I have a 6-month-old and, thank God, she is an incredibly happy and cheerful baby. She is now eating solids and she is on a predictable daytime sleeping and eating schedule. She goes to sleep without difficulty, however, she still does wake at least once a night. I have let her cry it out several times, but she can scream for hours if I let her. She also doesn’t take a pacifier. If I give her an ounce or two (not more) of formula, she’ll go right back down to sleep. How can I cut out the midnight snack?
First of all, it’s great that you have a consistent daily routine set in place already. With most families I work with, this is half the battle! The fact that she can go down easily, remain asleep for set times, and winds down at bedtime means that you have a solid foundation set in place and it’s just a matter of building upon that existing framework.
In all honesty, many babies this age do still need to eat one or two times at night, and if she’s only waking up once, that means her body is capable of giving you a consistent 7-8 hour stretch of sleep.
However, my general motto is, “If it ain’t broken–don’t fix it!” Sounds like everything else is well in place and trying to reconfigure her night wakings may disrupt everything else. I wouldn’t try to get rid of that once-per-night feeding, as most babies this age simply can’t last 10-12 hours at night without eating until solids are firmly established during the day (eating three consistent daytime meals).
That being said, you may be able to rearrange when her body expects to eat, which would help her concentration of sleep be at a convenient time for you so you can get uninterrupted night sleep. What I suggest doing is introducing something I call the “hold-out feed,” which is similar to what some call a “dream feed,” or “tank-up.”
Based on her existing schedule you outlined, it’s important that this is consistently given to her around the 10:30 to 11 p.m. mark (before her body transitions into deeper, more restful sleep), and that you ensure she eats well. It is called the “hold-out feed,” because it will eventually “hold her out” until the morning. Go into her room, turn the lights on a low dim so she is still sleepy, but not fully awake (this will ensure she is eating well and not just simply sucking in her sleep). Feed her on one side and then change her diaper if necessary. After changing her diaper, ensure she is physically comfortable, turn the lights back out and feed her on the other side until she is fully asleep.
Please keep in mind that it may take her several weeks to adjust to this new predictable eating time, but soon her body will acclimate to eating at that time, so that you can all have longer, better stretches of sleep. Good luck!
Do you have a sleep question for Batya? Send it into firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Sleep Coach.”