By Kathy Fang
As a mother of two, a three-year-old and a ten-month-old, ensuring that both kiddos get a good night’s rest is top priority. If the kids don’t sleep well, then you are in for a treat the next day. From the second they wake up, the temper tantrums, mood swings and irritability starts to surface. And the same goes for adults too, minus the temper tantrums of course.
So, what do you do when your kids suddenly start to wake up in the middle of the night crying for food and claims to be hungry? Everything you read on the internet tells you to not feed your kids and start the habit of midnight snacking. Below are some tips on how to prevent this from happening and what to feed them when it does happen.
Acceptable Midnight Snacks for Kids
A small piece of toast or cracker with almond butter (unsweetened).
We don’t want any snacks with added sugars to get their energy going at midnight, so it’s important to use plain organic almond butter. Almonds contain, magnesium, high doses of melatonin (hormone that regulates sleep), calcium and minerals that all can help facilitate and promote sleep.
Half a banana and a small cup of warm milk
Banana is a fruit that can go a long way. All they need is half. It contains potassium, magnesium, tryptophan, and vitamins that help promote sleep. You could even mash up the banana and simmer it with the milk to create a milky banana tea for your kiddo to drink up before they go back to bed. It’s comforting and delicious. When I was pregnant with my first baby, I struggled with leg cramps and Restless Leg Syndrome which interrupted my sleep at night. Bananas were incorporated to my early evening routine to increase potassium levels. It improved my sleep at night by reducing the frequency of cramps. I’m a huge fan of bananas now.
Quick Oats with Chicken Broth
This goes back to my Asian roots. Something warm and soothing, calms the nerves and relaxes the body. That’s why chicken noodle soup and broths are consumed when we are sick or recovering from an illness or surgery. It’s easy to digest, it’s nourishing and comforting. But don’t go opening a can of chicken noodle soup, those contain all sorts of additives and sodium. Something homemade is what I’m aiming for. So to make things easy, I usually have homemade chicken broth stored in small four ounce containers in my freezer. It takes less than one minute to defrost. Add the defrosted broth into a small pot with quick oats and cook for two minutes. This takes a little more work but works great especially if you a kid that leans on the savory sides of things.
Quick oats with cinnamon and banana
For a triple whammy, you can make quick oats with either milk or almond milk, add a pinch of cinnamon, a few slices of banana and crushed walnuts. Although it’s not something you can throw together in a pinch, it still wouldn’t take more than five minutes to whip up. The triple whammy contains four ingredients that all induce sleep — almond milk, whole grains, banana, and walnuts. Your kid should be ready to clonk out after this midnight snack. I would do this with slightly older kiddos, ages three and up.
Of course, we don’t want to make a habit out of this. This should be done only on occasion and explain to your kid that you can’t do this all the time. And that maybe next time they will need to eat more at dinner, so they don’t wake up getting hungry in the middle of the night.
Tips on Preventing Midnight Snacking
- Give your kid a small snack before bed – When my daughter was a little younger, her dinner was at 5:00 p.m. And the bottle before bed was long gone already. So we gave her a snack after bath time at 6 p.m. She would get to play and enjoy her snack for 20 minutes before settling down with story time and bed. The snack consisted of a fruit of her choice, berries, de-pitted cherries, kiwis, banana, grapes. Honestly, any seasonal fruit she was in the mood for. We would then brush her teeth after that and start on story time. This allowed her to have something light and hold her over until morning.
- Move dinner time to later – As my daughter got older, her bedtime shifted to 8-8:30 p.m. which meant her dinner time had to shift a little as well. We moved her dinner time to 5:30 – 6 p.m. You can also shift it to 6:30 or 7pm. As long as you space out dinner time from bath time by at least an hour or 30 minutes. If dinner is later, a snack before bedtime won’t be necessary.
- Ensure they have enough to eat at dinner – A proper, balanced full meal ensures that they don’t go hungry later. Cover all the essentials in one meal, a starch, protein and some veggies.
- Reduce snacking during the day – Everyone has different routines for their kids and every kid is different. What I’ve found works best is to limit snacking to once a day if possible. If your kid is snacking more than once or twice a day, they probably won’t be able to eat as much when dinner time comes around. Get them use to three big meals and one to two snacks during the day. That’s it. If there isn’t a set schedule for snacks and they can eat whenever they are hungry, then what’s the difference between snacking during the day or at night or midnight? It’ll be confusing for them.
And if all fails, don’t beat yourself up over it. Us parents do the best we can and sometimes we can’t fix and control everything. Grab yourself a cup of chamomile, whip up that snack at midnight, sit with your kid and enjoy the moment.
The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.