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A bottle at bedtime really could help babies sleep better.
Infants fed just before they fall asleep slumber for an extra hour before waking up during the night, a study has found.
But parents be warned – taking a baby back to your own bed after they wake up could cut the amount of time they sleep by almost 20 minutes.
The better option may be to check in on them without picking them up, which is linked to babies sleeping for an extra 15 minutes at night.
Good sleep in babies is linked to a healthier weight and better behaviour.
Dr Mirja Quante, from the University of Tuebingen in Germany, said their research of 313 US parents found ‘that a bottle before bed’ helps babies sleep for longer.
Infants fed just before they fall asleep slumber for an extra hour before waking up during the night, a study has found (stock image)
When the infants were six months old, they were fitted with tiny, ankle-worn sleep trackers for a week to see how well they slept through the night.
Dr Quante said: ‘The findings suggest that a bottle before bed will provide a longer stretch of sleep before a baby wakes up hungry.
‘The best advice for parents may also be to give their baby space to self-soothe, rather than taking them back to bed or picking them up if they wake.
‘If babies can learn to fall back to sleep without any external help, like rocking, cuddling or feeding, then they may become better at sleeping through the night independently.’
The study, published in the journal Sleep Medicine, involved US parents who were asked whether they gave their baby a bottle of breast milk or formula before bed at the age of one month old.
Five months later, those babies given a bottle at bedtime, compared to those that were not, slept for 62 extra minutes at a time during the night before waking up.
But parents be warned – taking a baby back to your own bed after they wake up could cut the amount of time they sleep by almost 20 minutes (stock image)
Babies whose parents said they always slept in a completely dark room, compared to those where this was not always the case, slept for a total of 28 minutes longer between the nighttime hours of 7pm and 8am.
That may be because light disrupts babies’ body clocks.
The parents in the study were asked what they usually did to put their baby back to sleep when the child woke up at night.
Those that said they checked on their baby, without picking them up or touching them, had six-month-old infants that slept for a total of 15 minutes longer at night.
These babies also slept for 25 minutes longer in one stretch without waking up.
But babies slept for a total of 18 minutes less if their parents had taken them to their own bed at least one night a week.
This was compared to people who never took a baby back to their bed after he or she woke up at night.
Good sleep in babies is linked to a healthier weight and better behaviour, while significantly reducing the stress of overtired new parents.
The study also suggests babies who are exclusively breastfed sleep for longer and wake up less often than those given formula milk, although the evidence on this is mixed and more research is needed.
Dr Quante said: ‘The first weeks of life act as a formative period for infant sleep development – our results show that simple adjustments, such as light levels and feeding time, may significantly affect nocturnal sleep.’