MYTH #1: SLEEP TRAINING MEANS GETTING RID OF NIGHT FEEDINGS (PART 1)
MYTH #1 OF SLEEP TRAINING
PART 7.1 OF 7.2 OF AREAS OFTEN OVERLOOKED OR NOT STRATEGICALLY PLANNED WHEN SLEEP TRAINING
This is the last part of my blog series covering the seven areas often overlooked or not strategically planned when sleep training. It also happens to be the beginning of my new series on the ten myths of sleep training.
The specific area often not strategically planned that also happens to be involved in a myth around sleep training? Night feedings!
The myth? Sleep training means you will have to get rid of all night feedings depriving your child of food.
No. This simply is not true if you understand how to go about it.
Because this topic is a bit complex, this is part one of a two-part mini-series. It covers the realistic expectations to set for night feedings. Part two will cover what to consider when making the decision to keep or remove them and how to go about sleep training based on that decision.
If you take anything away from this post, let it be that sleep and night feedings CAN coexist. You CAN work towards getting your infant (and you!) quality rest while still meeting their need for food. In fact, when I work with clients, I will work with their pediatrician and/or lactation consultant when creating a sleep plan if desired! In other words? You can work on building a strong sleep foundation while also feeding your newborn when hungry. And if your infant is struggling with sleep, you can sleep train while keeping night feedings. You just need to be strategic and intentional with how you go about it!
Now, this is not to say that people never fail to feed their infant of necessary feedings while sleep training! Unfortunately, this absolutely does happen with families who are not educated on the topic. And I believe part of the reason for that is because of this myth.
Anyone who tells you that you can't have both a great sleeper and night feedings does not understand the nature of sleep nor do they understand the different strategies to consider when sleep training. And it really grinds my gears when I witness or hear of this from other professionals.
Why does it bother me so much?
One, because I know the importance of sleep for your infant's growth and development. For a professional or someone else who is lacking the expertise to spread this rumor and scaring parents away from providing the proper quality and quantity of BOTH food and sleep to meet a baby's needs is simply irresponsible.
Two, because I see how parents like you are trying to give your children what is best for them. I see you feeling conflicted. I see you depriving yourself of YOUR basic needs to avoid "being selfish" or for fear of parent shame.
Three, because I have seen the power of sleep for the individual children, the individual parents, and the entire family dynamic. As many of my clients have said, "It is life changing!"
So let's dive into this topic! What are the realistic expectations to have around night feedings?
AGE AND WEIGHT
Whether or not your infant needs night feedings will depend on your infant's age and weight. Before making any decisions about what night feedings should look like for your baby, consult your pediatrician or healthcare provider prior to beginning sleep training.
When working with clients of young infants, I always ask that my clients receive the green light from their pediatrician before we even discuss the option of dropping night feedings. For parents of children one year and older, I don't require this as night feedings are not necessary unless specified for a medical reason. So by this age, I educate while still leaving the final decision to keep or drop up to the parents with some heart-to-heart discussions.
With newborns one to two months adjusted age as an exception, infants who wake frequently at night to feed are generally not eating much at EVERY feeding. By frequently I mean waking more than 1-3 times per night and the feedings not being true feedings. True feedings meaning the child nurses or takes a bottle and actually guzzles down milk in order to satiate or hydrate themself. Instead, these frequent sessions at the breast or bottle result in very little milk consumed and are a way to sooth back to sleep between sleep cycles.
Something to keep in mind when you begin to create and implement your sleep plan is that the number of calories consumed within a 24-hour period should not change much because of sleep training. Instead it is the time of day for when those calories are consumed that will change if your child is having multiple feedings at night. And if an infant is only feeding to fall back asleep instead of for a true feeding, those shorter feedings are not contributing much to the daily caloric intake to begin with.
One caveat to what I just said about caloric intake? I have had several of my clients with young infants who were NOT eating well when we first started working together. However, once sleep improved, eating improved!
FROM MY EXPERIENCE, HERE IS WHAT I TYPICALLY SEE OCCUR
I have been doing this work since 2015. From my years of experience, I typically see the following with my clients once their children learn the skill of falling asleep and connecting sleep cycles independently:
The night feedings that were to sooth back to sleep disappear while true feedings stick around.
The infant cries out in the middle of the night when waking due to hunger and makes typical noises while smoothly falling back to sleep when waking due to a natural transition between sleep cycles.
For infants four months and older, the number of night feedings naturally tends to drop between zero and two times per night.
Night feedings tend to naturally drop completely between six and nine months of age with some outliers.
Now that you understand what is realistic around night feedings, keep an eye out for my next post regarding what to consider when deciding whether or not to keep them and how to go about sleep training strategically for either decision.
If your child is struggling with sleep and you desire to make a change now? Let's chat! If your child isn't sleeping well, chances are you aren't either. And being exhausted can make it difficult to focus on taking the right steps when it comes to improving sleep. I'm here to help. Click here to book your 15-minute phone call to discuss your situation and the services I provide.