Feeding sense for healthy sleep

If you are still feeding your baby at night after 6 months of age it would be useful to look at his diet during the day.  Ann Richardson outlines a healthy diet that will promote healthy sleep.

For the first few months of age, your baby needs only milk (either breastmilk or formula milk) as his main source of nutrition. Some babies’ individual needs mean that they require the addition of some solid food from the age of age of about 4 months, and that is usually when one introduces some cereal, vegetables and fruit. (Check out Chapter 3 – 6 months in Baby Sense for the step by step plan on how to introduce solids).

Not all babies need to have solid food at such a young age, so if your baby is healthy and thriving, and is able to go for long stretches of 6 hours or more at night without needing extra feeds, don’t rush into solids.  However, by the time your baby is 6 months old, milk alone is not adequate nutrition to sustain him, especially if you want him to start sleeping through the night!So, let us look at what happens at 6 months of age from a nutrition perspective, when he reaches this magical age, of saying “goodbye” to being a small infant, and starts to enter the world of being an “older baby”!

Congratulations! You’ve survived the first few months! Your baby is now a real little person, sitting up and reaching out, laughing and chuckling and is starting to show a real interest in food. This is the time when the main nutrition is derived from solid food, and the emphasis shifts from breast/formula milk. If your baby is drinking formula, then move to the next stage (number 2).

Your baby now needs the addition of PROTEIN in his diet.  Protein builds healthy bones and tissue, and is vital for the growth and development of all children. Protein is also filling, so if your baby is still waking at night for feeds, the chances are that he is not getting adequate protein in his diet during the day.

Follow these simple guidelines towards increasing his protein intake, and night feedings will become a long distant memory!

  • Your baby’s minimum protein needs in his solid food is calculated on approximately 1g (1 serving) of protein per kg of body weight.
  • The average 6 month baby weighs in the region of 6 – 9 kg, so he will need a minimum of 6-10 servings per day, divided into his 3 meals.
  • Try and incorporate 2-4 servings of protein per meal.
  • 1 serving = 1 heaped teaspoon, or a liberal pinch (approx 1g).

Remember to always include a variety of fruit and vegetables into his diet, as well as carbohydrates and fats.

Your little one also needs to start taking a daily iron supplement.  Babies are born with iron stores, but by the age of 6 months, they have used them all up!  It is important to add an iron supplement to his diet from now on.  Ask your clinic sister or pharmacist to recommend one.

Protein can be derived from either vegetable or animal sources, so it is really up to you what proteins you would like to start incorporating into his diet. (see list below)  Your little one will also let you know what his preferences are, so be guided by his likes and dislikes too! Once your baby is established on a full diet, he should no longer need to be fed during the night unless he is ill.

Remember that if you are offering him milk during the night (even though he does not need it), he will come to expect it! So, the obvious thing to do is to stop offering him milk should he wake during the night.  Make sure he is not ill, too hot or cold, or that there is another reason for his waking.  Once you have established that all is well, you may have to teach him how to put himself back to sleep without a feed.  Some gentle sleep training is what you will have to do.

TABLE 1. Proteins for babies



Nuts: Ground almonds Almond/Cashew/Macadamia/Peanut Butters

Dairy:  Cottage Cheese, Cream Cheese, Yogurt, Grated hard white cheese, Powdered infant milk formula

Pulses and Grains:  Baked Beans, Butter Beans, Barley, Brown Rice, Mabella Corn Rice, Lentils

Poultry:  Free Range Chicken, Chicken Livers, Turkey,

Avocado Pear

White Meat:  Veal


Red Meat:  Beef, Ostrich

Chick Peas

Biltong, Liver
Seeds:  Flax, Linseed, Sesame, Sunflower Egg: Cooked Egg yolk (only add egg white at 9 – 12 months of age)
Fish: Tinned Tuna, Pilchards, Salmon, Cooked white flaky fish such as Sole, Hake, Kingklip.


  • All nuts
  • Dairy
  • Wheat
  • Eggs
  • Fish

Written by Ann Richardson for

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