One of the hardest parts of being a parent is learning how to manage and cope with sleep deprivation. A large majority of our sleep deprivation as parent is due overnight wakening and feeds. Overnight wakening’s and feeding is part of life for parent in the first part of their child’s life. But at what point do you know when these overnight wakening’s and/or feeds are habitual not nutritional.
Understanding that every child is unique and their nutritional requirements are individualized, there are guideline and sleep time rules that we can follow to help our children sleep through the night as and when they are ready. Eliminating those unnecessary night time feeds and wake ups that are cause havoc on the whole family’s quality of sleep.
When thinking about your child and their night time wakening’s and feeds, it is important to first look at how they are going to sleep. If you are fully assisting your child to sleep and they are over the age of 4 months, then this could be a large contributor to them waking during the night. This is because they will be waking during the night, not knowing how to independently settle again, therefore looking for you to do the job for them. Helping your child learn to go to sleep and resettle independently from 4 months (if not before) will help them become a more confident and settled sleeper both day and night. Independently sleeping also include the removal of any extra assistance to sleep such as dummies or milk feeds to sleep (eg. bottle or breastfeeds).
Another significate element which needs to be assessed when helping your child sleep through the night is, looking at their day sleep/eat/play schedule and making sure it is age appropriate. This means they are sleeping at the right times of the day for their age to help ensure a well-rested child ready for a healthy night time sleep, who is not overtire.
There is also some healthy guideline you can follow when thinking about when to drop and more on from night time feeding. As a rule, a baby aged 4-6 months old may only require one overnight feed. Provided they are meeting their nutritional requirement during the day, your child should be able to start dropping feeds at night. Generally, a breastfed baby will continue to need a night time feed until around 7-8 months and a formula fed baby 6-7months. This is assuming your child is well established on solids and gaining a healthy amount of weight.
Before dropping all overnight feeds, it is important to ensure that your child is capable and ready. It is always good to talk with your doctor or midwife regarding dropping all overnight feeds, as every baby is different and every baby’s nutritional needs vary.
As established overnight feeding is normal, however excessive night feeds from 6-8 week can create more frequent night time wake ups and a hormonal imbalance. Understanding your child’s grown periods and nutritional needs especially in the early months may create a short period of more frequent overnight feeds, to help ensure healthy growth and development, prolonged frequent overnight feeds can also create a shift in calories and hormonal imbalance.
Prolonged frequent overnight feeds work against your child’s desire to consume the needed about of calories during the day, too many calories being consumed overnight, creating a calorie flip. It is important to understand this and find that happy balance with night time wake ups and feed times.
When your baby feeds, their body releases insulin, which is a normal process helping to maintain and stable blood sugar levels in their baby’s body. If excessive amounts of insulin (excessive overnight feeds) are released, that will affect your baby’s melatonin (sleep hormone) level and result in more frequent wake ups. The high levels of insulin, due to frequent overnight feeds, restricting your child’s melatonin level from reaching a healthy level, to help endues a good quality sleep. Therefore, it is important to ensure your baby has a contented night time feeding routine or moves on from night time feed all together if developmentally appropriate.
A happy night time feeding balance will also ensure the hormone known as ghrelin is not over produced. Ghrelin helps to control your baby’s appetite and excessive feeding overnight will increase this hormone. Ensuring your baby does not over feed at night means the hormone ghrelin remains stable. Therefore, your baby will be able to sleep for longer periods of time at night naturally.
As well as the hormonal imbalance affecting your babies sleep, if your baby feeds in excess overnight he/she can experience a variety of other physical effects. An excess of feeds at night means lots of digestive movements, more frequent bowel movements and more numerous wet nappies overnight. This, inevitably leads to less sleep for everyone. Striving for a happy night time feeding balance will help your baby sleep better, achieve a more restorative night time sleep and develop a satisfying feeding and sleeping routine.
If you need any extra sleep support, please contact me anytime to book a consult or you can purchase one of my online programs.