Perhaps one of the most worrisome myths about feeding babies is the myth that cereal in a bottle will help a baby sleep through the night or at least sleep for longer stretches at a time.
I know that many parents are probably tempted to try the old “cereal in the bottle” trick to gain an extra hour (heck, even just an extra 20 minutes) of sleep. This is one of the biggest and possibly one of the most dangerous things you could do. As a mother of twins, I know all too well the horrors of not being able to catch that elusive sleep during the first few months after babies are born.
My boys were never on the same schedule and sleep and I became total strangers! As my pediatrician would often say, as I begged for a simple solution to scheduling them to sleep for 5 minutes at a time, at the same time; “No matter how often or how long you nurse those babies at this age, they will sleep on their own terms and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it!” These were not the words I wanted to hear; I’m sure these are not the words that you want to hear either. We would often talk about cereal in a bottle and why it seemed to work even though it actually did not work. \
One reason parents might think that cereal in the bottle is actually working is simple timing. It is usually when a baby is between 2 or 3 months that parents give the cereal in the bottle trick a try; this seems to be the breaking point of many sleep deprived parents as well! It is at this age that babies may begin sleeping for longer periods, naturally.
This new extended sleeping pattern is a natural progression as baby ages and it often coincides with the addition of cereal to the bottle, which seems to perpetuate the myth that cereal in a bottle does indeed help an infant sleep through the night. To further this explanation, when a baby is between 6-8 months old, he is often waking at night again for a feeding. By this time he should be eating solids and it might be argued that those solids are no longer helping him sleep through the night. In reality, your baby may be hitting another growth spurt and may begin to wake again during the night for more feedings regardless of eating solids.
Unless your baby has been diagnosed with reflux and has a medical need for cereal added to a bottle, you should resist the temptation to thicken the bottle with cereal. Feeding babies cereal in their bottles may throw the “I’m full” instinct off kilter and put babies in danger of overeating; more importantly, babies have been known to aspirate cereal when it is mixed in a bottle with formula or breast milk. Babies younger than 4-6 months old seldom know how to properly swallow anything other than breast milk or formula. Gulping or “inhaling” a bottle with cereal in it could have deadly consequences.