Episode 8: Abbey Sharp: Is your baby hungry at night? | Baby's Best Sleep
Your favourite sleep queen sits down with Dietician, Author and Mom blogger Abbey Sharp to talk all about babies, food and sleep! When to start solids, the deal with breastmilk vs formula, we’re covering it all!
Visit Abbey’s popular blog: https://www.abbeyskitchen.com/
And purchase her book here.
You can check out Amanda’s blog here on this topic as well. 
Welcome everybody to another edition of Slumber Party. This is Amanda Jewson. And today we’re talking about another one of my top questions that I get all the Goddamn time about whether or not you are starving your children. Um, and that honestly is the ultimate concern. I, I always tell my clients I’ve never starved a baby yet. Um, and uh, but I understand that it is on, on top of mind of, of many months, especially when we think about sleep training because often, um, when we think about sleep training, you think I’m going to tell you to never feed your baby at night. Um, and that they will be in a dark room crying because they’re so hungry and those are horrific images and we don’t want that and neither do I. So that, that should be good news to you. Um, but I wanted to invite someone who knows way more about this than I do to kind of talk about this and some of maybe some of your questions with kids or sorry, with parents who are listening, who have older kids. Um, we’re going to talk about food today with Abby Sharp. And Abby is a former client, but she’s also a superstar. She has a blog and a youtube channel called Abby’s Kitchen. Hugely, hugely successful. And, uh, uh, mouthwatering Instagram, I have to say, everything Abbey posts on Instagram, I want to eat. And so if you don’t want to feel hungry, do not follow her. Um, and a new Facebook group called the millennial moms guide to, uh, mindful meal, meal planning. So she does all that. And also this year she just published, uh, The Mindful Globe cookbook, which I own. It is beautiful. It is delicious. Um, and welcome, Abby. Thank you so much Abbey.
Wow. Thank you so much. What an introduction. I really appreciate it.
No, I mean, I’m really excited that you’re on. Um, you do a lot of cool things. I feel like we share a bit of the same style. So do you wanna talk a little bit about, um, you have this segment on your youtube channel, dispelling some mom bullshit. I want you to talk a little bit about it because I absolutely love it.
Sorry. Yes. Um, one moment dispelling the bullshit. I think that that’s so key because there is so much bullshit to dispel. Um, I honestly have an endless supply of content to, to create. Um, and I love it. Like us as Moms, we are, there’s so much, um, pressure on us to, to do everything perfectly. Um, when it comes to sleep, when it comes to food, when it comes to, you know, our weight for ourselves, for our kids’ health, wellness, it’s overwhelming. And I think that parents are constantly feeling overwhelmed, trying to cut through the crap and feeling guilty about it every single step of the way. Um, so I, I really have tried to, um, kind of, uh, cut through that bullshit with, with what I call Science and Sass. So I want to make it really fun for people. I want to make it accessible. Um, but I also want to deliver the goods and, and I am a registered dietician, so I’m all about being evidence-based. Um, so I want to make sure that parents are able to come to my website or my youtube channel or to my Facebook group that you just mentioned, which is, you know, a really fun new resource for moms. Um, and I want people to be able to find the latest research in digestible terms that they can actually understand. Cause you know, there is just so much misinformation out there that it, you know, it can be dangerous. And, and, and, and it really, we’ve seen that we’ve seen the rise in a lot of, um, like disordered eating and, and other kind of, um, uh, ailments where, where people are just finding it very difficult to figure out how to eat and how to live a healthy lifestyle when there’s so much misinformation,
100%. And I mean, I think that we share a lot of the same sort of things where in terms of sleep training, there’s so much misinformation. And I like to even call it rumor, right? Like, Oh, I read somewhere that somewhere it did something horrible. Um, and I’m sure you find that a lot with food and nutrition, especially, you know, all of the fads like dive out and this and that. Yeah. And I also, sorry, go ahead.
I was just gonna say, you know, you can find a quote unquote evidence for anything out there with you, read enough mom blogs. So, you know, there’s the, and but that’s not like, you know, a survey, a sample size of one a is not a reasonable reasonable thing to kind of cast the entire recommendation on.
And I love that you talk about that because, um, I mean, I know I fan girl’d over, Emily Oster enough on this podcast, but one of my favourite things about crib sheet, her second book is that she talks about what makes a good study, um, that there are lots of bad studies out there and the media and you know, a, you know, online media especially loves a headline where it’s like, “New study finds your child will sprout hair on their face.” Like, it’s just, and then you actually look at the study and you know, economists and people who work in that sort of, um, dissecting studies, you know, they can look at these studies and be like, this is garbage. The sample size was low or doesn’t, you know, account for all the variables. And I think she does a good job of dissecting what to look for in a study because you’re exactly right. There are studies showing everything. Right. And then how people interpret data is also, and it’s something that you need to consider.
Absolutely. Absolutely. So, yeah, there’s always something to talk about in my job.
Yeah. Well, and it’s, you know, prior to us sitting down and have this conversation, we, we sort of had a micro conversation about what we would be talking about and I wanted to have you on because, um, like I had alluded to in the introduction that people are really nervous about reducing the amount of, of night feeding potentially. And for, you know, I’m not saying we stopped make feeds for all babies and that really is a, uh, individual decision. So by no means am I suggesting in this podcast, I’m want to be really clear that you should all start night feeding your babies. That is absolutely not what I’m saying. But there are instances where it makes sense and people are very nervous to um, for for obvious reasons. Um, I remember that, you know, I, I think it was my mother, um, when my first daughter was born would tell me, you know, just feed her more and she’ll sleep longer throughout the day. She won’t have such early mornings. So feed her like pablum or feed her this like get some actual solids into her. And I know that you’ve done some research on that yourself. I would love for you to talk about what you found in terms of calories and sleep.
Totally. So you know, everybody, everybody wants to talk about, “Oh, you know, that that time and I gave my kids solids and they instantly fell asleep so much faster. They slept so much longer.” That’s, that’s a common reason why parents do start solids early according to research is that they think that their kid is going to sleep longer and better. Um, and so most of the early research in this area actually has found no difference in the sleep patterns, babies given solids before bed before, um, compared to the babies who are not given solids. Um, but this new recent, um, large study challenged that and made a lot of headlines and so people were talking about this. So I want to talk a little about what that study found. So basically there was this, uh, landmark study that just happened actually. It was just published in 2018 called the Eat Study, um, e a t and this was actually a study on allergies and it’s really informed and, uh, like shaped our recommendations on allergy introduction. So this was actually a large study about allergies. However, the researchers did a secondary analysis on it, um, with 1300 kids, which is a pretty good size study. Um, and we compared babies who were fed solids early, as early as three months. Um, and those who waited to the six month mark and were otherwise like exclusively breastfed until six months. And they did find that those who had solids, uhm, early slept longer and woke up less frequently. However, that’s a really great, like, like, you know, sexy, sensationalised, uh, kind of headline to, to read in paper or magazine. However, when I actually looked at the study, I found that we’re not really talking about anything super significant here. We’re talking about a difference of minutes longer and the number of wakings went from 2.0 to 1.7, 1.74 wakings per night. So, I mean, is that reason enough to kind of start solids like really early, even if maybe baby’s not showing some of the other signs of readiness? I would say not. You know, the other issue is that this research was not designed to look at sleep. It was just kind of an afterthought. So a lot of things weren’t really controlled for. And one of the things that did not control for with sleep location, so it’s very possible. Um, and I mean you work with a lot of families who are, you know, have various feeding and sleeping situations, but it’s very possible that those moms who are breastfeeding longer to the six months were also more likely to co-sleep. And I know you tell me that. I, in my experience, I never co-slept, but the moment we took my son out of our room to sleep in his own room, he did sleep so much better and I slept so much better. So it’s very possible that that may play a role as well. Um, but you know, we don’t recommend this. This study kind of is a little scary for me cause we don’t not recommend starting solids at three months. Um, starting solids at three months has been linked to wheezing type one Diabetes, Celiac disease, Eczema, food allergies, increased body weight and fat like a wide range of things. So the recommendation currently is somewhere between four to six months in that really is a very personalised decision. Something that you’d probably want to, um, you know, work with your pediatrician on because there’s definitely pros and cons to consider when we’re talking about like earlier in the four month range versus the six month range. But really we’re looking for those signs of readiness more than anything else, more than the, the day on the calendar. We want to make sure that baby is him and her or herself is ready. So that means they’ve, you know, they’re sitting up with little to no support. At least if they’re in a high chair, they’ve lost that tongue thrust and they are interested in food, they’re grabbing food, they’re reaching for food, they’re looking like they want to eat what you’re eating. Those are some of the major signs that you’re looking for.
Oh, I love that. And I know that you have some resources as well. Um, I’d love for you to send me them after, so like link to them in my blog notes. Um, cause I’ve read a couple of your, your blogs on, on solid readiness. Um, and I, that’s interesting. I didn’t know that about the, the early, early introduction to solids. I mean like I, with both kids, um, rejected solids intro, um, introduction for so long because I was very much a lazy mom. Like I love just being able to be like, it’s so much work. And I was breastfeeding so I could be like, here there’s some food, now we’re done. I don’t have to think about it very much. That’s my approach to cooking for myself as well. FYI. Like is it readily available? Yes. And I will eat
And that’s what I always kind of, you know, try to make like recommend to, to most of my, uh, my mom’s friends and clients. Is that like, yeah, it gets really hectic, especially around that like kind of witching hour when of course that also is when you have to make dinner. So do whatever you can to make it easier for yourself by doing like batch cooking and meal prep, um, in small like amounts. So you don’t need to like spend an entire day cooking cause nobody’s got time for that either. Um, but try to find some like, little shortcuts to, to make it a little bit more accessible and realistic for yourself.
Absolutely! Real life parenting, right? We are not parenting even 10 years ago. It’s a totally different ball game these days. Um, what do you know and, and you know, I also, I realised in, in your introduction all of your accomplishments and amazingness, but Abbey is also a dietician, so she’s not like a food lover. She’s, um, she has some real education and training behind her suggestions. Just an FYI. Um, but I, you know, a common question that comes up, uh, is formula versus breast milk. Um, there are, you know, just feed that baby formula and they will sleep. Um, I, you know, if that were the case, I would not have a business. Um, but I would love for you to talk a little bit about the formula versus breast milk and how that can keep your baby sleeping or not. Or does it even matter?
Totally. So, you know, first of all, I want to preface this by saying fed is obviously best, um, you know, at to feed breast milk or, or pumped milk or bottled, um, formula is a very personal session. And so like no Shane, either way it, you know, whatever works for you and your family is amazing. The most important thing is that baby’s getting fed anyway. Um, but the evidence in this area is not as black and white as mom groups that there will have you believe. Um, for instance, one study I she found that breastfeeding moms actually got 40 to 45 minutes more sleep than formula feeding moms. Not sure why but that, but the other thing, you know the unique thing about breast milk is that night breast milk contains higher levels of like sleepy chemicals like trip to fan and Melatonin and some of the nucleotides that actually can promote sleep in babies. So that’s one of the reasons why, you know, moms who pump to feed, it’s recommended that you like label what, cause I was inclusively pumping moms. So I was always told you got to label what time you pumped because the, the nighttime, um, breast milk you should give at nighttime and the daytime breastmilk you should give a date because the breast milk composition does change. The formula doesn’t change, right? It’s the same every day, all day forever. Um, having said that, most research, and of course a lot of anecdotal evidence of their from a lot of moms you’ll talk to does suggest that yes, formula fed newborns sleep a little longer stretches than breast milk, breastfed. And that is simply because of the composition of formula. Formula takes more time for the body to digest than breast milk because breast milk is designed to be like easily absorbed an easily, easily digested formula can take a little bit more time. However, interestingly enough, the evidence tells us that by the nine month mark, the differences between breastfed babies and formula fed babies disappear and parental presence at sleep onset plays a much larger role. So I think this is just great evidence why, you know, sleep training is so important and an encouraging baby to learn how to fall asleep themselves is a much better indicator and predictor of your baby’s ability to sleep through the night and link those sleep cycles then whether you’re feeding breast milk or formula.
Amen. Sister. Amen. So I, I really like talking about this because I think it, um, I, you know, people are really worried about the food aspect and sleep and it really does come down to individual skill. And the other part, after four months of age, your baby should be producing Melatonin. And if you have melatonin production that should be enough for most provided. They are eating well and they’re getting enough and developmentally it’s okay for them not to be night feeding for most babies who can not all, um, Melatonin should be taking care of all of your night’s sleep things. And even if you know your baby didn’t eat as much as they eat the day before, as long as they have adequate melatonin production and they do, all of your babies do, there is no need to be supplementing with Melatonin, um, than uh, it should be fine. And again, that’s why talking to your doctor or professional is really helpful in assessing whether or not your baby should or can be night feeding successfully. Um, another thing that seems to always come up, and I know that you have some good stuff on this, uh, is food before. One is just for fun. Um, which means, you know, we need to be having more breast milk or formula before solid foods. I wonder if you have any insights there.
Yeah, I hate that term. I hate it. It’s not just for fun. It’s not just for fun. I mean, it should be fun. It’s of course gotta be fun. And I know that sounds like when people, a mom starts solids, they’re like, this is not fun. This is brutal. I like clean up junk on the ground. I get it. Like,
and they’re not eating it.
It’s so, it is frustrating. It’s exhausting for the mom. It’s not fun. But for the baby, yes, food should be fun, but it’s not just for fun because I honestly, I think that line was designed as like a tactic to encourage women to breastfeed longer, which I wholeheartedly support, but it’s just not enough because around the six month mark, um, this is when iron needs, for example, are it’s highest, it’s a whopping 11 milligrams of iron between seven months and 12 months that’s recommended. And that’s a lot. That’s more than they’re going to need at one, at one year old. So a lot of people, you know, lot of people say to me, Oh, well, you know, evolutionarily, well, what did we do when we didn’t have baby food? Like babies just breastfed for much longer. And I always hate good arguments because like, hello, the world has changed. But one of the, one of the theories is that when, you know, we didn’t have baby food and iron fortified cereal or whatever, babies actually ate a lot of dirt and they got iron that way. And the other thing is we didn’t necessarily clamp the umbilical cord this the way we do now. So the way we do the modern medicine, so babies got a lot of more blood and iron that way while while they were being birthed. Zinc is another really important nutrient that’s found in food because breast milk is low in zinc and our zinc needs are higher, um, when around that six month mark. So things like meat, and nuts and seeds, dairy, eggs, whole grains, a lot of great nourishing foods are great sources of zinc as well as iron. And the only reason why I don’t think it’s just for fun is that we need to begin teaching children about textures. We need to teach them the skill of how to do and swallow. Um, and really there’s actually a window between like six to 10 months where babies are really best at learning to chew and swallow various textures. Um, and so this has really big implications for, you know, um, uh, food acceptance and texture, acceptance and picky eating down the road. Uh, one study found that babies who are kept on the liquid and puree diet until 10 months had a more difficult time learning to kind of feed, um, and were much pickier about their food choices later on in life. So it’s, it’s absolutely true that before one, breast milk or formula still will make up the bulk of the calories, give or take. Um, but you know, you want to try to teach those skills and lay the foundation so that by the time they get to that 12 month mark, those relative proportions actually shift and the, and the solid food starts to become the majority and the breast milk or the formula is kind of the supplement that’s going to fill in those gaps. Very important still of course, the WHO recommends breastfeeding till two, two years. We know that there’s lots of benefits there, but we still need to make sure that we’re getting a lot of the nutrients from solid foods that we can necessarily get so well from breast milk. Um, and, uh, and the other thing I want to kind of point out is that before one year I was recommend that especially as they’re learning the skill you’re breastfeeding or you’re, or you’re bottle feeding before you give solids because we don’t want baby to arrive at the table like ravenous and unable to learn the very challenging new skill of how to eat solid foods. Um, but by the time we get to that one year mark, those, those proportions are shifting. And then we want to prioritize the solids first and the, the breast milk and formula afterwards so that they don’t fill up on milk, so to speak. And, um, and uh, and, and, or, or the whole milk, I suppose you could say after, after 12 yeah, after 12 months. So that’s kind of how, how things shift around that timeframe.
Abby, you are just honestly, I’m like, I had to take a minute cause you, you are literally like a, uh, a compact information nugget like you have. So you just speak my language. Um, you’ve trained, you’ve transitioned really nicely into the next part of, um, the things that I wanted to ask you about. Um, and that is, you know, picky eating. And so believe it or not, picky eating actually plays a large part in my work as well because I have, uh, tricky toddlers and funny preschoolers who decide that they don’t want to eat at dinner time and then come bedtime. They are telling their parents they’re starving, they’re so hungry, there’s no way they could ever sleep again. And then, so, you know, it just delays bedtime because mom and dad are making, you know, whole meal at seven 30, then the kid is eating it. And so that happens a lot. Um, and so, you know, I, I guess I’ll kind of share how I see that and then I would love for you to kind of talk about it, um, why picky eating happens. But for me, I sort of see it as a, as a boundary push in a power struggle. Um, and so I always suggest parents, you know, offer, offer dinner, offer what you’re eating, offer a variety of things. And at least a couple of things that your child will like. Um, and if they don’t eat anything that can be on offer, um, at a certain time, uh, your discretion before bed. So, you know, I would say if you give dinner at like five 30 and they don’t want to eat and they’re telling you they’re starving, um, I would say, okay, it’s seven o’clock. We’re about to go to bed at seven 30. Would you like any more of your dinner? Now if they say no, then they’re not hungry. We know that so then they can just go to bed. They might push you, but then we’ll, we’ll deal with that issue. It feels like it not a food issue to me. Um, and I would love for you to kind of maybe comment on picky eating and some of those struggles that you might hear of and see.
Yeah, I mean, I’m not there yet in my own personal life with my little baby. Um, but absolutely, this is, and it’s normal. Like this isn’t normal. This is normal phase that we have to expect. However, we can do our best to set our kids up for, you know, longterm healthy relationship with food. Um, and so what I recommend, and if you haven’t heard of the term the division of responsibility, definitely Google that it’s, it’s a, it’s a term coined by Ellyn Satter who is like the godmother of infant feeding. Um, and so basically what the division of responsibilities suggests is that we as are responsible for the what, when and where meals happen. And our kids are responsible for which foods that they choose to eat and how much they choose to eat. And so it’s also very important of course, that, you know, our mealtimes are super pleasant. Um, and then you need to foster the sense of trust between you and your kid at feeding time. Because when we force our kids to eat, you know, something that they are, they’re not interested in, they don’t like, they don’t want, they’re not hungry anymore. It creates this trust and they obviously they arrive at future meals kind of with their guard up and they’re unwilling to even try something that you know, that, you know, previously maybe when they were, they were babies that they loved. And I hear that all the time. My kid loved Broccoli. Now they only eat chicken fingers or whatever. Um, so you want to make sure that you’re keeping that, um, that meal time really, really positive. And so, I don’t know about you, but like I grew up in the, the whole like, you know, clean your, clean your dinner, play it, they’re starving kids in Africa, kind of a generation. And that’s not helpful because it’s teaching kids to swallow their own intuition when it comes to their body, their body knowledge. Um, so the division of responsibility, uh, I like you said like exactly same kind of, um, setup, I suggest serving fit foods, family style. And that way your kids can kind of decide which of the offered foods that they want to eat that day. And there should be enough of the foods to not only go around, but if let’s say your kid decides that they just want eat the rice, then there should be enough rice for, for him or her to eat. Um, the, and like you said, there should be at least one kind of safe food. So one food that you know that your kid is going to be able to fall back on if they’re not feeling super adventurous that night to try the new vegetable or the new recipe that you, you tried out. So usually for most families that’s like bread or pasta or rice or some kind of carb that, you know, kids are going to eat. Yeah. Kids love carbs. Um, the exceptionally to the unlimited rule is dessert. So in, um, the division of responsibility, we recommend keeping to, like one portion of dessert. But the interesting recommendation I’m going to make because a lot of parents don’t do this. I certainly wasn’t raised with this, but I actually serve dessert with the main course. So right on the cable at the same time. It’s, it’s right in front. Uh, and, and my son can eat his dessert first or last or whatever order he wants to eat things in. And the reason we do that is because we’re trying to reduce the moral power of that quote unquote forbidden food that so called bad food. I’m using, I’m using quotations here that you can’t see my air quotes, but um, you know, our, our society is just obsessed with dichotomizing good and bad food and we do it as adults that, you know, this can start really early when we start telling our kids to finish their broccoli and then they get dessert. Um, cause essentially what we’re saying is that they haven’t dragged themselves through this gross, you know, bland vegetable and then you get your food prize. We don’t want to make food into prizes. We want to remove and strip foods of its moral value here. Um, we want our kids to just enjoy naturally nourishing ingredients for what they are. And we don’t want to hide them. We don’t want to, you know, disguise that we want to just, you know, try to foster this, this healthier, more balanced relationship with food. So if they eat their dessert first, fine, it’s just another food. And you might be worried of like, oh my God, what if my kid just eats the dessert and just eats the carbs every single day? Believe it or not, they’re going to get really sick of that and move on to something else the next day. It’s amazing how intuitive children actually are when we stop making it a big deal. Food is only a big deal and we make it a big deal. So that’s usually how I, how I position it. And like you said, the bedtime snack, all snacks should be, um, like mini meals. Try to make them balanced, try to make sure that there’s at least two, um, food groups represented so that they’ve got some factor going on and it should be consumed sitting down, uh, in, you know, not on the go. It’s not a treat, it’s a snack, it’s a mini meal. And the bedtime snack specifically, I recommend something kind of boring, like something that’s not like so that they don’t, they don’t like hold out at dinnertime thinking “Oh if I just don’t eat anything then mom’s going to give me that cool snack we had last night, like the dinosaur egg meal,” whatever. I don’t know like that. I don’t know what I’ve got like nineties 90 food on the brain. But like now like you want to make it something pretty, pretty mundane and boring so that it’s gonna feel their bellies and it’s going to do the trick. But of course it’s not something that they’re going to be like purposefully playing this game with you over.
Yes, for sure. Now you have me thinking, do you think they make like fruit by the foot and fruit roll ups still? They must.
They do. Um, I actually had a 90s birthday party and I bought all those things they do have for by the foot and they, and I used to wrap it around my finger and so you can still do that as an adult, my friend.
Those are some goals and there you have it, permission from Abbey Sharp to eat Fruit by the Foot
Totally. Totally
Well I always like to keep this podcast down to a crap nap and we are getting to 29 minutes and eight seconds, which is definitely someone’s crab nap time. Um, Abbey, honestly you have packed so much information in to 29 minutes. Like I know that I’m going to go back and listen to this for, for my just everything that you’re saying, especially about toddler eating. Um, I think will be really helpful for a lot of a lot of our listeners. Um, thank you so much for joining us, uh, for everyone else. I hope this makes you feel better that you are not starving your baby. As always, consult a professional. Um, consult your doctor if you ever want to talk about Nate weening, um, and wet night weaning looks like for you. If, if you feeling at night is no problem, um, then there is no problem. Continue doing so. Um, in that is all I want to say about that. Thank you so much and have everyone. Thanks Abby.
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