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The Secret Ingredient That Got My Toddler to Sleep Through the Night, Every Night

Photograph by Twenty20

When we finally finished sleep training my toddler, I thought we’d finally get some rest. But, no. The growth spurts hit and my son turned into a ravenous beast who’d wake up at least twice a night because he was hungry. But of course, he was too tired to eat, so milk it was, which ruined all our sleep/nighttime potty training efforts because he constantly had to pee.

Dinners have always been our least productive meal of the day. No matter what I served, he would cap out at his usual consumption amount. Basically, he didn't eat enough close to bedtime to keep him full all night long.

I tried adding a number of different things to his milk to fill him up more, but none did the trick. Bananas were too sweet, baby cereal was too bitter and changed the texture of the milk. His cup was returned along with the most scornful looks of betrayal. Avocado? You try explaining green milk to a sleepy toddler who "just wants milk"! I dare you! Butter? Yeah, I tried that in desperation, and the only effect it had was me adding “Is butter bad for my toddler?” to list of things to Google.

I thought I would just have to resign myself to our nightly milk and potty dates until he outgrew this growth spurt when, out of desperation, I threw some leftover steamed Japanese sweet potato (the one with red-purple skin and beige flesh) and a prayer into the blender in a last-ditch effort to keep this boy satisfied.

The four ounces of sweet potato blended in perfectly, and to my surprise, they didn't change the color or the texture of the milk, were barely discernible in taste and only thickened it a little.

As I handed my son the milk, I braced myself for the latest barrage of disgusted facial expressions and comments.

Now it was time for the real test: Was he going to accept it or not?

As I handed my son the milk, I braced myself for the latest barrage of disgusted facial expressions and comments. But they never came. All I heard was a contented slurp.

When I came back 20 minutes later, a third of the milk was still in the bottle and he was both full and sleepy. He slept through the night. THROUGH THE NIGHT, people!

We tried it again the following day and, like magic, he slept through the night. And every other night that he had a decent dinner followed by what I now call Magic Milk.

At first, I thought it was just the fact that he was full that kept him sleeping through the night, but as it turns out, sweet potatoes contain potassium and magnesium, which relax the body. Coupled with a lower glycemic index and high fiber, they delivered the perfect 1-2 punch to my son’s sleeping challenge.

To whip up some Magic Milk, simply cut a Japanese sweet potato (usually available at natural foods stores and Asian markets) into 2- to 3-inch slices and steam until soft, about 20 minutes. If you don’t have a steamer, you could also microwave them like a baked potato (but don’t bake them, as that raises the sugar content), and then mix 1 to 2 slices in with a large cup of milk. It works particularly well with nutmilk, giving it the body of cow's milk.

If you're dying of sleep deprivation like I was, it never hurts to try, right?

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