20 foods that are beneficial for baby sleep

Breastmilk and infant formula provide most of your little one’s nutrition and calories until their first birthday, but there are a few nutrient gaps that need to be filled once a baby hits 6 months of age. At this stage, their nutritional needs for growth and development dramatically increase, so eating a variety of foods every day gives your baby the best chance of getting all the nutrients they need.

There are certain essential vitamins and minerals that play a role in sleep. Being deficient in some of these can have a negative impact on it, so if your baby is going through a period of increased wakefulness, restlessness, or sleep resistance, it might be worth looking at what they’re eating.

Of course, sleep isn’t linear, meaning that it doesn’t simply improve with time. There are normal developmental periods of rocky sleep that are to be expected. However, you’ve got nothing to lose by adding in a few new foods to their diet.

Here is a list of nutrients that can impact sleep, plus 20 foods you can gradually incorporate into your baby’s diet that will be beneficial…and hopefully lead to improved quality sleep for the whole family.

Essential nutrients that can negatively impact baby sleep if there is a deficiency


The iron stores that your baby was born with, plus the iron content in breast milk, start to run out at around 6 months. Iron deficiency can be the cause of disturbed sleep, and restless legs (which is a feeling of pins and needles). Read this to learn of the signs and symptoms of iron deficiency in babies.


Protein helps the body absorb zinc, so babies who aren’t eating much protein yet or babies who exclusively breastfed longer than 6 months can be deficient in zinc. It plays a crucial role in the process of falling asleep, and low levels can cause restlessness in the body.

Omega 3s

Omega 3s are essential fats that our bodies can’t produce, so they must come from food sources. Recent research has suggested that supplementing a child’s diet with DHA (one of the types of Omega 3s) can improve their sleep. Read more about the research on how it can aid sleep for the whole family here.


Calcium is found in both animal and plant based sources. Dairy eaters probably meet their calcium needs but for those who don’t eat dairy due to an allergy or intolerance, you will need to focus on boosting their calcium intake. It helps to lower blood pressure and is important for melatonin (the sleep hormone) production.


Magnesium is essential for establishing deep sleep and a deficiency can cause restlessness in the body. Many Australians are deficient in magnesium due to the poor quality of our overfarmed soils in which our food grows.


Tryptophan is an amino acid that cannot be produced in the body, so it must be sourced by the diet. It’s the precursor to making serotonin (an important mood stabiliser that plays a role in happiness and wellbeing). It’s also essential for making melatonin, which is the neurotransmitter that regulates our sleep/wake cycle (read more about it here), and is known as the ‘sleep trigger’.

20 foods that are beneficial for baby sleep

Here are 20 foods that are rich in these nutrients. Your baby might not get every nutrient every day, particularly while they’re building up from one daily meal to three, so don’t stress. How much of each nutrient your baby needs every week is individual.

Important: This list of foods that are beneficial for a baby’s sleep is for informational purposes only. Please consult with your GP, paediatrician, paediatric dietitian, or naturopath before making any dietary changes or taking supplements.

1. Chicken liver

2. Black beans

3. Beef

4. Dairy foods

5. Quinoa

6. Nut and seed butters

7. Mackerel

8. Chia seeds

9. Broccoli

10. Seaweed

11. Salmon

12. Bananas

13. Dark leafy greens

14. Lentils

15. Eggs

16. Oats

17. Poultry

18. Lamb

19. Brown rice

20. Avocado


See our baby food recipe section for ideas and inspiration.


If you would like to book a free initial sleep consultation with our resident holistic and gentle baby sleep specialist Kara Wilson from Nurtured Infancy, submit your details here.