Why feeding timing matters when sleep training
Some people might assume that the only thing which matters when you are sleep training, is when your baby goes to bed.
But we always ask parents to record when they feed their baby too. Not only that, but we want to know if you are breastfeeding, was it what you would consider a good feed? A fussy feed? A short feed?
If you are bottle feeding, we want to know what volume your baby drank, and at what time.
If you are giving solids, we want you to record what your baby/toddler is eating and when.
Why do we want so much information? To make your life difficult as you record it?
If you are breastfeeding, and say your baby is 5 months old. You gave them a feed at their first wake up at 4am overnight, then again at 7am when you started your day.
All on track right?
But then at 8.30am your baby is crying, and you are aiming for a 9am nap, they must be tired so you pop them down. But they don’t sleep, they just cry and don’t settle. This is confusing for you…. Last week when they woke at 10pm and 1am for feeds overnight their morning nap was easy… now they are sleeping through until 4am, but crying at nap time.
If we look at your sleep log, and notice that the 7am feed was a quick feed and only 1 side, this might explain the tears at 8.30am. Potentially as your baby has learnt to sleep through they are having a huge feed at 4am. This means the 7am feed is a small feed and bubs was actually hungry at 8.30am not tired!
Quick solution might be a top up feed for a few days to ensure that morning nap is successful. But if we don’t know what time or how well your baby feeds this isn’t obvious to us.
What about a formula fed baby? You may have noticed that your baby has started solids and isn’t sleeping as well. If we have the volumes recorded we can notice that your baby ate a lot of pear and pumpkin at 5pm and only drank 80ml at bed time. They then woke earlier than usual that night, and seemed hungry despite previously getting through the night with no feeds. We can work on reducing the solids back to ensure a full bottle is taken before bed, knowing the milk is higher in calories than the pear and pumpkin. But if we don’t know how much your baby is drinking, we can’t work this out as easily.
Another example of solids timing and their impact on sleep showed up on a sleep log recently, when a mum gave her 7 month old his beef and sweet potato casserole at 12pm, and popped him down for a nap at 12.45pm. He didn’t settle like he usually did, he cried and mum ended up cancelling the nap after trying unsuccessfully for 45 minutes to settle him.
By the time this baby finished his lunch solids it was 12.25pm, this meant he only had 20 minutes to digest a big meal before being expected to sleep. This isn’t long enough and is quite a common reason why sleep falls apart when solids are started. Another reason why recording the timing around milk and food is important when trying to decipher why your baby isn’t sleeping great.
One final example is one where snack feeding results in a baby who confuses you with hunger/tired signs. A 6 month old baby is fed upon wake up and before every nap, but when we start the consult, mum can’t tell if baby is fussing at the end of an awake period because baby is tired or hungry?
By moving the timing of the feed from when baby immediately wakes from their nap to 30 minutes after the nap (as baby not showing any hunger signs), and offering a top up after a nappy change and burp, we can be confident when baby starts fussing at the end of an awake period, its tiredness not hunger. We have successfully moved the feed just far enough away from the nap that baby is not hungry, but also not so far away that it is a major change.
If you are trying to work on your babies sleep and making some changes, make sure you record the milk/solids and nap times. You might find a lot of useful insights when you sit down and look at your sleep logs at the end of the day.