My Baby Won't Sleep. Was It Something I Ate?

New parents don’t expect to get much sleep, but you may have more power than you think to improve your odds of some decent rest. Both when you’re pregnant and while you’re breastfeeding, the food you eat can directly affect your baby’s (and therefore your own) ability to get some shut-eye. Here’s some of the main foods to watch, and how to test if your diet is keeping your family awake.


Many OBGYNs give their pregnant patients the go-ahead to consume up to 200mg of caffeine (about one cup of coffee) per day. The caffeine makes its way through the placenta to your developing baby, so you’re not imagining things if you notice a flurry of fetal activity post-cappuccino!

You may not be drinking coffee before bed, but several other treats contain caffeine, including some kinds of tea, chocolate, and many soft drinks. Even relatively small doses might be enough to keep your unborn baby kicking when you’re trying to get to sleep. The same goes for caffeine consumption with a nursing infant.

(Looking for an alternative nightly treat? Smoothies are a fun way to blend up a few of the 6-8 servings of fruits and veggies expectant moms should aim for daily. Green Blender has tons of recipe ideas to satisfy your cravings.)

Spicy Foods

You might be surprised to learn that breast milk doesn’t come in just one flavor. Traces of the foods you eat make their way into the milk, which helps your baby get used to new flavors. (Once you introduce solids, you may discover your baby shares your love for strawberries.) Like anyone, your baby won’t always enjoy everything she tastes. Your garlic bread, jalapeno poppers, or extra spicy pad thai may disagree with your newborn’s stomach. Babies who are prone to acid reflux or GERD may be especially sensitive to spice.

Acidic or Gassy Foods

Heat level isn’t the only factor that can cause an upset tummy in your baby or aggravate pregnancy heartburn. Keep an eye out for highly acidic foods in your diet, as well as foods that tend to cause gas. Common acidic foods to watch for include citrus fruit, tomatoes, and apples. Common gassy foods include beans and cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, and kale.

Fortunately, you’ve got a wide variety of fruits and veggies to choose from that are often easier to digest, such as:

  • Cantaloupe
  • Honeydew
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Kiwi
  • Cucumber
  • Bell pepper
  • Greens (such as spinach)
  • Zucchini

      Allergenic Foods

      If you have a family history of food allergies and your baby is sensitive to eczema, your little one may be especially susceptible to a food allergy. Some of the most common allergenic foods are:

      • Milk
      • Eggs
      • Shellfish
      • Peanuts
      • Tree nuts
      • Soy

      Some studies have indicated that eliminating these foods from a breastfeeding mother’s diet can significantly reduce colicky crying in babies younger than 6 weeks old, meaning more sleep for everyone!

      How to Test Your Diet

      You want better sleep, both for you and your baby. So how do you get it? Here’s a step-by-step guide which addresses your diet that even sleep-deprived new parents can follow:

      1. Track your meals. If you’re recording your baby’s feeding sessions, add a column for yourself. A trigger food may not have an effect until the next day, so it’s easier to spot patterns when you have a written record to check.
      2. Test your guesses. Notice your baby’s fussy the next day whenever you eat shrimp? Shellfish may be the culprit. Eliminate the food for a week and see if sleep and crying patterns improve.
      3. Talk to your pediatrician. Depending on your family history of food allergies, your pediatrician may advise running tests or eliminating and reintroducing foods on a particular schedule.

      A healthy, balanced diet plays a huge role in ensuring you and your little one get the vitamins and nutrients you need to feel your best. Now that you know which foods can keep your baby up, a few tweaks on your plate may result in better sleep for you both.

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