A new study published in the journal Pediatrics finds that parents who have problems getting their baby or toddler to sleep at night may also have trouble getting them to eat.
In a study of 681 healthy kids aged 6 months to 3 years old, researchers found that those whose child had behavioral insomnia were more likely to have eating issues as well.
Behavioral insomnia is a term used when a young child regularly resists bedtime or has trouble staying asleep. It accounts for up to 30 percent of children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years. Almost the same percentage also has eating issues. This can be anything from being an overly fussy eater to having a full-fledged feeding disorder. Feeding disorder happens when parents can’t get their child to follow a regular eating schedule or when the food refusal affects a child’s weight.
You might think that this is not really news, however, it’s the first time a study that suggest the link between the two has been published.
I personally relate to this. My daughter Katelyn was an extremely fussy eater as a baby. She would take a spoonful or two of food and then not want to eat anymore. I began to dread feeding her because often she would not want to eat anything at all. Sometimes, she’d fall asleep in her highchair only to wake up a few minutes later after she was in the crib. She’d wake up irritable and I figured she was still hungry so I’d try to feed her again, but by then she was too tired to eat and too cranky to sleep.
It was a drastic change from my older daughter Amanda, who would eat her meals without fuss and then take a nice two hour afternoon nap. It felt so peaceful and on most days, I could count on having regular free time in the afternoon. But feeding Katelyn, getting her to sleep and getting her to stay asleep was an absolute nightmare. Somewhere around age 3, she began to eat more and is the healthiest eater of the bunch right now at age 13. As for a sleeper, well if you screams from Brooklyn in the morning saying “Get up, you’re gonna be late!” that’s probably me. She still struggles with sleeping.
It would have helped me to know years ago that her sleeping and eating habits were related and not a product of something I was doing wrong.
So if you’re baby or toddler is having sleeping/eating issues, rest assured you may be doing all you can, as long as your pediatrician agrees that baby is healthy and thriving. As she get older, your baby may very well grow out of it too. The study doesn’t say exactly why this experience occurs or how to fix it, but it’s a start in understanding the correlation.