Is your baby waking because they are hungry?

By Kate, 18th July 2018

Can your baby really be hungry after just 45 minutes of sleep? We are all willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that our babies are properly nourished. But as anyone who’s been through this glorious journey of motherhood will tell you, kids are clever. They will find ways to get what they want and they want and try hard to get it. This is not their fault, they’re just working off of instinct.

They know what they like, and at a young age, they like mum. A lot. I’m talking all mum, all the time. And given the fact that they really only have one method of communicating, if mum’s not around and they don’t think that’s cool, they fire up the lungs and they cry. However, they don’t only cry because they want mum. They cry because they’re uncomfortable, or because they’ve got a dirty nappy, or because they’re too hot or too cold, and they cry because they’re hungry. So when they wake up in the middle of the night for the eighth time, it’s tough to determine why. Is it because they need to feed or because they just want mum back in the room…..

Is your baby under six months old?

Up until about the six month mark, babies typically need at least one night time feed. Their tummies are small, they quite often haven’t started solid food yet and formula and breast milk digest fairly quickly. Therefore theres a good chance they’re going to get hungry during the night. This isn’t the case for all babies, obviously. Some infants sleep through the night without a feed from a very early age and then take in more during the day, but generally speaking, you can expect to be summoned for a night-time feed up until baby’s hit about six months.

Is your baby eating enough during the day?

Once baby’s capable of sleeping through the night without a feed, you need to make sure they’re getting the calories they need during their daytime hours. The best way I’ve found to make this switch is to throw in an extra feed during the day, or by adding an ounce or two to each bottle throughout the day. This is also a great time to think about introducing solid foods. The good news here is that baby’s body will typically adjust over a night or two to start taking in those additional calories during the daytime once they’re no longer getting them at night.

Just a quick but SUPER IMPORTANT reminder… Before you attempt to make any changes to your baby’s feeding schedule, talk to your paediatrician. Night time sleep is awesome but calories are essential. If your little one is under weight or not growing as fast as they should be, it might not be a good time to wean out night feedings, so again, chat with your doctor.

Is your baby calling asleep quickly during a feed?

I’m sure you know this scenario. Baby starts crying 45 minutes after you put her down, you go in and offer a feed which she eagerly accepts. They take about three quarters of an ounce, then promptly passes out in the middle of things. If this is happening frequently, it’s a good sign that your little one’s feeding for comfort and not because they are hungry. Babies who are genuinely hungry will usually eat until they’re full. Whereas those who are feeding for comfort tend to drift off pretty quickly once they’ve gotten what they’re looking for.

Does your baby sleep for a good stretch after feeding?

If baby does take a full feed at night, she should be able to sleep for around 3-4 hours afterwards. An average sleep cycle for babies around the 6-month mark is somewhere in the 45minute – 1 hour range. So if they’re waking up around that long after they eat, it’s likely that they’re dependent on the soothing actions of the feed to get to sleep.

Will your baby go back to sleep if they feel hungry?

Falling asleep while you’re hungry is tough, regardless of your age. Your brain recognises hunger as a priority and will stay alert until the need is met. Or until you’re exhausted enough that the need to sleep overrides the need to eat. So if your baby really is hungry, they usually won’t go back to sleep very easily until they’ve been fed. If they are asleep after a few minutes of crying, then that could be a sign they weren’t needing a feed.

Does your baby fall asleep independantly?

Can your baby fall asleep on their own? If you can put your baby down in her crib while she’s still awake, leave the room, and have baby fall asleep without any help from you, without a dummy, or any other kind of outside assistance, then those night time cries are far more likely to mean that she genuinely needs a hand with something when she wakes up crying at night. Determining whether your baby’s hungry at night is obviously a complicated situation. Calories are vital but so is sleep. We therefore typically end up paralysed trying to balance the importance of the two. Once your baby has some independent sleep skills and the habit of feeding to sleep is broken, you can feel much more confident that their requests for a night time feed are out of necessity.

For any more help or questions on your babies sleep then please don’t hesitate to contact me directly.

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