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Will giving formula or solids at night help baby to sleep better?

Have you been told that a breast fed baby will sleep better if offered formula at night? Or have you been told that adding cereal to the bottle of a formula fed baby, will help them sleep for longer?

A number of detailed studies have shown that introducing a formula feed to a breast fed baby, or placing cereal in to a babies bottle of a formula fed baby at night; does not extend the sleeping time for mother or child.

A recent Cleveland study found there was no difference in night waking patterns of formula feeding babies, ones who had cereal added, and breastfed babies.

Yet still some parents say babies sleep longer if you either offer a formula bottle to a breast fed baby, or put cereal in the bottle of a formula fed baby: or even if you put cereal in any milk that is offered, be it breast or formula.

If you are thinking about doing it because a friend or family member swears by it, then you need to be aware of the following few points:

  • If you breast feed, consider cluster breast feeding in the evening rather than adding anything to the exclusively breast fed babies digestive tract. Cluster feeding fills baby without adding anything.
  • The American Association of Pediatrics recommends not to add cereal to a baby’s bottle.
  • Cereal in a bottle may result in a baby drinking less milk because the cereal may fill the baby’s small tummy for a short time, BUT they still need their full quoter or milk, otherwise they wake anyway for it.
  • Some babies develop tummy upsets when their normal milk intake is altered too early in life.

Even IF someone insists you try it to help your baby sleep longer, and IF your baby does happen to sleep longer, consider the following;

  • Studies have suggested that long, deep uninterrupted sleeps of young infants may be more vulnerable to a higher risk of SIDS, ie babies are supposed to have frequent wakings overnight when they are young.
  • Adding cereal to formula increased the density of the liquid which can pose a choking risk for the baby.
  • Over time added cereal to bottles can pose a risk factor to later in life obesity.

As much as exhausted parents don’t want to hear this, it is natural for babies to wake through the night for a feed; so try feeding them when they need it until they need it more. Introducing methods to hurry babies to sleep through the night, may not be as advantageous as desperate parents want it to be.


Birch LL, Fisher JO. The Causes and Health Consequences of Obesity in Children and Adolescents: Development of Eating Behaviors Among Children and Adolescent. Pediatrics 1998 Mar, 101(3)
Brown A & Harries V. Infant Sleep and Night Feeding Patterns During later Infancy: Association with Breastfeeding Frequency, Daytime Complementary Food Intake, and Infant Weight. Breastfeeding medicine. June 2015, 10(5): 246-252
Hall RT. Infant Feeding. Pediatric Review. 2000 Jun, 191-199
Kendell-Tackett K, Cong A. Hale T. The Effect of Feeding Method on Sleep Duration, Maternal Well-being and Postpartum Depression. Clinical Lactation 2011, Vol 2-2 22-26
Macknin ML, Mendendoro SV & Maier MC. Infant Sleep and Bedtime Cereal. American Journal Diseases of Children 1989 Sep: 143(9): 1066-1068
McKenna JJ. An Anthropological Perspective on the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): the Role of Parental Breathing Cues and Speech Breathing Adaptations. Medical Anthropology: Cross-Cultural Studies of Disease and Illness.1986;10:9- 53.

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