If your child wakes multiple times at night to nurse or have a bottle to fall back to sleep, you have a "trained night feeder," and here is some great advice.
Here is an article similar to one our doctor gave us by Dr. Barton Schmitt, when our son would wake up several times a night to nurse at about 6 months of age, followed by my personal account.
Night Criers and Feeders need Special Treatment
Last week this column discussed normal sleep patterns in infants and children. It was pointed out that babies wake four or five times each night. When parents entertain their youngster during these "normal" awakenings, the infant cannot learn to comfort and quiet themselves back to sleep. Babies who are placed in their cribs asleep expect their parents to be there when they wake up. Early on, parents need to teach their newborn how to soothe themselves to sleep. By two to three months of age, 90 percent of babies have attained that important milestone- a good nights sleep for both child and parent!Those infants who do not sleep the entire night are either "trained night criers" and "trained night feeders."
The "trained night crier," according to The University of Colorado's Dr. Barton Schmitt, wants to be held and entertained following normal nighttime awakenings, and the "trained night feeder" wants to fed as well as held in the middle of the night. Neither child has learned how to calm and soothe themselves back to sleep.
Three factors that contribute to a child becoming a "trained night crier." are: 1) rocking the baby to sleep, 2) entertaining the baby during the night, and 3) not letting the baby cry it out.
One way from preventing a newborn from becoming a "trained night crier" is to always put them to bed awake. Infants who are rocked to sleep and then put in their crib expect their parents to be there when they awake following normal awakenings. Put the child in their crib sleepy so that the child's last waking memory is the crib, not their parents.
When the "trained night crier" wakes up at three in the morning, letting the baby "cry it out" is easier said than done. Parents who can endure crying during the day are usually not as tolerant in the middle of the night. In addition, the crying baby may wake up an older brother or sister. Other adults may complain, especially if the family lives in an apartment or shares the house with their in--laws. The parent who has to get up in the morning and go to work finds the nighttime crying unbearable. So, the child is removed from the crib, the crying pays off, and the sleep disorder gets worse!
The treatment of the "trained night crier" Dr. Schmitt recommends consists of boring, brief (one to two minutes) visits to the baby’s room. Parents should not to turn on the light nor lift the child out of the crib. A few soothing words and a gentle touch are all that is needed If necessary, a wet or soiled diaper can be quickly changed in the crib. Occasionally the visit intensifies the crying since the child becomes angry that the parents are leaving the room without giving in!
If the child continues to cry, do not return for at least 15 minutes, gradually stretching the interval between visits by ten minutes each time. Watch the clock, since a minute of crying at three in the morning can seem like an eternity. If the crib is in the parents bedroom, move it to a separate room until the problem resolves. If the crib must be there, covering the side rail with a blanket will help buffer some of the sound and prevent the infant from seeing their parents.
Most babies will cry less each night until finally learning to put themselves back to sleep. Prolonged crying (even thirty minutes or longer) will not physically or psychologically harm your baby. According to Dr. Schmitt, babies are quick learners and sleep habits will improve in less than a week. Warn your neighbors about what you are doing and if other family members are not supportive, send them to a motel for night or two!
Dr. Schmitt describes the "trained night feeder" as an infant who wakes up to be fed one or more times every night. The factors that contribute to this condition are: (1) Worrying that the infant is hungry (2) Feeding the baby until they fall asleep at night (3) Leaving a bottle in the crib at night.
Many parents feed their babies when they wake up at night because they believe the child needs the calories. By the time normal children reach ten to eleven pounds, they can go eight consecutive hours without feeding. These children, therefore, do not need any additional calories during the night to remain healthy.
When an infant begins to act sleepy, stop feeding them and put them into bed awake. The baby’s last waking memory needs to be the crib and the mattress, not the bottle or the breast. If not, the infant cannot return to sleep during periods of normal wakening at night without being fed, and a "trained night feeder" is born.
Parents who leave a bottle in the crib as a security object are asking for both sleep and dental problems. When this child wakes up following normal awakenings, the infant uses the contents of the bottle to soothe themselves back to sleep. No problem until the bottle runs dry and the child cries for a refill! In addition, leaving a bottle in the crib can lead to severe tooth decay known as "milk bottle caries."
The "trained night feeder" is actually a "trained night crier" who demands a feeding as well as entertainment to go to sleep. Therefore, parents must deal this problem by phasing out any feedings after 11:00PM. This can be done safely as soon as the infant is about ten pounds. When the baby next awakens at night and appears hungry, follow the guidelines mentioned above for treating the "trained night crier," and do not offer any feedings. This will teach the child to put themselves to sleep without feeding.
Here is my personal viewpoint written when my child was 6 months old:
Sam had previously been sleeping pretty well. He would eat and go to bed around 8:30, and he'd wake up at 6 a.m. to eat again. He'd wake up a couple times in between to get a pacifier stuck back in his mouth; and once it was back in, he was instantly back to sleep. Well, the past month or so hasn't been going so smoothly. He'd go to sleep in his crib and then wake up around 11, wanting to eat. At this time, my husband would give him formula hoping it would make him sleep better. Sometimes Sam would go back to sleep, but the majority of the time, he would stay awake and would end up in our bed. With Sam between us, we kept putting the pacifier in his mouth until he drifted off to sleep. Many nights he would wake up 2 or 3 more times wanting to eat. It is amazing how someone so little takes up so much space in bed. He was pretty good at turning himself sideways, causing my husband and I both to be on the edge of the bed. He also liked to snuggle with me, so I would wake up so many times a night to make sure the covers weren't covering his face and his nose was always free to breathe. Needless to say, we have been exhausted! Well, we went to the doctor yesterday, and she said the problem was that Sam would always associate falling asleep with eating, or shall I say drinking. He's a "trained night feeder." She recommended the Ferber method, which consists of sticking to a routine, and having him fall asleep in his bed, rather than putting him in his bed already asleep. If he cries, I should wait 5 minutes before going in to soothe him. I soothe him without picking him up, and leave the room in a minute whether he is crying or content. I gradually increase the amount of time between visits with the maximum time away of 15 minutes. After one night, I am a total believer. It took about 30-45 minutes for him to fall asleep the first time. He woke up at 3 or so. Dear husband started to get out of bed and I reminded him that Sam needs to cry for at least 5 minutes. Sam went back to sleep all on his own before we checked on him. It worked this morning with one check, and when my husband put him down for a nap, with no checks. I put him to bed at 8:30 tonight, and he is already asleep after about 10 minutes of him talking to himself and about 5 minutes of fussing without me checking on him. I just checked on him, and he is sound asleep, perpendicular in his crib, snuggled with his little blankie.
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Emily became a mommy on her birthday in July of 2008 to a wonderful son named Sam. She has since become rather obsessed with all things related to babies and baby items.