Is your baby waking at night because they are hungry?
That’s the first question. The second question is, Does your baby need to eat at night?
If your baby is under 6 months old, the answer is PROBABLY! Like the baby in this picture, she needs to eat at night.
If your baby is under 9 months, you should discuss this with your doctor and your lactation consultant. Many babies are ready to go all night without eating by 7 months old but each baby is unique and eating is more important than sleeping. Many mom’s choose to do a night feeding past 12 months. That is just fine.
If you have determined that your baby does not need to eat at night and he is eating out of habit, and you choose to make a change, then you can take gentle steps to wean your baby from night feeding.
There are 3 common ways to go about night weaning. One of them is to go cold turkey and just stop feeding them. This is not my favorite way but it depends on the age of the baby. When you stop feeding at night cold turkey, your baby will still feel hungry. And he will need extra attention and support as his body gets used to not getting those calories at that time.
Have you ever gone on a diet or changed your own eating patterns? Let me tell you my potato chip story: A few years ago, my husband and I would have all 5 of our children in bed by 7 pm. (Sounds heavenly, right? It is!) We would sit down to watch a show we had recorded on the DVR and relax together. After the show, we would pull out a bag of potato chips (salt n vinegar is our favorite) and eat the whole bag together while we watched another show. (sometimes it was plain ripple chips with homemade sour cream onion dip.) Well of course, after a few months of doing this stay home daily mini-date, we started to regret the potato chip fat factor. So we decided to stop. We heard somewhere that you shouldn’t eat after 8pm or something like that. We stopped cold turkey. The craving for the potato chips at 9pm was unreal!! I wanted to get in the car and drive to the store to get some, I craved them so bad. Ugh. It was awful. Was that my body telling me that I needed potato chips? Should I be listening to my body cravings? No. My body doesn’t need potato chips. What was happening to us is called a blood sugar spike. My body was used to getting those calories at that time regularly. It takes about 3 days to undo a blood sugar spike like that. And after 3 days of no potato chips at 9pm, I stopped craving them at 9pm. I never crave them when I’m shopping in the store so I just stopped buying them unless we are having a party.
So if you go cold turkey in taking milk out of your child’s night time responses, it takes about 3 days for their blood sugar spike to smooth out. Please be more responsive and attentive if you choose this method. They are experiencing real feelings of hunger that are uncomfortable. I know. I have been there. A hug, snuggle, your presence, your attention can help support them through the transition. Come when they call for you.
The other ways to wean night feedings are with dream feeds (my favorite method) or with gradual diluting. Those are a whole other subject for blog posts or consultations.
Every baby’s scenario is different and there are no cookie-cutter solutions. Age, temperament, past sleep experience and bedtime crutches make a difference.
As a gentle sleep coach, I look at the situation and create a plan unique to that family. Call me if you need help. Free 15 min initial evaluation.
Certified Gentle Sleep Coach
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