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Are Toddlers Sleep Problems Tied to Their Eating Problems?

apple sauceAs any parent who has struggled with bedtime or mealtime can tell you, having a child who won’t settle into a routine is one of the worst experiences of early parenthood. When our daughter was a baby, there were months when I would have traded my left kidney (the better one!) for an hour of uninterrupted sleep time (we eventually figured out she slept better if she went to bed earlier, it was like heaven.). Similarly, parents who have to spend an hour at the table to get their toddler to choke down a few bites of food are also super-stressed. What’s worse is that sleep issues and eating issues often come in tandem. Could they be related?

According to a new study in the journal Pediatrics, it may be the case that toddler’s sleep issues and feeding issues are related. In the study, parents who had brought their child to the doctor for insomnia were nearly three times more likely than other parents to say their child had eating problems. At the same time, parents who brought their child to the doctor for eating problems were more than twice as likely as other parents to say their child had insomnia. That one makes sense to me because I have trouble sleeping when I’m hungry, too.

So what’s the good news? For one thing, if your child has both eating and sleeping problems, you may be able to treat both by treating one. That’s half the work of parenting your child through one problem! It may also be that the same underlying problem causes both–like a lack of consistency with rules. Though there can be a myriad of causes affecting toddlers sleeping and eating habits, one of the most effective strategies is to establish routines for both. Just as parents frequently follow a bedtime routine, such as bath, story time, and songs, establishing an eating routine can help with eating issues. Try giving your toddler a limited choice of healthy foods, and setting up an eating routine away from distractions like television. Of course we all understand that while it’s easy to dish out advice about toddlers issues, each kid is different and there’s no silver bullet. For more ways to cope with picky eaters check out our post on a laid-back and simple approach.

Here’s to a restful night for everyone in the family!

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