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Baby Sleep Guide: What if they Wake Up Hungry?


Babies often wake up hungry, but what do you do to put them back down to sleep? As a tired parent, I did some research and here is what I found out.

So, what do you do if your baby wakes up hungry? Newborns often wake up a few times each night. This is a normal part of their development, so you shouldn’t worry. Feed your infant until they are full, and they will fall asleep on their own.

Night feedings are a normal part of a child’s development, but overfeeding at night could be a sign that your babies eating schedule is off.

A Baby that Wakes Up Hungry

For a child’s first year of life, it is completely normal to wake up hungry in the middle of the night. Most children do it. Occasionally I will hear of a super baby that is able to sleep a full 10 to 12 hours at a time, but that’s rare.

In order to ensure that your baby is getting a full night’s sleep, you will need to closely monitor their daytime feeding schedule to see if they are getting enough food.

It is also important to understand some of the other reasons why they may be waking up in the middle of the night.

Normal Feeding Schedule Over the First Year of Life

During the first year of life, people go through a lot of changes. It really is incredible when you think about it. We go from being chubby, blind lumps that can barely control our bodies, to moving, thinking, talking people. It’s a miracle!

Of course, as we pass through all of these changes, our appetites and feeding schedule will change quite a bit.

For the first few weeks of a babies life, it is critical that you try to get your child to feed as much as possible during the day. Weeks old babies have a bad habit of sleeping all throughout the day and staying up all through the night.

If you aren’t careful about their sleeping and feeding schedule, they will take advantage of you and sleep and eat when they want. A lot of babies will eat just a little, and then directly fall asleep. This pattern of feeding little and frequently is bad if you don’t want your child to wake in the middle of the night.

Make sure that every time you feed your baby, you give them a full feeding. What amount of milk the child consumes, or how long it takes to finish a full feeding will depend on the size and weight of your child, but it usually takes anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes.

It is very important that you do the full feeding. Even if your child is sleeping, it is still a good idea to wake them up for a feeding. For a child younger than 6 months, I recommend feeding at least 4 times a day, starting at 7:30 AM, with 3-hour naps in between each feeding session. If it takes your child half an hour for a full feed then you should be great.

It is very important to get your child into a solid eating routine as early as you can. If their feeding times are sporadic, then you can expect that your child will sporadically wake up in the middle of the night as well.

As your child settles into habitual feeding, it will be much easier to control how long they sleep at night. It is still common for a child to wake up in the middle of the night, but it the number of times they wake up will dramatically decrease if you feed them well during the day.

“Fakeout” Night Feeding

A child will begin to wake up more frequently starting at around 6 months. Children at this age are developing a larger sense of independence and are more aware of the world around them. Around this time, you may notice that your child is waking up more often for fakeout feeds.

A fakeout feed is when a child wakes up, you put a bottle in their mouth and then they fall directly to sleep after two seconds. You may wonder to yourself during these tiring times if your child is deliberately trying to sabotage your day.

But don’t worry! Your baby wakes you up for a fakeout feed because they enjoy your company. You see, children are very comforted by the presence of their parents, and can tend to freak out when they are not around.

Fakeout feeds are unnecessary because children use them to be soothed and comforted and not to be fed.

How to Tell if the Child Really Needs to Be Fed at Night

It can be harder to determine whether or not your child is waking up in the night because they are genuinely hungry, but there are a few telltale signs.

  1. Your baby is not eating enough during the day. If your child isn’t eating at least 3 times a day, then they are more than likely hungry at night. If this is the case then it is important that your child is fully fed at night. Of course, you will still want to have a full feeding session which, as I mentioned earlier, could take as long as 30 minutes. Good luck!
  2. Your baby sleeps for hours long intervals. If your child does wake up for a feeding, then falls back to sleep for another 3 to 4 hours after taking a full feeding, then this is a good sign that the child was actually hungry and not just looking to be soothed.
  3. Your baby falls asleep quickly after eating. If your baby can self-soothe, that is be placed in a crib awake and then fall back asleep without your help, then the night feeding is likely necessary.

The rate at which your child feeds at night will depend. Remember that it is perfectly natural for a child of less than a year old to wake up at least once a night for a feeding. At about 9 months old is a good time to try and wean your child off of night feeding so keep that in mind.

Alternate Between Solid and Liquid Foods

A great way to help your child sleep better during the day and less at night is to help your child switch over to solid foods as opposed to just milk.

Solid foods are thicker and more nutrient-packed than plain old milk. Foods like bananas, apples, pears, green beans, and other soft foods are great things for a child to begin eating.

A quick note about eating. Children generally begin eating solid foods at around 4 months. To begin, start feeding with breast milk or formula and then give the child solid food. Just a little will suffice. Try half a spoonful.

It may take a few tries for your child to like solid foods, and as their taste buds develop it can be hard to find a food that your baby enjoys. Don’t be surprised if you have to go through 10 to 20 food before your baby finds something she enjoys.

Solid foods will help your child get more diverse nutrients that are essential to growth, but the heavier food will also make them more tired. We can use that to our advantage.

Say your child is waking up three times a night for a feeding. We can begin to wean a baby off of night feeding by introducing solid foods throughout the day by manipulating their feeding schedule.

If your baby woke up to be fed at 5 AM, give him some milk and count that as the breakfast milk. The next time your child wakes up for the day, skip the breakfast milk altogether and go straight for the solid foods.

The more solids your infant gets, the less hungry they will be for milk.

Once your baby is eating a sufficient amount of solids, try to cut out one of the night feedings. This isn’t going to be easy if your child is already used to eating at night, but it can be done.

When your child wakes up crying for the first time at night, try to put him to sleep as best as you can without feeding him. If he wakes up a second time, however, it is important that you give him as much milk as he wants. Remember, you will want to give your child a full 3o minute feeding if necessary.

As you gradually increase the number of solids that your child eats during the day, you can look to cut out another night feeding session.

Getting your child off of the final night feeding session can be especially difficult and should only be tried when certain circumstances have been met.

  1. Your child should have been feeding only once a night at least for 3 weeks.
  2. Your child can sleep consistently until about 7 AM
  3. Your child should be eating plenty of solids during the day.

When all these conditions are met, then you can begin to wean your child off of the night feeding session.

The process is simple in theory but can be difficult to carry out. When your child wakes up to be fed, gradually give them less milk every night. That is either 2 to 3 minutes less every night if you are breastfeeding, or half an ounce less by bottle.

 Breastfeeding, Formula Feeding, and Sleeping

A lot of parents wonder if they can help their child sleep better if they switch from formula feeding to breastfeeding or vice versa.

There are a lot of reasons why you may choose to feed a child one way or the other, but each has its own distinct advantages and drawbacks. Here we will briefly discuss the pros and cons of both

Breastfeeding

Most health experts recommend that women breastfeed their infants. They say that mother’s milk should be part of a child’s diet for the first 6 months to a year of a child’s life.

Breast milk has been called the “perfect food” for an infant human’s digestive system, and it isn’t hard to see why. Breast milk is a complex mixture of protein and other essential vitamins that babies need to develop and grow.

It is very easy for a baby to digest so they will have fewer cases of diarrhea or constipation.

Breast milk is also believed to help infants become more accustomed to different tastes as the flavor of whatever the mother is eating is transferred to the breast milk. This can help babies become more easily accustomed to solid foods when the time is right.

And on top of all that, breast milk is also free and convenient! You won’t have to waste any time warming up bottles or running to the store for formula at the end of the day. You will have 24/7 access to all the food your baby needs.

Breastfeeding also comes with a unique set of problems. Many mothers experience pain when they first begin breastfeeding. This pain usually lasts for about a week to 10 days, but if it persists it could be a sign of an infection.

Breastfeeding also takes more time than formula feeding. Mother’s milk is less filling than formula so babies will have to be fed longer and more often. This can be difficult for a mother trying to juggle a full schedule.

Plus moms who breastfeed will have to be more aware of what they eat. You may have to say goodbye to spicy foods and caffeine for a while if you choose to breastfeed.

Formula Feeding

Formula feeding is a great option for mothers who can’t or may feel uncomfortable for whatever reason, breastfeed. Experts agree that it is generally less healthy for a baby to formula feed, but it won’t cause your child any setbacks.

Formula feeding allows for greater flexibility when feeding the baby. All you need to do is heat up a bottle and Dad can feed the baby while Mom gets some shuteye.

As mentioned earlier, babies that feed off of formula spend less time eating than those that breastfeed. This can be a huge advantage when it is difficult to plan your schedule around the baby’s feeding time.

Although baby formula is flexible and convenient it just can’t quite match the nutritional quality of breast milk. It doesn’t contain the antibodies that breast milk has. Antibodies help keep your baby safe from illness.

Which Helps a Baby Sleep Better?

While evidence on this subject is somewhat scarce, it is clear that babies that are fed by formula actually sleep longer than babies that are breastfed. Most moms agree that if you give a baby formula, then he will sleep longer through the night.

Why might that be?

For one thing, because breastfeeding is more intensive. Remember that, on breast milk, children need to be fed more often and for a longer time. It is digested faster which means that your baby will be hungry quicker.

Another reason may be that children who are breastfed are accustomed to being nursed back to sleep. This dependency on being nursed can have long-lasting effects. In fact, some research suggests that breastfed children may have problems sleeping up until they are a year old. Those are some serious sleep problems.

Whatever you choose to do is up to you. There are pros and cons to both methods of feeding, so pick whichever method works best for you.

Consider getting a Snoo, or “Smart Sleeper”

Infants can be difficult to deal with. Their ever-changing needs and sleeping schedules can be difficult to deal with. A Smart Sleeper is a bassinet equipped with artificial intelligence to *sense* your baby’s cries. So lets say, your baby is crying because it needs to be soothed to sleep, the Smart Sleeper will vibrate while playing white noise for your baby and lull them to sleep.

But lets then say your baby is truly hungry, and crying because they need to be fed, in this case a Smart Sleeper bassinet alert you to come and feed your baby.  It’s truly that smart! With a $1200 price tag, you might think that the Snoo is out of your budget but in fact you can rent the Snoo for just dollars a day! Read my review of The Snoo here and find out how you can rent yours today.

I like to remind people that there are no such things as  perfect parents. We are all learning as we go and we are all bound to make mistakes. All children are different and may need different things to help them sleep at night. Keep trying these tips I gave and hopefully they will work eventually.

Related Questions

What is sleep training? Sleep training is where you try to normalize your babies sleep cycle. When children are first born, their sleep schedule can be all out of whack. They are just as likely to sleep for long periods of time through the middle of the day as they are at night.

Sleep training attempts to regulate that. Through a series of different practices, you adjust your baby’s sleep schedule so that he sleeps less during the day and more throughout the night.

Why does my baby cry at night when he is not hungry? There are several reasons, other than hunger, why a child may wake up crying. Starting at around 6 months, children will start to develop anxiety when their parents aren’t around.

This anxiety is caused by a newfound awareness for the world around them. Infants want to become more independent but are anxious when they don’t feel anyone supporting them, much like a teenager feels through puberty.

 

 

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Hey, Sophia!

I loved the article. Very glad I came across it as I was researching about baby feeding during the night. Essentially me and my wife we’re trying to wean our little one off the feeding at night. So, I’m really just trying to learn everything that I can about the topic at this time.

In that regard the article was very insightful. I believe it covered everything that is essential for the topic. Had no idea that formula fed babies sleep longer than breast fed ones. It does, however, make a lot of sense, if one really thinks about it. We ourselves haven’t tried formula. Our baby has been entirely breast fed up until this point.

I do believe that in our case, she actually might not be eating enough during the day to be able to “survive” he night without feeding. So, we’ll probably just need to put some good emphasis on that.

Again, thank you for all the insights. 

Cheers and have a Great One!

Matiss

You’re absolutely right, taking care of newborns can be difficult because they tend to wake up many times at night. When I had my first baby, I thought I could manage to take care of him while keeping my day job. As it turned out, it was more difficult than I expected.

Sooooo many sleepless night because I had to wake up many times at night to feed my baby. As a first time mom, I didn’t realize that it was a “fakeout” night feeding. The moment I try to breastfeed him, he quickly goes back to sleep. I wish I had known all these before but I enjoyed taking care of my babies, even though I often ended up falling asleep at work, lol.

I will share this on my youngest sister who is due to deliver her first baby next month. I am sure, she will learn a lot from your article. Thank you for putting in the effort to help first time moms take care of their babies.

Motherhood is so difficult and it is a never ending job. I got the chance to take care of the new born manytimes, ranges form my sisters to a nanny gig. I am not the expert here but I know that the new born all they do is sleep, eat and burp them so they can go to sleep, oh and the diaper change lol didn’t know that the formula helps the baby to sleep better that is interesting. I remembered that when we wean my sister from feeding at night was feeding the solid food and then we slowly changing her sleeping pattern as well. That was tough, we let her cried for a while then she goes to her pattern after 3 days. Very informative gonna share this post to my friends who are pregnant so they know what to expect. Happy holidays 

Hi Sophia,

My sister just had a baby 5 months ago and one thing she complained is about her daughter to waking up in the middle of the night.

I will take your advice from your experience to tell my sister your suggestion. 

Better than that, I will say to my sister to visit your page, so between mom, it easy to exchange experience and opinion to help each other

Thank you for your share

Mathieu

It sure isn’t easy with newborns when it comes to feeding and just about everything. 

But it’s something you can learn and get under control, at least for the most part.I remember going through this when my kids were newborns. It took some getting used to in determining whether the baby was hungry, tired, diaper change or whatever it might have been.

It may take some getting used to a regular feeding schedule too. For me as a dad our kids were bottle fed so that made that part easier for me!

And what foods and other liquids to feed them came with time and guidance from the doctor.It takes practice and patience!

Hello,

Thank you for presenting this thorough and thoughtful article on baby’s sleeping habits and more. I found your article to be very informative, from the importance of creating a day and night-time feeding schedules for babies to what can help them sleep better.

I get that every little one is different in many ways, but your article covers the obvious and the likelihood of most situations. This allows for general ideas to be formed on how one might come up with easy solutions to try based on their own child’s patterns.

Oliver is a lucky little one to have a Mom that wants all babies to have healthy sleeping habits and to be healthy all around!

Thanks for your thoughtful insight!

Dwilli

thank you for your post Sophia very informative , I know my wife always struggled about choosing  breast feeding and formula feedings  for the exact reasons you gave , Our baby needed more frequent feeding if she chose to breast feed leaving us both getting less sleep . My wife was finally able to strike a balance between breast feeding and formula feeding that seemed to enable our child to sleep longer during the night leaving us all happier during the day . Parenting especially when it is your first child can be a enormous task as you mention .. I look forward to your future posts 

My baby is nearly 7 months and she has been sleeping about 10-12 hours most nights for the last few weeks. This is because I started solids a couple of weeks ago, so everything she’s eating in the day keeps her full in throughout the night. And she eats a lot, it does help that she’s a big baby! Sometimes in the morning she plays in her cot when she wakes up, so she’s definitely not starving.

I was breastfeeding for the first 6 months but slowly I have stopped, my baby just wanted to much from me and I found myself unable to keep up with it. It was a shame to stop but I’m happy I managed to do it for the time that I did. 

Thank you for sharing with us this great article on baby sleep guide.New moters always got stuck when they start dealing with the baby’s cry and can’t figure out what is causing that cry.

When my son was crying I thought that he is getting pain somewhere but I was wrong because crying is normal for a newborn.

This cry could be the cause of hunger and feeding him was the quick answer and It was hard to make him quiet.I found out the cause of the cry and that was the end of my nightmare.It is better for mothers to make them awake during the day and when it is at night they would sleep without waking up.

Hi this is a very useful post. I can relate all too well in your article. As I have 2 boys and they both woke up in the night for an extra feed. It’s tough actually to get up and make a bottle but it just has to be done. Mind over matter I guess. Thanks again, Kenny 

Hi Sophia

I do agree that parents should train their babies in the correct feeding patterns to help with their development and health.

I remember when my daughter was only a baby it was hard with a lot of sleepless nights, so thanks for putting is formative knowledge to help people understand what a baby really needed when it comes to feeding times and sleep time, they will get a better understanding & hopefully be a little patent with their new born.

Samuel

Great article on the breast feeding. I was wondering, at what age should you stop breastfeeding? I am a new mom and I am breastfeeding. What is a good age to stop and start formula or whole milk? My baby is almost a year old and she is still very small. She was four weeks premature and underweight. That is one reason I started breastfeeding. Do you have any suggestions?

The answer depends on your personal preference and how long you feel comfortable breastfeeding for. In some countries women breastfeed their children up until they are five years old! It can vary really, but for the most part pediatricians say that the best age to breastfeed until is about one years old, then you can stop. Whenever feels right to you is the best time to stop. 

This post seems like it’s more for bottle feeding parents than breastfeeding parents. Night feedings are important for breastfeeding relationships to maintain a milk supply. And the feedings themselves don’t take 30 minutes, whether or not Baby wants to be awake for 30 mins or longer is a different story, haha. And I prefer the parenting style that goes by routine rather than schedule anyways. 

Hello Sofia,

Very interesting article! Thank you!

Have you ever heard of the Dunstan baby language? If you check it out you will see that this person claims that up until around 3 month’s old, all babies around the world use the same sounds to communicate with their environment. She identified 5 sounds for various needs. One sound is specifically for being hungry. I did not know this when my son was a baby and I just thought he was hungry whenever he was waking up. So I breastfed him all the time… which was not a good idea after all. So I would highly encourage you to check it out and see for yourself.

Thanks again,

Nathalie 

Sophia,

I am in agreement with you and how to train a baby to eat with sleeping longer hours at night with motherly instincts that kick in for most women when they become a mother the cry of the baby can be a clear sign as to the problem the baby is trying to give the mother.  I have found that too many specialist and doctors want a baby to eat only formula for a whole year but from past experience all I have seen this do is cause obese children.  More solid food during the day does and will help a baby sleep better through the night.

Thank you for letting mothers know how to feed a baby well and train them to sleep better during the night.

Susan

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