Wake-ups for Night Feedings

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Wake 5-month-old at 10pm to avoid 3am wakeup?

May 2006

Has anyone tried waking their baby before their own bedtime to avoid the 3AM wake up? Our 5 month old goes to bed around 6PM and sleeps til about 3 or 4AM. Then sleeps til 6. It seems like he is probably too young to go from 6PM to 6AM without food, so we were thinking about waking him at around 9 or 10 PM to give him a bottle and then seeing if he will sleep til 6AM. We are still exhausted from the first 5 months of sleeplessness... even though things are much better, we would like to get a full night of sleep if possible. Any thoughts would be very welcome. jenny

DON'T DO IT!!!! Every time we tried to do this kind of thing to manipulate our baby's sleep it turned out bad. You should be thrilled that he sleeps as long as he does. This is my experience with two kids. Just wait it out, I am jealous that you get so much sleep Been there, done that
We used to do what the Baby Whisperer calls a ''Dream Feed,'' where we sneak in with a bottle or a boob around 11pm. With my first son, he wouldn't even wake up, he'd just suck it down and then go right back to sleep. My 2nd would wake up, but then go back to sleep when he was done. Both of them were sleeping through the night once they started on solids, though, so we didn't have to do it forever Jill
Our pediatrician told us that a 5-month-old doesn't ''care'' when his/her ''long'' sleep is. So, we used to wake our daughter up around 9:30pm or 10pm to give her a bath (the trick is make sure she is up long enough to interrupt her sleep cycle). She seemed to enjoy the warm water, then I'd feed her and put her back down to sleep. This worked wonderfully! She'd then sleep 'til 6 or 7 in the morning so I finally had a ''full'' night's sleep. Good luck!! ---Beth
We did a 10 p.m. ''pre-emptive feeding'' from the time our daughter was 4 or 5 months old and stopped when she was 8 or 9 months old. It did seem to get our daughter to cut out the 1 am feeding. She would barely even wake up and go right back to sleep when she was done K.E.
This was a big topic of discussion in my moms group when our babies were around this age. Some were firm believers in the ''dream feed,'' which is basically what you're describing, and others adhered to the Weissbluth philosophy that you don't interrupt your child's sleep patterns to suit your own needs. I also once met a couple who had their daughter sleep from something like 4 to 6pm, then woke her up and kept her awake til 9 or 10pm so she would sleep the night through. Weissbluth would be horrified! But it worked for them.

In the end, I recall that the moms who woke their babies up at 9 or 10pm and the moms who let them sleep had about the same results. It's very normal for a 5 month old to be waking up at least once during the night. In fact, you're lucky it's not happening more often! As tired as you are (and I do recall that the height of my sleep deprivation was when my daughter was around 6 mos), I would suggest giving it a few more months and then work on eliminating the night feeding, with your partner going in to sooth the baby without a feeding. But you could also try experimenting and see what happens! good luck

This worked well for us with our now-toddler at around 5 months! He was doing a six hour chunk, but something like 8pm- 2am. At the time I was going to bed at 12:30am or so (I was trying to work in the evenings after he went to bed), and I would wake him up to nurse right before I was ready to hit the hay. Sure enough, he would go for another five or six hours if I did that, and he didn't have any major problems getting back to sleep. In general, he was a pretty average sleeper -- not great, not terrible -- so if yours is too perhaps you'll also have luck. Good luck -- it keeps getting better in terms of sleep Past that stage
Hi. We tried this in an attempt to avoid the 4ish wake-up, and our son (4-5 months at the time) started waking again at 2 or 2:30, even though he had eliminated this feed a while back. It wasn't till we stopped waking him that he went back to sleeping 'till 4. I've heard that feeding later doesn't ensure a later waking, it just disrupts the natural sleep pattern. That was our experience. Incidentally, our son started sleeping through 'till 6 am without waking around 6 months, so you may be almost there lj
I wake my baby (5 mos. old) every night before I go to sleep to gain a longer set of sleep hours for myself. The only time I don't wake her for this feeding is if she just went down within the past 1-1.5 hour. It doesn't always work as planned, as sometimes she wakes again at 3 am anyhow, but usually it 'tops her off' till the morning hours.

Now, I've thought all along that I am pretty gosh darn lucky that she's alright with this arrangement, as she only really lightly wakes up, relaxedly eats again, and then immediately falls asleep again for the rest of the night, saving myself from engorgement and another early feeding...And I keep thinking one day she will decide that either she doesn't want to be woken up or she's not actually hungry, but until then, it's working. I say give it a try and see how your baby handles it. THat's just about all you can do...try and see. Good luck! --good night time sleeper

5-month-old waking at 3am for feeding

Sept 2002

My just turned 5 month old is still waking at 3am for a night feeding. She really eats, and then falls asleep. Will she outgrown this or is this a habit I should help her break by just not offering her my breast at 3am and letting her cry. THANKyou lori

My breastfed infant wanted to nurse at 3 am until he was about 8 months old, then he would wait until 5 or 6 am (going from about 9 pm to 5 am). Since at 5 months old he was still exclusively on breastmilk, I was still nursing on demand. Since you are within several months of him going longer on his own, why deny him the breast AND make him cry it out ? Also, if you don't breastfeed during the night, you will run the risk of not having enough milk during the day. Maybe formula babies can be ''forced'' to not eat during the night, but I think exclusively breastfed babies should not be at such a young age. I know you're probably desperately tired (as I was), but by the time your little one is 10 to 12 months old, it will seem well worth it to have met their needs when they were so little. To keep my sanity, I would try to go to sleep right after I breastfed at 9pm (hard to do, but you need the sleep) so that when he awoke at 3 am I had had 5-6 hours of sleep (and this was a luxury since at 3 to 4 months he still woke up at midnight also !). a less sleepy mother of a 15-month old
She's hungry and going back to sleep as soon as she eats. Feed her. Her little belly won't wake her up to eat when it's big enough to take in a substantial amount for the night. In the meantime, try a dream feeding around 11pm or as late as you can before you go to bed yourself. anon
My baby is 6 months old and she still has her same feeding schedule (go to sleep at 9:30, wake up at 12, 3 and 6 to eat), so I can't tell you if your child will outgrow her night feeding (though I suspect that once you wean her to formula, which takes longer to digest, she might). But I would like to urge you to continue feeding your baby, she cries because she's hungry and not feeding her won't make her any less hungry. anonymous
At five months my daughter still woke up at 3 (and several other times) for a night feeding. I think this is very normal. Babies go through a lot of changes in their sleeping and feeding patterns over the first year. If it's not bothering you too much, I would say let her nurse. When my daughter was much older, (at around 11 months), we night-weaned her because I was ready to do it and she was eating a lot of solids. I would say that generally, babies sleep longer and feed less at night as they get older. Good Luck. Brightstar
My child had at least one middle-of-the-night feeding until he was at least 10 months old (he would eat at 10 pm, at 2 am, and at 6 or 7 am). He, like your child, really ate, and then immediately fell back to sleep. My feeling was, as long as he was really eating, he needed the food. They say that breast milk is digested very easily, and thus breast-fed babies need to be fed more often than babies who are fed formula. At around 9 months old, the middle of the night feeding began to be later and later -- 3, then 4 am. Finally, by about 14 months old, he was able to sleep through from 8 pm to 7 am. By the way, although all of the books SAY that babies can sleep through the night at 3 or 4 months old, I've never met a real live mother with a real live baby who did that consistently. So I don't know where these books get this idea. Karen
With regards to your 5 month old and the 3AM feeding - you should be so happy that you have a five month old that only nurses once in the night. That is not always the case. I would say do not take away that feed because if she demands it then her body probably needs it. I can suggest, however, that you try a ''sleepy feed'' - one where you wake the baby up before going to bed yourself to feed her. She probably won't really wake but will nurse until content and then, maybe, sleep through the night. In any case, this time will pass, so enjoy it while you can. My twenty month old finally started sleeping through the night at about 18-19 months and I miss those feeds now, if you can believe it! An Oakland Mom
Yes the baby will grow out of this. No its not unusual at this age. My 10 month old doesn't wake hungry, most nights, anymore. Good luck! Just be patient. Heather Jacobsen
Our daughter didn't sleep thru the night until she was 18 months old. Even if your 5 month old does stop feeding at 3am- there will be something else soon that you don't find comfortable or is exhausting and it seems to me that our task (as mothers and parents) is to find some way to tolerate what we can and change what we can easily change and not obsess about what we can't change. Surrender! good luck anon
Please don't let your 5 month old cry at 3 a.m. It's still normal at this age to wake up for a night feeding. My 6 mo still eats at 3 a.m. Some experts say babies should sleep through the night by 6 mo, others say 9 mos. Also sleeping through the night can mean going just 5 to 8 hours between meals. If your baby fell asleep at 7 p.m., she hasn't eaten in 8 hours and is probably hungry. a mom
It sounds like to me that your baby is truly hungry if she is really eating. She might be going through a growth spurt or just need more food right now. A baby's stomach isn't all that big and she might not be able to go without food for many hours. Also, Sears and Sears (The Baby Book) define sleeping through the night as 5 hours at a stretch, not the enitre night. They also strongly advise against letting babies cry it out, too. That makes sense to me: I wouldn't feel very good if I was hungry and left to cry. By the way, my thriving 13 month old still feeds at least once a night - it's a nice snuggly time to check in and as she sleeps with me, it's not an all out wake up event either. Anon
I recommend the no-cry sleep solutions book by pantley. There is a way to compromise between breastfeeding when they wake, and just letting them cry it out. This book with help create solutions that help your baby learn to gently put herself back to sleep, rather than being forced to by being left to figure it out on her own. It might take longer than a few nights, but I think it is worth it. Good luck!
If she is really eating at 3 a.m., then she needs the food and you should feed her. In a few months, when it gets to the point where she doesn't want food so much but wants help falling asleep, then you can teach her to fall asleep by herself with the ''cry it out'' plan. You'll probably be able to tell the difference between the demanding ''I'm HUNGRY'' cry versus the tired ''I'd really like to fall asleep'' cry. I think five months is probably a little early for crying it out - she could easily still need a night feeding for a 3-4 more months. Personally, I found 9 months to be a good age for Ferberizing. Fran
I think that a five-month-old still needs alot of breastfeeding. That's a really young baby! I realize we all have different expectations (and needs) regarding our children's behavior, but, gee, if at all possible in your situation, I would continue to breastfeed at night. This is such a volatile topic...I'm sure voices from all over the spectrum will be heard. In the end, you'll find your own way as a parent, doing the best you can for your baby. Although my sleep has certainly been choppy, my gut feeling is that I am doing the best thing for my child by continuing to feed him at night. At 20 months he wakes up twice a night. I know someone who did actually train her less-than six- month baby to sleep through, but my understanding is that the majority of babies don't, not for a long time. I'm not sure where the expectation that young babies will sleep all night long comes from.(Wishful thinking? Societal pressure that women can raise young families with only a slight interruption in their professional lives?) My stepmother was surprised when I told her about all the controversy now on this issue. She said that she didn't think any of her four children slept through the night until they were at tleast three years old. I have the deepest respect for moms that must work to support their families and understand that when you have to sleep for the family to survive, well, then, the baby will adjust. But I still feel, regardless of what baby-trainers say, that five months is way too young to be forced to stop night-feeding.
You didn't say anything about how big your baby is or how she eats during the day, so first I would talk to your pediatrician. I lucked out and had two big, strapping babies who slept through the night pretty early. When my daughter stopped sleeping through the night when she was about 4 months old I asked the pediatrician and he assured me that she did not need to nurse in the middle of the night. We let her cry it out a couple of nights, and she's been (pretty much) sleeping through the night ever since! anon
After breastfeeding 2 children (now 3 & 6 years) I can tell you this: breastfeed at 3am and you will both go back to sleep happy. Your baby needs to ''eat'' at this time otherwise baby wouldn't wake up. Mary
I would just like to add in a quick comment about nursing infants during the night. It's not a habit to break! When infants wake up in the middle of the night and scream, they're usually hungry. Breastmilk is very easily digested and their tummies are tiny. Besides, nursing during the night aids their emotional, intellectual, and physical development. Infants are meant to breastfeed continually throughout the night and day. All of this is readily available information on some great websites and in books about breastfeeding. While it's great you asked for advice (and are getting plenty of it), I would do some research on your own because according to me, it is like starving a baby unintentionally to deliberately not feed it when it is hungry. I would hope this is intuitive and rational at the same time. I don't want to be harsh but I've recently also heard of a mother trying to distract her baby with toys during the night to 'break him of the habit' of expecting to eat. anon
I would suggest the following (which we did successfully with our son when he was about three months old): Wake her up and nurse her before you go to bed. This gives you five to six hours of uninterupted sleep and your baby still gets the same number of nursings. Ina
I have 14 month old twins, but a baby is a baby and I think that I can share my experience with you even though you have a singleton and I have two. I was getting up for two night feedings (for one pf the babies-- the other weaned herself at nine months) until one of my daughters was almost a year old because she really seemed to need it. If you want to ''sleep- train'' you can do that-- just pat the baby when it wakes up, but don't feed-- if you are prepared for crying. I took another approach: I picked her up and held her until she went back to sleep. This takes a lot longer than nursingwould but after two weeks, she stopped waking up because she understood that there would be no more food at that hour.

You didn't say how much the baby weighs. This seems to be one of the biggest factors-- is the baby really eating enough, big enough to sleep through for several hours. If the baby is more than 12 puonds or so then the answer is yes. I will tell you, though, that I tried to cut the night-feeding baby off from one of the feedings at about eight months and it just didn't work. I just had to wait until she was ready.

I used to read about other people's babies who sleep through the night at three months and wonder what is wrong with me (and my daughters). The truth is that some babies do and some babies don't .. The range of normal, healthy behavior is so great that judging what is ''right'' by any standards other than your own experience is just going to make you feel bad. I know how tterrible sleep deprivation makes you feel-- believe me-- but this will all be over soon. Good luck. Maria

My daughter had a feeding once a night until about 14 months. Since it was only once a night where she seemed really hungry and she went back to sleep, I continued it. At about 14 months I tried to help her get back to sleep with just comfort and she responded to that so I figured she did not need the calories at that time. She quickly stopped waking up. So, I believe 5 months is still small and they very well might be really hungry once a night. It is when they want to eat all night long and seem to use mom as a pacifier that I believe there is a habit that needs to be curtailed. Elizabeth
In addition to the thoughtful replies you've already received, I thought I'd add one more thing that helped me. But, first, I would agree that 5 months is still young enough to possibly need that middle-of-the-night nursing. If your doctor feels that your baby is getting enough food during the day, though, you may want to try giving her a bottle filled with water. My son began sleeping through the night at 4 months and then started waking up once a night at 7 months. I nursed him on those wake-ups for the next two months, until his regular 9-month well-baby exam. Then I asked his doctor about it. She said, ''Look, if someone gave you Godiva chocolate whenever you woke up in the middle of the night, you'd keep waking up, wouldn't you?'' I asked her if it would hurt to give him water, instead (which two of the baby books I had suggested). She said, not unless I enjoyed waking up in the middle of the night to nurse. I tried water that night. He guzzled it down pretty quickly. But the next night, he took one sip and fell right back to sleep. There was never a third night. He's almost 3, and except for illness, he's slept through the night ever since. Good luck. Gwynne

6-month-old waking every 2 hours for feeding

Sept 2002

My 6 1/2 month old boy is waking regularly at night (every 1 1/2 to 2 hours) for feedings. He won't go back to sleep unless he nurses. I would like to get him to sleep through the night, but I don't want to let him ''cry it out'' if possible. I don't know of other methods. I have ordered the No-Cry Sleep Solutions book, but don't know much about it. Any suggestions? Tired in Berkeley

We had the same problem a couple of times with our now eight month old son. What we finally did was start with limiting the night feedings so instead of me nursing him, my husband would go and calm him down and put him back to sleep. This took some work as at first he would cry and cry hoping for me to come and nurse him. However, because he was being comforted I didn't feel so bad letting him cry and after a few nights he would fall asleep very quickly in my husband's arms. Then came the really hard bit as he was still waking up a lot. We finally did let him cry through when he first woke up...letting him know we were there but then letting him cry it out...and after some tough nights it seems to have worked. He is now sleeping 6 - 8 hours in a row (a miracle to us). However, i know the crying it out thing is not for everyone so you can do a modified version of it. ie the first time you let him cry for one minute, go pick him up (with a tranistional object if possible), then put him back in his crib. Then when he wakes up again you wait two mintues and do the same thing. Anyway, GOOD LUCK as i know how difficult this can be Janina
Have you tried putting the crib right next to your bed? You can place a long pillow between the crib and your bed to cover the opening.
I really liked the no-cry sleep solutions book. It takes a lot more work than the cry-it-out one week approach - more like a month of working and re-working, but we were unwilling to do the cry-it-out approach and also unwilling to keep feeding all night and this book was great for us. Also having Dad transition into being the night-time caregiver for a while was a great solution - he slept in her room a few nights at first and then moved out and started to go in when she cried. He has to be very patient and determined to make it work. Once the breast was removed from the equation, the night wakings reduced gradually and have finally stopped (at 16 months old!). I do wish we would have followed the sleep solutions plan that we created a long time ago, like at around 6 months! Good luck!! Mom finally getting sleep
We have been there!! Same thing - our boy woke every 2 hrs throughout the night until he was 6 mo. old. We then saw a sleep consultant, and made a little progress. She had us focus on having him learn to fall asleep on his own at bedtime, believing that when he then woke during the night he could get back to sleep on his own. We established a bedtime routine, which ended with putting him in his crib, in his own room, awake. I nursed him as part of the routine but then would wake him up before putting him in the crib. Then we basically did let him cry, checking on him every 10 min. or so. He cried about 1/2 hr the 1st night, much less the 2nd night, and not much at all the 3rd night. It sucked to hear him cry, but it worked, and it worked quickly, and bedtime has been a breeze ever since. This reduced his night wakings to 2-3 instead of 5-6. We then tried everything for the next 6 months short of letting him cry it out during the night (we were willing to do this at bedtime, but when he cried in the middle of the night it was just too brutal; a few times we did try letting him cry out of utter desperation and it was horrible and didn't reduce his night wakings anyway). We have finally achieved success with our latest round of sleep training and at 13 mo. he's been sleeping through the night for a month now. What finally worked for us was giving up all nighttime contact with mama. His father comforted him for each waking; he'd pick him up until he was calm, then put him back down and pat his back until he was settled. It took a few weeks, and there was a lot of crying at first over the loss of nighttime nursing, but at least he wasn't crying alone. We wish we'd done this back at 6 months, but we both had so much sleep loss that it didn't seem fair for the father, who was the only parent working outside the home, to then lose all the sleep. But it's generally what the books recommend, and it worked for us.
My first child was sleeping through the night beautifully, naturally and easily by six months. I thought I was so smart and accomplished! I'm kidding, sort of... Then I had my second child who is now nine months old. She is not a good sleeper, and I realized that every baby is different (I did everything the same) and mine happens to not be a good self soother. Well, she is finally sleeping through the night for the most part (about 7-5, a nurse, then maybe another hour of sleep; good enough for me!). So of course, I got all the sleep books with this one. I was a bit obsessed with it. My conclusion? LOTS of babies don't sleep through the night and its normal and natural.so I chilled a bit. Then I got a book called The No Cry Sleep Solution. It has a lot of great ideas how to help your child be a better sleeper without doing the cry it out thing, which I wasn't too into. Now finally, my daughter has naturally become better with a little help. I think she'll never be as good as my eldest, although you never know. I can still dream, can't I? SO, don't obsess too much on getting your still small baby to sleep through the night,and check out the book. Hilary