support and hasn’t lost the extrusion reflex (pushes solid foods out of mouth with tongue) I wouldn’t recommend starting.

How do I know when my baby is ready?

  • They take an interest when we eat, may watch us in awe  

  • May try to grab little pieces from your plate

  • Will open her mouth when food approaches


When to give what?
I have found through many sleep- guidance programs that there is a connection with certain foods given at certain feeding times and how it affect the sleep.I usually advise on fruits until 14:00 (except for bananas and tart cherries as they actually aid sleep) then to move on to a complex carb and protein which can boost the serotonin levels and promote relaxation and is a lot easier on the digestive tract in the later hours of the day. The breakdown of fructose occurs differently with babies and children and for some it can actually spike the blood sugar levels and create false hunger or thirst pangs in the middle of the night.


Kinder carbs before bedtime - Carbohydrates boost the serotonin levels promoting relaxation. I found a complex carb like sweet potato with a protein several hours prior to bedtime helped ward off sleep disturbances with my son. The ratio should be 3/4 carbs 1 to 1/4 of protein. Complex carbohydrates help sleep because they require more energy to digest and provide a more steady supply of energy. Foods that contain complex carbohydrates include whole grains, oats, barley, rice and legumes (like beans or lentils). In general, low-glycemic foods will tend to aid sleep.
 

Low serotonin - Low serotonin levels are linked to sleeplessness. Foods do not contain serotonin, but they do contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which our bodies convert into serotonin. Foods high in tryptophan include chicken, turkey, almonds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, eggs, milk, hummus.Calcium - Nutrients in food that contain calcium also produce serotonin. Foods that are rich in calcium can also be good sleep aids. Do refrain from hard cheeses at a young age as it does appear to increase dream intensity, and produces more vivid and emotionally charged dreams, depending on the type of cheese you eat. Other foods rich in calcium are Yogurt - the calcium from yogurt is easily absorbed and, like cheese, yogurt is often better tolerated than other dairy products by sensitive individuals. For older children lentils, broccoli, okra, salmon, cottage cheese, oranges (when in season), Hummus and amaranth.My favourite recipe for oatmeal & amaranthTable spoon of oatsTea spoon of amaranthTea spoon of millet  Cook for 20 mins in wateradd some Almond paste or cocunut milk if baby is over 9 months Stir every few minsTop with fruit or for an adult treat sugared pecans and maple 

 

How to help your baby absorb the calcium from his food - Offering calcium-rich foods is one part of influencing your baby's calcium levels, but there are other factors that affect just how much calcium your baby absorbs. His body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium efficiently. Don't give too many calcium-rich foods at one meal. It seems like this would be the natural thing to dobut the amount of calcium absorbed from the digestive tract goes down as the amount of calcium consumed at one meal increases. Give small amounts of calcium-rich foods on a regular basis.



B Vitamins - The B group of vitamins support nervous system health, which aids sleep and dreaming. Foods that contain a relatively high amount of B vitamins are green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, soy, eggs, fish and dairy products. The old practice of drinking a warm glass of milk before bed actually works because of both the tryptophan and B vitamins in dairy.


Fats - Avocado is not only high in calories, it provides the "good fats" for physical development. You can give avocado as young as six months of age. Some nutritional experts even recommend avocado as a baby's first solid food. To serve, cut in strips give as a finger food or you can mix in a little tehinna and banana too and make a pureed dish

Protein- Eggs are high in protein and low in carbohydrates. One egg averages about twenty-six grams of protein. Eggs are great to help them gain weight. Offer scrambled egg made from yolk only for younger babies. Almond paste (butter) Shekimon (almond butter) can be drizzled, blended or added to almost anything and is a great source of protein and healthy fats 



 

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