No matter how much you love your baby, waking up each night several times in order to feed him/her can become very tiring. If you have a young baby who is still waking several times then there is a very good chance that you are overtired and ready for the night time feedings to stop. You are not alone and there are a lot of parents out there feeling the same way you are at this very moment. Every baby is different and there is simply no way to tell when your baby will decided to sleep all the way through the night without waking up to eat but there are a few things you may be able to do to help speed up the process. Remember, above all to have patience with your baby and know that he/she will eventually sleep through the night.
Weaning Is a Gradual Process
Weaning is not something you do in one or two days. It usually takes a good while to wean your baby from night time feedings. You can begin the process by offering smaller portions of formula or a few minutes less on each breast if you are breast feeding. Another good suggestion is not to automatically feed your baby the first time he or she wakes up during the night. Try cradling your baby in your arms or rocking him/her gently back to sleep without offering a bottle. You may also choose to give an ounce of water in a bottle until he or she falls back to sleep. What you are trying to accomplish is slowly breaking your baby’s natural habit of eating during the night. If you have been feeding twice throughout the night, then try doing the above with just one of the feedings at first. You do not want to force your baby to wean off nighttime feedings. The goal is not to cause your baby any discomfort. If your baby will not fall back to sleep using the above method then he/she is probably genuinely hungry and it may not be the right time for weaning.
Feed More During the Day
Some babies form the habit of eating more during the night than during the day. This is one reason that your baby may not be sleeping through the night. Try taking several small breaks throughout the day to offer your baby bottles or your breast. If your baby eats more during the day then he/she is less apt to become hungry during the night. If your baby still will not eat as much as you would like him/her to during the day then try making sure the last feeding of the evening, before putting him/her to bed is the largest of the day. If he/she goes to sleep with a full tummy then perhaps he/she will wait a bit longer to awaken for a feeding. Unfortunately, when you are first starting to wean your baby there may be times when you will have to withhold feedings for a bit longer in order to develop a schedule. Make sure your baby is hungry when you feed him or her. If you have been feeding every 3 hours then you may want to offer a bit more at each feeding and then start to try and stretch the time to every 4 hours. This is another effective method of beginning to wean your baby from nighttime feedings.
Add a Little Rice Cereal
Most doctors do not want you to feed your baby solid food until he/she is at least 6 months of age, some doctors even say one year! Some people think that the doctors who recommend waiting even 6 months to introduce solid foods have never had children themselves. Ask any grandmother and you can almost bet that she will tell you to add cereal to the baby’s bottle by the time he/she is about 10 to 12 weeks old. Why would they tell you to do that? Because they have raised their fair share of babies and have been kept up too many nights to count! Adding cereal does not mean feeding your baby a bowl of cereal. It means adding a tablespoon or so of cereal to about 3 ounces of formula or breast milk. This will not quite be the same as feeding solid food but it will thicken the formula up a little bit and help fill the tummy better. In addition, cereal will not digest as quickly as formula or breast milk so the baby is bound to stay full for a longer period of time. If you do introduce cereal then pay attention to how your baby is tolerating it. If your baby does not seem to be having any issues with constipation, diarrhea or gas then he/she is handling the cereal fine. Keep in mind that rice cereal is the most gentle and should be the only cereal fed initially. Oatmeal can constipate a young baby and should not be given until at least 6 to 9 months of age.
Some parents are bold enough to allow 10 minutes to pass before going in to the baby when he/she awakens at night. Surprisingly enough this does often work. Many times your baby may wake up from a dream or because of a slight noise he or she heard. This is why running to your baby with a bottle right away may not be the best idea. If 10 minutes goes by and your baby is still crying then you will want to go right in. But do not go right in and feed. You will first want to be sure the baby’s diaper is not wet and that he/she is just not craving a bit of attention. Once you have checked all of these things, if the baby does not stop crying then it is safe to assume he/she is in fact hungry.