We often see questions like this or similar on social media: 'My 6 month old is waking a few times in the night for feeds. Is this normal?' And then we also see the myriad of supportive responses from the parenting community shared. It can be hard to know what to believe or think right?
Some common responses are:
- Yes! It's totally normal! Mine woke through the night until they were 2 (or the like) - Try to increase solids or proteins - Have you tried a dream feed? - Try formula before bed - Just keep breastfeeding - They need the comfort of you
The reality is parents have to find what works for them and we aren't the type of people to dictate one view to everyone. People find their own parenting pathways.
However, here are some points to consider but PLEASE NOTE these are general factors and we always make an individual assessment of a baby/child before we provide a tailored recommendation. We also recognise and understand there are different approaches people want to take.
1. Is baby waking from hunger? Often we have parents saying their baby is waking but then they suck for a little on bottle or breast and then just fall asleep. In these situations we can see the baby isn't waking hungry. When we delve in further we often find that having a feed or dummy as they fall asleep is a key part of their sleep strategy. They are waking, as is quite normal for all of us through the night, but as they are used to that strategy for falling asleep they will tend to seek that same strategy for getting back to sleep. It's not hunger, it's their sleep strategy
2. Will having more calories in the day and the type of intake impact the wake ups? This is age-dependent and of course we want to ensure they are getting enough of what they need in the day. Sometimes in fact the night 'snacking' can actually impact their day feeds. This is the benefit of having support from Glynis who is qualified to understand the whole picture. As above we often we see the wake ups are not hunger-driven, it's their sleep strategy or becomes a habitual wake up so increasing solids, type of solids or milk really isn't the solution.
3. Will the dream feed stretch them out? Check out Glynis presenting on this on Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/pg/www.babyofmine.com.au/posts/?ref=page_internal.
4. Just keep breastfeeding - sure if people want to feed to sleep and everyone is happy then go for it. If people are finding their little one is struggling with being over tired due to multiple wake ups rather than getting deeper, longer sleeps then it's something to think about. Again, if they are reliant on that to fall asleep then they will be needing that to get back to sleep through the night. Keep in mind that when there is a sleep hiccup or regression that causes more wake ups (normal) then they will require that more which is potentially more tiring for them. Another option is to enable them to find some internal sleep strategies away from feeding to sleep.
5. They need the comfort of you - putting the newborn phase out of the equation as there needs are different, there are other ways we can frame this too. It's more than possible to have highly secure, attached babies and children who feel supported, loved, understood and validated who can sleep through the night. They need our comfort for sure if they are ill or in pain or going through a challenging time and just in general, they draw from connection with us. They also need sleep. They really really do need sleep. So does needing comfort mean they can't learn how to sleep? We don't think so and we see this time and time again.
We don't want ANY parent to feel guilty about their choices. We know every situation is different. We just want parents to know that babies/children are highly capable at learning sleep skills and that normal can very much be not waking for feeds once they are past a certain age and need. If you are struggling or want any type of support then please feel free to reach out for a chat.