Five month old eats all night now. Can we get it back down?
May 4, 2012 4:41 AM   Subscribe

Our five month old son has gone from (breast) feeding once or twice overnight, to feeding at least every couple of hours. We're at the very beginning of trying solids. Can we get the night feedings back down? What's going on?

I know there are folks on here with amazing knowledge about breastfeeding and babies. Thank you all so much in advance...

Baby Crab just turned five months, he's on the big side for his age (giant head!) and was a 42 week baby. He's ahead on most milestones, but he's not crawling. He has always been exclusively breastfed on demand, and we cosleep, mostly to make night feeding easier for everyone. He is super healthy and ridiculously happy!

We had loosely planned to exclusively breastfeed for a full six months, but about a month ago he started to really stare and whine when we ate, and show some other signs that made it seem worth letting him taste some solids. We started a couple of weeks ago and it's been very low-pressure and slow, we haven't cut back on breastfeeding at all, we just give him hard veg to gnaw on sometimes, and spoon feed him basic fruit and veg purees once or twice a day. He's interested, and it's been making a difference to his diapers, but it's only a tiny part of his diet.

Around the same time we started thinking about starting solids, he started eating at night way more. Since around eight weeks he'd just been eating a couple of times, not really even waking up, or waking us up. Now it seems to have ramped up, and last night felt almost constant, prompting me to post this. What's going on, and how can we get the night feeds back down? My assumption has been that his tummy just isn't big enough and milk is too dilute for him to go all night with his current energy needs, and that it was another sign we should start thinking about moving towards a mixed diet. But all the early foods except avocado are pretty low calorie, and it will be a while before he's eating solids in any quantity.

We don't want to push him to eat or make it a fight, and we're not looking to move away from the breast (we'd be happy to nurse for another year). We don't want to put him out of our bed either, we all have been doing great with sleep except for these extra new night feeds. We also don't want to load him up on stodge like baby rice to fill him up, it feels wrong.

Has anyone else been there? Any advice?
posted by crabintheocean to Health & Fitness (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There are so many things it can be, from growth spurts to teething. My first thought, based on what you've written though, is he nursing for comfort, and not quite getting to the hind milk part?

That's what happened with my daughter (also, I'm a technical reviewer for an author of a series of parenting books, and this happens.) During the day, she was much more alert and would try to stop nursing sooner because there were so many more interesting things to look at - and yes, you're right, they're expending more energy at this age. She just wanted to reconnect a lot, and was realizing I responded to the desire, not the need. I had to make sure she was nursing long enough, sometimes by making sure it was in a quiet and uninteresting place; and at night, by actually keeping her awake long enough to finish. His tummy is big enough, the milk isn't too dilute - he's likely just going in for a "nip" because it's there, it's comforting, and he can. Nurse first, then feed during the day. At night, at the times you're most comfortable feeding him, make it a proper feeding where you're making sure he's getting all he can from one side at a time, leaving the other for the next feeding; and tickle his feet if you have to, in order to keep him awake enough to get to the hind milk. What he's doing is screwing with your supply, for one thing, which will adjust to whatever he needs - but also, he's using you as a pacifier to get himself back to sleep, because his little brain is pretty busy.
posted by peagood at 5:06 AM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

I found that my kid slept more poorly for a little while after the introduction of solids. There were a few other things going on like moving house that may have contributed, but I think the solids had something to do with it. It's a different sensation, having not-milk in their tummy, and it's a developmental milestone of sorts so I think they spend a lot of time thinking about it.

It's not the usual time for a growth spurt (6-ish months) and it's not the usual time for a sleep regression (4-ish months) but kids don't read manuals so those could be contributing too. Other possibilities: early stages of teething, working on some big developmental milestones like sitting up or crawling. On the supply side, I've heard that a lot of women have a brief dip around ovulation when their cycle comes back, so that's another possibility.
posted by tchemgrrl at 5:10 AM on May 4, 2012

My breastfed son needed nursing twice a night most of his infancy until full weaning at a year and a half, including after the introduction of solid foods. Only two things broke his pattern: illness or growth spurts.

Are you sure he's healthy? My son baby started to nurse incessantly to comfort against an incipient ear infection. He had no other signs until the infection was REALLY bad, other than crankiness during diaper changes. The nursing helped relieve the inner ear pressure, like chewing gum on a plane. Keep an eye on him for other signs. A cold or congestion also made him nurse more, but it was easier to see what was going on.

Your son may be having a growth spurt, in which case all I know to do is ride it out with him. My son did this about three times during his infancy, but it always tapered back off. We weren't co-sleeping (I'm a thrasher in bed), but always responded to his waking in his crib (next to my bed). We went from twice-a-night to I-may-as-well-just-stay-up. Fortunately, this never lasted more than a week: we'd see a big growth gain, and then he'd go back to normal.

I'd be concerned about giving him hard veg to chew on...if he snaps off a piece, there's a choking hazard. If you don't want to start a grain with him, how about a pureed protein of some sort? My husband's baby book shows he started eggs at 6 months; my m-i-l says he was just a hungry big baby, and she was at a loss, so she started eggs at her pediatrician's recommendation. I know that's not the common age for introduction of eggs now, so I'd check with your pediatrician for the latest research on low-allergen proteins.
posted by theplotchickens at 5:13 AM on May 4, 2012

Try giving him a bottle of breast milk and ceral mix at bedtime, could be the poor little guy is hungry and the cereal will stick to his ribs.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:41 AM on May 4, 2012

Please do not give him cereal in a bottle. It is a choking hazard.

I think the likely culprits are:

a) teething
b) growth spurt followed by habit
c) legitimately hungry
d) is he in daycare? He may just be missing Mommy if he is and this is how he's getting more time with her
e) depending on his feedings during the day, he may have decided to reverse cycle

My daughter is 8 months old and she'll have entire weeks where her last feed is around 9 pm and she doesn't feed again until 4 am and then she'll have entire weeks where it's almost like having a newborn again, and I believe at any given time that any of the above and any combination of the above is true.

Both of my kid started solids at about 5 1/2 months because they were ready for it. We couldn't have dinner without fending them off, so if you have to fend him off when you're eating food, he's probably ready to try something.
posted by zizzle at 5:48 AM on May 4, 2012 [4 favorites]

Also, MeMail rumposinc if she doesn't drop by this thread. She is an LC and has happily provided me with help and advice at the Metafilter discount rate of free.
posted by zizzle at 5:51 AM on May 4, 2012

Yeah, probably every parent has been there. We've all been everywhere for the most part. That is, assuming a normal kid, we all share pretty much the same experiences. This phase will continue, until it stops, then a new one will start. People will provide good advice, whatever appeared to work for them, you'll try it, maybe it worked or maybe the kid just stopped doing whatever it was doing for the same unknown reason it started. All your ideas and plans for the kid will be ignored by the kid and the kid will do whatever comes naturally. Don't worry, this only lasts until they are two or three... decades old. Then it gets easier. Until then, it only gets different.
posted by Blake at 5:58 AM on May 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sorry, didn't know cereal in a bottle was a chocking hazard. I'm old. Lots of what was okay back in the day is now seen as hazardous.

When we know better, we do better.

I'll amend my advice to giving Jr cereal mixed with applesauce as a small meal before bedtime.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:28 AM on May 4, 2012 [2 favorites]

That age is when my baby went from eating for food to eating because "huh, there's a boob there. Might as well."

His sleep and my sleep got much better when he started sleeping separately from me.

However, you don't want to do that so...there really is no way you can keep a baby from wanting to nurse, if that's what you're asking, even if they're not hungry (and it doesn't sound like your baby is) they'll comfort nurse.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:52 AM on May 4, 2012

the idea that rice cereal will "stick to his ribs" is an old wives tale -- cereal is much less nutrient-dense than breast milk, and has none of the fats and proteins that actually signal satiety. (in fact, solids in general offer fewer calories than breast milk, which is why you don't want to rush into them while the kid is growing so fast.)

6 months is a classic age for sleep disruptions and growth spurts -- my local Mom's list gets tons of questions from parents with kids at that age. if your guy is a giant, maybe he's just hitting that milestone a little early. roll with the extra feedings, don't sweat the tiny bit of solids he's playing with, and it will probably pass in a week or so (or reveal its true origin if there's a tooth or an ear problem in store)...

best maxim of the first couple of years: This Too Shall Pass! :)
posted by acm at 7:17 AM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, this is the age where we went from happily co-sleeping to vicious cycle of waking each other up every 45 minutes. It never passed and left me a bleary-eyed mess until we moved her into her own crib at 6 months.
posted by snickerdoodle at 7:29 AM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

You have to decide if you're a snack, a meal, or a pacifier, lol.
posted by PJMoore at 10:55 AM on May 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

"another myth...

Rice cereal makes babies sleep..."


(And the cereal's junk anyway, and he can have what you're eating, fully self-feeding -- why hard veg? Kid can have a stalk of steamed broccoli and learn to chew...) Human milk is far from "too dilute," and what you make at night is soporific -- see here and here.

+1 "phase, don't worry," though.
posted by kmennie at 5:03 AM on May 5, 2012

Hi folks, thanks for all the good advice. In the end, I think zizzle and peagood had it with the distracted feeding and the reverse cycling and the solids were just a red herring.

After giving it some thought we realized how infrequently he had been eating during the day. He's not in daycare - actually due to some weird but lucky circumstances he has both moms with him pretty much 24/7 right now. But he does spend lots of time in a very busy environment in a carrier, rushing around the city on public transit while we get stuff done. He loves chatting to strangers and he naps for ages in the carrier, so we've been super happy that we can take him anywhere at any time. However, he was uncomplainingly going hours without eating and his daytime nursing was super quick and distracted, so we think he was just saving it all up for the night. When we started making sure to take more breaks to offer him the boob during the day, and feed him as much as he would take in the early evening, things got much better at night. He's still happily in our bed and aside from the jazz hands it's all good!
posted by crabintheocean at 6:44 AM on June 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

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