Sleep Regressions & Bottle Rejections, Oh My
First off, we love the hell out of your column. Like check daily for new advice about things we’re years away from dealing with kind of love.
And so, when faced with a trying time from our rugrat, where do we turn? YOU! I’ve trawled the archives and I can’t find anything that quite matches.
Our wee man is nearly 9 months and we’re having some issues around bottles, milk and food. He’s always been pretty solid with his bottles, drinking about 6 oz out of 8 every 4 hours for the last month or two, waking up once in the night for a feed and kicking around the 95th percentile for weight and height. He’s been chowing down very happily on a baby-led weaning approach to solids since 6 months and it’s not had a huge impact on his bottles. Until now. Now he’s flat-out rejecting up to 3 bottles in a day with a full-on wriggle-and-scream or taking just a bit from some. And, you know, my normal approach is whatever kid, you eat if you’re hungry, but he’s now waking up twice in the night to haul down a full bottle and his weight percentile is beginning to drop (although he’s maintaining weight). He’s an active kid pulling up and cruising on everything humanly possible, with a touch of crawling when there’s nothing to hold onto. Full disclosure, he’s got a couple of teeth that have broken the surface and stayed there but he doesn’t seem bothered by them and he’s drinking from his bottle just fine at night and sometimes during the day.
So my question is, how do we get him to eat enough during the day that he’s not waking up more in the night? In an ideal world I was hoping to get him down to no milk at night around this time, not moving to a whole ‘nother extra feed! If he’s decided he wants to eat more solids and less milk, can I go ahead and move him back to 1 feed at night and maybe no feeds? Should we just hunker down and wait for this to pass, as all baby things do?
With baited breaths and empty/full bellies,
eat, baby, eat.
So the subject line on this email was “Surprise, a question about food.” But by the time I was done reading the third paragraph I realized that it’s not, at least not technically. It’s really about sleep, and really REALLY about classssssssic case of the 8-10 month sleep regression.
Your son is right in the bullseye of it. Big physical milestones happening all over the place, a wildly increased activity level during the day, teeth coming in left and right…yep. Sleep is gonna go haywire for a bit, and probably would even if he was downing his bottles during the day as usual. A dip in the weight gain percentile is also totally par for the course at this stage as well. He’ll probably level back out in a month or two (and then you might see another dip once he starts walking). I’m almost tempted to call the bottle rejection a full-on red herring. Because yes, he WILL eat when he’s hungry…he’s just more hungry at night, thanks to the developmental/growth spurt he’s going through and a rapidly changing metabolism.
My three kids allllll went through these sleep regressions, even though they happily consumed just as much milk during the day as they did before. They just wanted more at night, too. Probably to make up for all the calories they were burning from the cruising and early crawling efforts. I did notice a distinct increase in their IMPATIENCE around certain bottles or nursing sessions, though…sounds like your little guy is just doing a more pronounced version of SCREW THIS I WANT TO GET BACK TO PLAYING AND TRYING TO INJURE MYSEEEELLLLF.
So the good news is that this regression IS temporary. It WILL pass. The bad news is that there’s no real other way through it but through. If your son is really waking up starving (and not for other reasons that could be handled via some gentle extinction methods), you will need feed him.
I’m assuming when you say milk you’re talking formula or breastmilk, which needs to be his primary source of nutrition until his first birthday, no matter what he’s eating solids-wise. So I can’t in good conscience recommend you up solids and let him skip two/three whole formula or breastmilk feeds just yet. Once your pediatrician okays the switch to cow’s milk, you’ll want to limit that to 16 to 20 ounces a day and can up solids to as much as your son feels like eating. But I’m guessing by the time that happens the regression will have worked itself out. Sometimes it just takes a couple weeks, but unfortunately it’s not unheard of for this regression to last a full four to six weeks. I’m sorry, man. It’s such a pain, I know, and it can easily wear down the best of a parent’s healthy sleep habit intentions.
In the meantime, I would maybe experiment with offering him a sippy cup in place of the rejected bottle feeds…something he can easily grip and hold himself and swig from at his leisure. You might be able to get a few more daytime ounces into him if you’re not interrupting his playtime/exploration time.
Published September 21, 2015. Last updated October 29, 2017.