Toddler Need a Feed in the Night?
Night Waking: Hunger or Habit?
Does your toddler really need a feed at night?
Sleep challenges for toddlers and young children can be so much more difficult to resolve than for babies. They are typically strong-willed, have active imaginations, a strong desire for independence yet struggle with separation anxiety too.
The last thing you want is an energetic toddler awake in the middle of the night. Not only do YOU need your sleep, but a sleep-deprived toddler can be more challenging during the day. The sleep-deprivation can lead to increased limit-testing and tantrums… many more tantrums. Nobody wants that!
Toddlers rarely need a feed at night
Toddlers rarely need nutrition in the night, except under rare circumstances where your doctor may advise you on. That doesn’t mean that your toddler won’t down a large bottle or milk or enjoy a good feed, but this is more likely to be related to habit, not hunger.
How can you tell the difference? Typically, by the consistency of the wake-up times. You’re likely hungry for your meals or snacks at the same time every day because you’re used to eating at those times. It’s a habit and your body gets used to it. The same goes for your toddler. They become used to having that feed at a similar time every night, so they wake up ready for it, just as you may be ready for a snack at 4pm every day.
“I’ve tried giving water instead”
That’s usually a recipe for tears or a tantrum. If you were expecting your favourite beverage (tea? wine? gin?) and were given a glass of water instead, you would be annoyed, especially if you had no warning, right? Your toddler can’t likely regulate their emotions as well as you can, so very unlikely to mask their disappointment.
Many have tried watering down their milk instead. Your toddler can tell and won’t be too pleased either. So, what should you do?
Break the habit FOR your little one!
Your toddler is unlikely to have the incentive to break the habit on their own, so you can break it instead. The good news is that it’s much less likely to cause tears and can work in just a few nights. If you have any concerns about weight or nutrition, please consult your doctor first.
The simple way to disrupt the habit is to bring little Johnny his milk (or whatever) about an hour before he typically wakes up for it. By disrupting his sleep (which is scary, I know), you’re disrupting his sleep pattern, he’s more likely to get back to sleep quickly because you woke him instead of waiting for him to naturally wake. You just need to continue doing the same for the next 4-7 nights AND reducing the amount given every night and then stop. Most of the time the wake-up habit will be gone AND so will the hunger habit. It works so well!
If you’d like a cheat sheet that goes into this method in more detail, just enter your details below.
3.5-year-old is Waking 3-4 Times a Night! Help!
This week, I’ve answered a question from Patricia, who is struggling with her 3.5-year-old and waking up 3-4 times a night, looking for attention, saying he’s hungry.
Hunger can be an issue for some children in the night, especially during a growth spurt. In addition, many children who go to daycare or nursery have their tea early and need a good snack before they go to bed because their little tummies aren’t able to go more than 12 hours without something in it. A snack with a combination of protein and carbohydrates is ideal, as it keeps blood sugar stable. Avoiding higher sugar foods or juices (even unsweetened) is important for many. Cheese and crackers, a banana and yoghurt, toast and nut butter are a few ideas.
I have some other ideas for Patricia as well, so watch below. (please note that this question is the second question covered in this video).
Mary Foster is the founder of Sleepy Lambs Sleep Consulting, and mum of three little ones (at one time three under three).
She’s a proud Canadian, loves living in England and is passionate about healthy sleep with a strong focus on emotional wellness, using her education background in science.
In 2018, we launched a comprehensive training program to become a Certified Sleepy Lambs Sleep Consultant and franchise program. Opportunities are available worldwide. Visit SleepConsultantCourse.com for more info.