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Milk? Could too much of it be affecting your toddler's sleep?

Milk. It does a body good right?

Well, it can sometimes not do a body so good when it comes to sleep in little ones. Here’s why.

At 12 months of age, your child’s nutrition should shift from a diet of primarily breast milk or formula, to a diet consisting of solid food, with milk as an accompanying beverage.

However, sometimes kiddos have trouble making that shift and their appetite for milk can become obsessive, even addictive. As young toddlers chug it all day long, their interest wanes for solid food, and they are reluctant to try new food options. All that milk leaves them deceivingly “full,” yet nutritionally deficient, which often presents itself with trouble sleeping through the night.

According to Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist, Jill Roberts, children between the ages of one and two should not exceed 16 ounces (two cups) of milk per day, and children age two and over should aim for two to three servings of dairy per day.

The affinity some children develop for cow’s milk over solid food is another reason why it’s important to take away the bottle sometime between 12 and 15 months of age. At that point, your child should be drinking all beverages from a sippy cup or a straw. The bottle, especially when filled with cow’s milk, can foster a dependency in some children much like the pacifier. Let me tell you the story of one of my recent clients, we’ll call him Sam. Sam was two years old and still primarily drank out of a bottle. He loved cow’s milk and would clamor for it all day long. He was also an extremely picky eater and turned his nose up at unfamiliar foods.

Not wanting their child to starve, Sam’s parents gave in to his milk requests and even let him have his bottle in the crib, because that’s the only way he would fall asleep. Some nights he would stay awake for three hours at a time, and of course would always request more milk, more milk! Sam’s parents often refilled the bottle two or three times at night just to get him to fall back sleep!

When Sam’s mom came to me, the first thing we did was take away the bottle – cold turkey, in front of Sam. Sam was aware that all his bottles were going to his new baby cousin because he didn’t need them anymore.

Next, I suggested Mom remove milk from Sam’s bedtime routine. We didn’t want Sam to continue to associate drinking milk with his ability to fall asleep. Sam could have a maximum of two cups of milk per day, and it had to be in a cup, with a meal.

Once Sam realized his bottle was gone for good, he was not happy. However, he got over it in about two days. And, you won’t believe what happened next.

This little boy who often took hours to fall asleep and woke multiple times in the night wanting more milk, started sleeping through the night! He also started eating more solid food and asking for more of it!

If your child is having challenges with excess milk consumption or picky eating, you'd be surprised at how making a few simple shifts can create surprising results. Take a listen to my interview with Jill Roberts, where she address picky eating and nutrients of concern for both Mom and child.

I help exhausted moms and dads get their babies and toddlers sleeping through the night. If you need help in that department, schedule a free 15-minute consultation to see if we might be a fit to work together.

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