can baby drink milk while sleeping

Unlocking the Truth: Can Babies Safely Drink Milk While Sleeping?

1. At what age can babies start drinking milk?

Most babies start drinking milk as their main source of nutrition from birth. For the first six months of life, it is recommended that infants consume only breast milk or formula. Breast milk is the ideal choice for newborns as it provides all the necessary nutrients and antibodies to support their growth and development. If breastfeeding is not possible, infant formula can be used as a suitable alternative.

After six months of age, babies can gradually start incorporating solid foods into their diet while continuing to drink breast milk or formula. This process, known as complementary feeding, helps introduce new flavors and textures to expand their palate and meet their nutritional needs.

Key points:

  • Babies can start drinking milk (breast milk or formula) from birth.
  • For the first six months, breast milk or formula should be the main source of nutrition.
  • After six months, solid foods can be introduced while continuing to offer breast milk or formula.


If you have any concerns about when to introduce cow’s milk or other types of milk in your baby’s diet, it’s best to consult with your pediatrician for personalized advice based on your baby’s individual needs and development.

2. Is it safe for a baby to drink milk while sleeping?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against giving a baby a bottle of milk (or any other sugary liquids) while they are asleep due to potential risks. When a baby falls asleep with a bottle in their mouth, the liquid can pool around their teeth and gums, leading to tooth decay and cavities—a condition commonly referred to as “baby bottle tooth decay.”

Besides dental concerns, drinking milk while sleeping can also lead to overfeeding and disrupted sleep patterns. If a baby becomes dependent on milk as a sleep association, they may have difficulty falling asleep without it and may wake up more frequently during the night seeking comfort or nourishment.

Key points:

  • It is not recommended to give a baby milk while they are sleeping.
  • Milk pooling around the teeth can cause tooth decay and cavities.
  • Drinking milk as a sleep association can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to frequent awakenings.


If your baby relies on feeding to fall asleep, gradually transitioning them away from this association can help promote healthy sleep habits. It’s important to establish consistent bedtime routines that do not involve feeding to encourage independent sleep skills.

3. What are the potential risks of giving a baby milk while they are asleep?

Risk of aspiration

One potential risk of giving a baby milk while they are asleep is the risk of aspiration. When babies drink milk, there is always a chance that some of it could go down the wrong pipe and enter their lungs instead of their stomach. This can lead to choking, coughing, and difficulty breathing. If a baby is asleep while drinking milk, they may not have the reflexes or ability to clear their airway effectively, increasing the risk of aspiration.

Tooth decay

Another risk associated with giving a baby milk while they are asleep is tooth decay. Milk contains natural sugars that can contribute to the formation of cavities when it comes into contact with teeth for an extended period. If a baby falls asleep with a bottle in their mouth and continues to suck on it throughout the night, the prolonged exposure to milk can increase the likelihood of tooth decay.

4. Can drinking milk while sleeping cause choking in infants?

Yes, drinking milk while sleeping can potentially cause choking in infants. When babies are asleep, their swallowing reflexes may not be as active or efficient as when they are awake. If a baby drinks milk while lying down or if they have an excessive amount of milk in their mouth during sleep, there is an increased risk that some of it could enter their airway instead of going into their stomach. This can lead to choking and respiratory distress.

5. Are there any benefits to giving a baby milk before bedtime?

There can be some benefits to giving a baby milk before bedtime:

  • Promotes relaxation: Milk contains tryptophan, an amino acid that can help promote relaxation and sleepiness. Giving a baby milk before bedtime may help them feel more calm and ready for sleep.
  • Nutritional support: Milk is a good source of essential nutrients such as calcium, protein, and vitamins. Providing a baby with milk before bed ensures they receive these important nutrients to support their growth and development.
  • Soothing routine: Establishing a consistent bedtime routine can be beneficial for babies, as it signals that it is time to wind down and prepare for sleep. Including milk as part of this routine can provide comfort and familiarity for the baby.

6. How does drinking milk before sleep affect a baby’s digestion and sleep patterns?

Drinking milk before sleep can have an impact on a baby’s digestion and sleep patterns:


Milk contains lactose, which requires the enzyme lactase to break it down in the body. Some babies may have difficulty digesting lactose, leading to discomfort such as gas or bloating. If a baby drinks milk right before bed, their digestive system may still be processing the lactose while they are trying to sleep, potentially causing discomfort or disrupted sleep.

Sleep patterns

While some babies may find drinking milk before bed soothing and helpful in promoting sleepiness, others may experience the opposite effect. The lactose in milk can stimulate the production of insulin, which can interfere with the release of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles. This disruption in hormonal balance could potentially lead to difficulties falling asleep or disrupted sleep patterns throughout the night.

7. Are there any alternatives to giving a baby milk while they are sleeping?

Yes, there are alternatives to giving a baby milk while they are sleeping:

  • Dream feeding: Instead of waiting for the baby to wake up and drink milk, parents can gently rouse the baby from sleep and offer a feeding while they are still drowsy. This can help ensure that the baby gets their required nutrition without the risk of aspiration or tooth decay associated with drinking milk while fully asleep.
  • Transition to a pacifier: If the baby is using milk as a soothing mechanism before sleep, parents can consider introducing a pacifier as an alternative. This can provide comfort and help them settle down without the potential risks associated with consuming milk during sleep.
  • Establishing other bedtime routines: Parents can establish alternative bedtime routines that do not involve giving milk. This could include activities such as reading a book, singing lullabies, or gentle massage to help relax the baby before sleep.

8. What are some signs that a baby is ready to stop drinking milk at night?

Some signs that a baby may be ready to stop drinking milk at night include:

  • Consistently sleeping through the night without waking up for feedings.
  • Showing decreased interest in nighttime feedings and taking smaller amounts of milk during those feeds.
  • Eating well during daytime feedings and consuming enough calories throughout the day to meet their nutritional needs.
  • Having established solid food intake and being able to meet their nutritional requirements through solids during waking hours.

9. How can parents ensure that their baby’s nighttime feeding routine is safe and healthy?

To ensure that their baby’s nighttime feeding routine is safe and healthy, parents can follow these guidelines:

Create an upright feeding position

When feeding the baby, it is important to hold them in an upright position to minimize the risk of aspiration. This helps ensure that milk goes down the esophagus and into the stomach rather than entering the airway.

Avoid propping up bottles

Propping up a bottle can increase the risk of choking and aspiration. It is essential for parents to always hold the bottle and actively supervise their baby during feedings to prevent any accidents or complications.

Practice good oral hygiene

To prevent tooth decay, parents should gently clean their baby’s gums and teeth after nighttime feedings. Using a soft cloth or infant toothbrush, they can wipe away any residue or milk from the baby’s mouth.

10. What is the recommended amount of time between a baby’s last feeding and bedtime?

The recommended amount of time between a baby’s last feeding and bedtime can vary depending on their age:

Newborns (0-3 months)

Newborns typically have smaller stomach capacities and may need more frequent feedings. It is generally recommended to allow around 30 minutes to an hour between their last feeding and bedtime to ensure they are not too full or uncomfortable while lying down.

Babies (4-6 months)

As babies grow older, they can usually tolerate longer intervals between their last feeding and bedtime. Aim for at least one hour between their last feeding and sleep time to allow for digestion.

Infants (6+ months)

By this stage, most infants have started solid foods in addition to breast milk or formula. It is advisable to wait at least two hours after their last solid meal before putting them down for sleep.

In conclusion, it is not recommended for babies to drink milk while sleeping.

Can infants drink milk while sleeping?

If a baby falls asleep while drinking from a bottle, they can inhale liquid into their lungs and potentially choke. Additionally, their teeth may decay over time. When babies are put to bed with bottles or use them as pacifiers, sugary liquids can accumulate around their teeth while they sleep.

What to do if baby falls asleep while drinking milk?

To wake up your baby and release any trapped gas, you can sit them up and gently massage their back. If that doesn’t work, changing their diaper during a feeding can help to stimulate them to eat more.

What happens if baby doesn’t burp and falls asleep?

If you’re worried about what will happen if your baby doesn’t burp after feeding, rest assured that there is no need to be concerned. The baby will most likely be perfectly fine and will eventually release the gas from their body.

How long after feeding can I put my baby down to sleep?

After finishing feeding your baby, you should keep them awake until it is time for them to sleep. The length of time before nap can range from 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the age of your child. When it is time to put them down for a nap, they should fall asleep without being fed.

Should I keep feeding my baby if she falls asleep?

A strategy called “switch nursing” is suggested by some experts. This involves removing the baby from the breast when they start to fall asleep and stimulating them through various means such as holding them upright, talking to them, tickling them, rubbing them, and burping them. Then, offer the other breast and repeat this process until the baby has been fed for at least 10 to 15 minutes.

Do you have to burp a baby if they fall asleep?

It is surprising how deeply a newborn can sleep. If your baby falls asleep, it is advisable to burp them for a few minutes before laying them down again to prevent them from waking up in discomfort due to trapped gas. However, not all babies burp, whether they do it naturally or with assistance.

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