Often when a child is overtired they struggle with feeding as they are exhausted, impacting their calorie intake throughout the day. Once a child transitions to solids, I always suggest feeding until they turn away, at which point you may offer a second course. Remember, toddlers can get bored of food, but still be hungry.
What foods promote great sleep?
Meals that are high in carbohydrates stimulate the release of insulin, which helps manufacture sleep-inducing substances, such as serotonin and melatonin. Ideally, you are teaming carbohydrates with some protein, which will help your little one feel sleepy and comfortable after dinner, and will also help keep them feeling fuller for longer (throughout the night).
Protein is also filling, so if your toddler is still waking throughout the night for feeding (and is of the age where they should be sleeping), perhaps try adding more protein into their daily diet.
I generally encourage a protein-rich meal at lunchtime (i.e., a ‘meat and three veg’ style meal), followed by a carbohydrate and protein-rich dinner.
Some other great sleep-inducing foods for bubs are:
- Bananas (high in magnesium and potassium to help relax the muscles)
- Eggs (high in melatonin and a great source of protein)
- Chicken, fish, and turkey (great source of protein and high in tryptophan)
- Pulses beans, nuts, and legumes
- Cherries (very high in melatonin)
As always, it is important to rule out allergies or intolerances in your little one, and I always suggest allowing ample time between dinner and bedtime to allow them to digest their food. Going to bed on a very full tummy can cause digestive issues (think reflux). If you do start introducing new foods into their diet, introduce them into your child’s lunchtime meal to allow time to monitor for any reactions.
It’s also important to try and avoid foods high in processed sugar in the latter part of the day. This can cause restlessness and difficulty in staying asleep for long periods of time – neither of which any parent wants overnight!