Infant sleep is a common concern for new parents. Although many expect a newborn infant to wake frequently, encouraging a baby to sleep through the night by a few months of age is seen as both a developmental aim and a parenting success. Many new mothers believe that their infants’ diet is related to their sleep; formula milk or increased levels of solid food are often given in an attempt to promote sleep.
However, the impact of these in later infancy is not understood. In the current study 715 mothers with an infant 6-12 months of age reported their infants’ typical night wakings and night feeds alongside any breastfeeding and frequency of solid meals. Of infants in this age range, 78.6% still regularly woke at least once a night, with 61.4% receiving one or more milk feeds. Both night wakings and night feeds decreased with age.
However, infants who received more milk or solid feeds during the day were less likely to feed at night but not less likely to wake. The findings have important implications for health professionals who support new mothers with infant sleep and diet in the first year. Increasing infant calories during the day may therefore reduce the likelihood of night feeding but will not reduce the need for parents to attend to the infant in the night. Breastfeeding has no impact on infant sleep in the second 6 months postpartum.