3 Ways Milk Can Affect Your Toddler's Sleep

Updated: Apr 26


Born Happy, Nashville, TN, Tennessee, Baby Sleep Coach, Baby Sleep Consultant, Toddler Sleep Coach, Toddler Sleep Consultant, Parent Coach, Sleep, Overnight Eating, Overnight Waking, Bottle, Toddler Sleep, Preschooler Sleep


Milk can affect my child's sleep? You mean if he has a dairy allergy?


I am not talking about dairy allergies. I am not talking about tummy aches or inflammation or sleep cycles. I am also not talking about cow's milk vs plant-based milks. This applies whether your kiddo drinks soy milk or pea milk or cow's milk. Yep, what type of milk your kiddo drinks, how much he drinks, and when he drinks it all can impact his sleep.


Looking for a way to help your kiddo sleep better at night that doesn't require managing overnight wakings or stalling at bedtime? You got it!


PSA: If you have a toddler or preschooler who is hungry as soon as it is time to get ready for bed, drinks milk at bedtime or overnight, or wakes way too early in the morning with his tummy rumbling, this is for you!


Check out 3 ways milk can impact your kiddo's sleep:


1 - Too Much Milk/Whole Milk = Less Solid Foods = Hungry At Bedtime Or Overnight


Born Happy, Nashville, TN, Tennessee, Baby Sleep Coach, Baby Sleep Consultant, Toddler Sleep Coach, Toddler Sleep Consultant, Parent Coach, Sleep, Overnight Eating, Overnight Waking, Bottle, Toddler Sleep, Preschooler Sleep, Too Much Milk, Whole Milk


Milk is an excellent way for your toddler or preschooler to meet his calcium needs. Children ages 2-3 years require 700 mg of calcium daily, which can be a little tricky to obtain without supplementing with milk (cows milk or fortified plant milk). No doubt about it, milk is an important part of your kiddos' diet. However, drinking whole-fat milk and/or more than 2 cups of milk daily can curb your kiddo’s appetite and prevent him from eating other foods with nutrients that he needs.


Very good, so, how does this affect sleep?


What Happens #1

More milk/whole milk = less food

Less food = hungry at bedtime

Hungry at bedtime = asking for food right before/during bedtime routine

Asking for food during bedtime = frustrated/anxious mama + kiddo who goes to bed later than expected


What Happens #2

More milk/whole milk = less food

Less food = hungry overnight

Hungry overnight = overnight wakings + feeding overnight

Overnight wakings = tired kiddo + tired mama + less appetite for breakfast

Less appetite for breakfast = cycle perpetuates


What Happens #3

More milk/whole milk = less food

Less food = hungry very early morning

Hungry very early morning = very early morning wakings

Very early morning wakings = less sleep + tired kiddo + tired mama


My Recommendation: Children age 2+ drink 2 cups of low-fat milk daily to meet their calcium needs. Children ages 2 and 3 can meet their calcium needs with 2 cups of milk (cow’s milk or fortified plant milk) daily. Children ages 4-8 can meet their calcium needs with 2.5 cups of milk daily. If you have a kiddo who doesn’t prefer milk, not to worry. There are other ways to obtain calcium besides milk. You will just need to be a little more intentional with his calcium intake from other sources.


Note about Whole Milk: Whole milk is a great way for children age 12-24 months to meet their fat and calcium needs. Once children turn age 2, their fat needs decrease but their calcium requirements remain (2). Switching from whole-milk to low-fat milk at age 2 can be a convenient way for your child to continue to meet his calcium needs without interfering with his appetite and impacting his desire to eat a variety of other foods.

2 - Milk In-Between Meals = Kiddos Used to Snacking On Milk When A Little Hungry = Wants To Snack on Milk When A Little Hungry Overnight


Born Happy, Nashville, TN, Tennessee, Baby Sleep Coach, Baby Sleep Consultant, Toddler Sleep Coach, Toddler Sleep Consultant, Parent Coach, Sleep, Overnight Eating, Overnight Waking, Bottle, Toddler Sleep, Preschooler Sleep, Milk With Meals, Milk In-Between Meals

Kiddos who graze throughout the day only feel a little bit of hunger at a time. They get a little hungry, they have a little snack. They get distracted and a little full, they stop eating. They get a little hungry, they grab their milk cup and drink it as they are building their blocks. They get a little full, they stop drinking. On the contrary, children who eat meals about 3 hours apart are able to get fully hungry in-between meals. They get hungry. They eat a meal. They get full, they stop. They get hungry again ~3 hrs later, they eat a snack. Repeat.


It is okay to feel a little bit hungry and not eat. It is okay for your kiddo to wait until he is fully hungry before he eats. And we want him to know this. This will not only help set him up for healthy eating habits throughout life, but it will also help him overnight when he wakes and his tummy feels a little bit hungry. If he is used to feeling that little twinge of hunger and not needing to eat, he will be able to go back to sleep. If he is a grazer and is used to eating or drinking milk any time he has a little twinge of hunger, he is going to feel like he needs to satisfy that before falling back to sleep.


My Recommendation: Include milk as part of your child’s meals and avoid milk in-between meals. How to do this...? Divide the daily recommended 2 cups of milk into 1 cup serving sizes and serve with breakfast and dinner. Or divide into ¾ cup serving sizes and serve with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Offer water with snacks and as often as desired for thirst throughout the day.



Born Happy, Nashville, TN, Tennessee, Baby Sleep Coach, Baby Sleep Consultant, Toddler Sleep Coach, Toddler Sleep Consultant, Parent Coach, Sleep, Overnight Eating, Overnight Waking, Bottle, Toddler Sleep, Preschooler Sleep, Milk Schedule, Toddler, Preschooler


3 - Children Who Drink Milk Between 6PM-7AM Sleep Less At Night