When your baby cries in the night, it usually means they want something in order to help them get back to sleep. Whether it’s because they’re too hot, too cold, have a wet diaper, or for some other reason can be difficult to tell.
For most parents, the first thing they try is a feed. Babies love to eat and it’s the most common reason for newborns and infants to wake up in the night.
Of course, that’s not always the solution, and feeding your baby to sleep every time they wake up can cause an association that will leave them unable to fall asleep unless they’re offered a nighttime snack.
In today’s video, I’ll help you spot the telltale signs of hunger and give you some tips for getting baby back to sleep on those occasions when they’re just looking for comfort instead of food.Rather read than watch? Click here.
Hi everyone. I’m Dana, creator of the Sleep Sense program. How do you know if your baby needs to eat in the night? What are the signs and signals that tell you your baby needs to still eat in the night? That’s a very common question I hear day in and day out. And I understand it as a mother myself. I can remember when my kids were infants; there’s always this concern that they’re not going to be eating enough. And I have to tell you a funny story. My son is heading back to college this weekend, and I still worry that he doesn’t eat enough, right? I still had to send him off with a public’s card and a note that says, “Please eat food every day,” right? I still worry, so I don’t think as any parent there ever comes a day where you don’t worry about that sort of thing for your children. But let’s look at a few things that you can be watching for with your little one.
Obviously, you want to make sure that they’re gaining weight well, that there’s no issues with their health, or any kind of feeding concerns going on at all. So it’s always a good idea to run these things by your doctor or pediatrician first, just to get the green light. But after a certain stage, right in the newborn phase, it’s absolutely calorie based. This little newborn baby needs calories every couple of hours. And as they grow and gain weight and get older, then usually their need for calories, especially in the night, starts to slow down. And maybe then they only need it a couple of times a night. And then maybe just once a night, and eventually no more times in the night. And in a perfect world, that’s what would happen, that your baby would just naturally start dropping feeds, and within six months or so, this baby’s not needing any kind of calorie source in the night any longer. But that is not what happens for most babies, and the question is often why?
As a parent, you’re pulling your hair out, wondering why, why, why do you still wake up three times a night needing food? So let’s have a look at that. And when it gets to a certain age, and roughly rule of thumb is six months and older, if your baby is six months and older and still waking up looking for food in the night, then here’s a couple of questions to ask yourself. One, are they relying on a food source to fall asleep in the first place? If part of the bedtime routine is you feed this baby to sleep with a breast or a bottle, then that is the problem, because sleep is habitual and repetitive, and we attach ourselves to strategies that help us make the transition into sleep easier. And a baby will attach themselves to the idea that feeding is the fastest path to sleep. And it’s also lovely, right? So they love it. There’s a little bonus of some food involved and it’s a wonderful way to fall asleep.
The problem is when they have naturally occurring wake ups in the night and you’re no longer feeding, then they’ll often wake fully crying for you to come in and feed them again. And it’s not really about the food. I mean, the food is a nice perk, a side benefit, but what they’re really after is the strategy. It’s the process of falling back to sleep. If they’ve convinced themselves that that is their fastest path back to sleep, then that’s what they’re looking for. And so that is why you see babies in the 8, 9, 10, 12 month age range still waking up looking for food in the night, but it’s not really the food that they’re after.
So part of the Sleep Sense program is identifying if that’s what’s going on, is that actually the prop dependency that we have here, your baby is relying on the food as the fastest path to sleep. And then going through step by step process of breaking that association between the food and sleep, and helping the baby find strategies that are independent of that so that they can fall asleep independently and then start handling their own wake up throughout the night. So no longer needing or thinking that they need food, breast or bottle to get back to sleep. But knowing that I just get into my comfy position, and I drift back to sleep all on my own without any need for outside assistance. And then that is when they start sleeping through the night.
So at a certain age, it’s not a food question. And I know that’s confusing, because for so many months it is a food question. But it stops being a food question and it starts being a strategy question. And so, have a good look at that. If you are convinced that this is a strategy issue, pick up a copy of the Sleep Sense program. It’s the easiest do-it-yourself guide to breaking that connection and teaching your baby a new and better way.
Thanks for watching. Sleep well.
If your baby, infant or toddler is having trouble sleeping through the night, help is just a click away! The Sleep Sense Program has helped over 107,000 parents to get their kids sleeping 11-12 hours through the night AND taking long, restful naps during the day. If you’re ready to get started – I’m looking forward to helping you!
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