Night feeding - how to tell the difference between genuine hunger and need to resettle?

(8 Posts)

That's my question really. 6mo DS is an hourly breast feeder during the day and has solids at least three times a day on top of that (and seemingly loads of them). I really would really, really like to sleep longer than in 1.5 to 2 hour blocks at night. I am under no aspersions that he needs boob to resettle out of comfort as much as nutrition but I'm trying to get him to resettle in other ways so he can get through sleep cycles without relying on me. Problem is, once I can get him to go back to sleep without BFing him, which will usually take over an hour, he'll only stay asleep for 20-30 minutes before waking up again. If I then give him a boob, he'll stay asleep for at least double that time.

Does this mean he's genuinely really hungry if he doesn't stay asleep for a long time after going to sleep without a BF, or does it mean that the boob puts him more quickly into a deeper sleep, hence he stays asleep longer? and I use 'longer' in the loosest sense of the term

I have tried co-sleeping but it's no help whatsoever - he doesn't sleep any longer, I don't sleep well, he won't feed while I'm lying down and I see even less of my DH than I already do. DS is also a champion bottle-refuser so it's not like I can delegate a feed to DH to see if it is purely hunger, and to give me a break.

lorisparkle Tue 27-Nov-12 12:19:55

I would say that it is a mixture of needing BF to settle and being used to that amount of BF at night so in a way hunger.

I bought the book 'teach your child to sleep' by the Millpond Clinic. It suggests a really gentle way to encourage your child to sleep longer without controlled crying or night weaning until child is ready.

I would persevere with the getting him to sleep without BF but do it in a much more regimented way.

I would set a time limit on how long between feeds and then if he wakes before then get him to sleep by cuddling/rocking however suits you. After a couple of days you then increase that time by 15 minutes and keep doing that at a pace that suits you both.

I would also look at teaching him to go to sleep by himself at the beginning of the night. Again we did not do controlled crying instead we rocked him for the first three nights, then held him for the next three nights, then led with him, then held his hand, then sat by him, then sat in room, then sat just outside of the room. Again we took it slow, did it at a pace that suited both of us and went back a step if he was unwell or we were on holiday.

We started both of these techniques when he was 8months and eating well, but not BF much, in the day. It took quite a few months as we are softies and had holidays, me going back to work and illness in that time, but did work well and he now sleeps 11 hours a night consistently. I also found he increased his time asleep by about an hour a week so definately not an immediate effect but gentle!

Mitsouko Tue 27-Nov-12 12:36:18

Hi Elphaba - I have an 8 month old DD who breast feeds every 2-3 hours in the daytime and has 3 meals a day as well. I have managed to space out the night feeds a bit more by using a dummy. Mind, you - she wouldn't take one until she was almost 5 months old and we had to try loads and loads of different kinds. In the end, she preferred the cheapo Sainsburys ones and gradually, gradually took to it.

Currently, we're down to three feeds most nights - around 7pm, 11pm and 4am roughly. She still wakes up between feeds a lot, but will usually resettle with the dummy and a little back rub (she sleeps best on her side) from DH. It doesn't always work, but on a good night she'll go 4-5 hours without feeding.

However, we're fortunate in that she feeds well lying down and is usually really settled when co-sleeping. I'd co-sleep the night with her, but it's murder on my back - about an hour or two on each side is all I can really manage without getting shooting pains in my neck and bum.

DH and don't see too much of each other at night sadly! We miss each other, but sleep - any way we can get it - is what's imperative right now, especially as we are on our own without any family support around. We sometimes get a nice hour or two together in the early part of the night before DD wakes for her first feed. We have a comfy single bed set up in our spare room where one can decamp to for a few hours of rest when off duty. I'm usually in there for a little while between feeds, which is bliss. DH stays in the bedroom beside DD's cot and resettles her with dummy / shush pats. DH gets his turn in the spare room when DD wakes for her second feed - and her and I co-sleep until she wakes up around 7ish.

Apologies if you've already tried this to no avail. Just didn't want your post to go unanswered. Hope this helps!

Thanks ladies. He absolutely refuses a dummy, and I have actually tried that same Millpond programme described with absolutely no success whatsoever - six weeks and he was still demanding feeds 4-5 times a night and we could never get further away than the side of the cot, getting even less sleep. ATM, I'm trying to only feed at alternate wakings, but that's where we get the feed-longish sleep-settle without feed-really short sleep-feed-longish sleep pattern so I don't know if it's not working because he's genuinely hungry or what.

lorisparkle Tue 27-Nov-12 13:51:44

What a nightmare - sorry you have tried the method i suggested. He is quite young still and as I said DS was 8 months before we even started to try and we did over a long time period. We had a mattress on the floor in DSs room so I could work on his sleep without disturbing DH too much. It was exhausting and we did not get to see much of each other but it did not last forever. Is he sleeping in the day at all - how is his daytime routine. I found the ask dr sears website very useful www.askdrsears.com with sleeping and feeding issues. Have not looked at it for a while but maybe worth a look.

Mitsouko Tue 27-Nov-12 13:53:14

Ah, thought he might be a dummy refuser! Sorry about that. Getting my DD to take one was hard, hard work. I was desperate for her to give it a go after 3 months of colic - just, anything, anything to stop the howling and give her a little comfort.

She'd not have it though, just spat them out one after one until finally, one day she miraculously took one for about 5 minutes. After that, I just kept trying a few times a day and slowly, slowly she gave it a go. It's helped space out daytime feeds a little as well, and is good for averting pram meltdowns. Now, she's a right dummy addict and I'm sure we'll have a hard time weaning her off, but will cross that bridge when we come to it.

For what it's worth, I'm not sure if self-settling is the holy grail it's cracked up to be. I've read that in the sleep training books that my daughter has most definitely, definitely not read but remain a little skeptical. This forum is full of babies who self-settle just fine for bedtime, then progress to wake about a million times a night, and whose parents are on their knees with exhaustion. Likewise, some babies who are fed to sleep are really great at getting through the night without much fuss. Um, not mine though

Thanks again ladies. Getting rid of a dummy, not to mention having to replace it several times a night, is one of the things which would make me a bit half-hearted about persisting with one, TBH. I spend just as much time wishing he would settle on a finger or a thumb to suck (tends to have all of them on a roster, it would seem) since he could do what he liked with those! Then a quick bit of anti-nail biting polish to break the habit later I've scoured the Dr Sears website, unfortunately.

I really appreciate your help. I think I just post every now and again in the hope that someone's come up with a magic bullet that I haven't tried yet for his sleeplessness! Well, the GP has. He's suggested phenergan (sedative antihistamines) twice now shock

Mitsouko Tue 27-Nov-12 17:36:28

Goodness, that's shocking that GPs are recommending the sedation of babies in 2012! I know that I was given sedatives as a baby, but hey that was the late 70's and it was par the course I believe with smoking during pregnancy and a few martinis to boot. Still, I don't believe the drugs worked as apparently I didn't start self-settling or sleeping much until I was about two. My poor mum tried everything to no avail. So I think that DD is probably my karma coming back at me, for what I put my poor mother through as a child! Mum was terrified when she fell pregnant with my sister when I was three. She was just emerging from the tunnel of long term, serious sleep deprivation and was not feeling very prepared to go back there. But sis slept through from 6 weeks! Exact same routine, totally different baby. Go figure.

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