Babies come with their own schedules. Like it or not, their little bodies and minds have their own little idea about when they should eat, sleep, play, need changing, and a host of other activities that may not always coincide with the nine to five schedule most of us adults would prefer to keep. While there is really not much you can do to completely avoid this (and, in fact, it would be very bad for your baby if you did), there are a few things you can do to lessen the frequency of baby’s need to eat at night.
First of all, understand that all babies do need to eat at night during their first several months of life. Newborns need to eat every two to four hours. If you breast feed, your newborn will likely fall closer to the two hour mark. So during baby’s first four months, your best bet is to take naps when he sleeps. However, after four months, he should begin sleeping for increasingly longer periods of time. If he is still waking up hungry more than once or twice per night, there are some things you can do to help him (and you) be able to sleep better.
Babies like breast feeding. In addition to the physical satisfaction of being full and the obvious nutritional value, babies like being held close by mom. It’s comforting. As babies get older and begin to explore the world around them more, however, they may not think about hunger or breast feeding as much during the day time. When you think of it, it really isn’t much different than an adult who gets so caught up in something interesting that they don’t realize right away that they’re getting hungry. But when they do realize they’re hungry, they’re really hungry. To prevent this, make sure to breast your baby often during the day time. Babies who are breast fed more often during the day often have less need for breastfeeding at night, both physically and emotionally.
Another thing you can do to ensure yourself a better night’s sleep is to wake baby up, if she is sleeping, shortly before you are ready to go to bed. This might sound contradictory, but if you wake baby up and give her a full feeding right before you are ready to go to sleep, she will stay full longer into the night, and both of you will rest better.
Finally, make sure baby has plenty of physical contact other than breast feeding, both while he is awake and while you are trying to put him to sleep. This will help him to associate other things with soothing and falling asleep. When baby is used to falling asleep in a variety of ways, he will be less upset when he wakes up, and may start to soothe himself back to sleep if he is not actually hungry.