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Baby Sleep Regressions: Questions Answered

Sleep Regressions & Bottle Rejections, Oh My

By Amalah

Hi,

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.

 

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Comments

  • Michelle

    You might want to try not giving him any bottles at night.  You can use one of the sleep training methods, such as Ferber, to deal with night wakings.  If you stop feeding him at night, he will probably eat more during the day.  It will be hard for a few nights, but just ignore all night time crying and do not give a bottle.  Hopefully he will be hungry in the morning and drink all his bottles!   

  • Caroline

    The simple answer is to simply not give him any bottles at night (during the night I mean, not at bedtime). Decide when the no-bottle times are and ignore bleating. I know! So harsh! But you run the risk of a child who was starting to sleep through going in the opposite direction if you give him the idea that hey! Just fill up on your milkshake all night, mom doesn’t mind! No thanks, none of those veg for me, I’m full!” then it might be quite some time before that is broken. Do it now. Really. He will eat, as you say, when he’s hungry. Saying that, does a baby of 9 months really need an 8oz bottle every four hours? That seems like a lot to me, but of course you must follow your paed’s advice on that, rather than some bad-tempered old armchair expert! It may be that he is still treating milk as the ”only” main event and not starting to ramp up on the quantity and variety of solids as gradually happens (or should) between 9 months and 1). Of course his formula is vital and essential, but possibly he’s getting too much to be particularly turned on by real food? That’s just a passing thought.
    Anyway, make a decision and then stick like glue to it. It will be hell. He’ll scream like a banshee, and then in a couple of days it will be over. Leave it ”just a few more months to see what happens” and you will regret it!

  • Lindsay

    I can’t quite tell by the way you’ve worded things, but are you trying to actively hold onto/cuddle and feed him a bottle during the day? Around that age, my kid was MUCH happier to be handed her bottle and left to her own devices. Meanwhile, the nighttime bottles she was ALL ABOUT having me hold and feed to her. Also, we were a non sleep training household (just wasn’t right for my kid or my family – but I totally get that it’s right for some folks) and after a rough time around 8-10 months very similar to what you mention, she sorted herself out, sleeping/eating-wise at around a year. So the doom and gloom of if you don’t ferber-ize your kid everything will suck forever is not necessarily true, for the record.

  • a

    This sounds like my now 13 month kid when he was 9 months.  I disagree with the not feeding at night thing.  I was breastfeeding, but I always fed him when he was hungry (we are a CIO family typically).  His little brain is just trying to learn how to function with all his new skills.  After the regression ended, he went right back to sleeping through the night.  As far as the feed schedule goes, I really tried to wait until he was hungry instead of a schedule to feed him and tried to take away any distractions.  During the day, I waited a little longer in between feeds and brought him up to his room to eat.  At daycare, they waited longer to feed him as well.  I started using a nursing cover in public, which also helped.  I also used a sippy cup or water bottle because it was just so fun to drink out of for some reason.  Good Luck!  I promise it will get better and you are doing a great job raising your baby!

  • Sarah

    We went through this exact same thing with our little munchkin. She’s breastfed and suddenly wanted to FEED ALL NIGHT! I am not a cry it out kind of person, until after a month of no sleep, I went SCREW THIS! IT IS HEALTHIER FOR YOU TO CRY THAN FOR MAMA TO THROW YOU OUT THE WINDOW!

    We went for a slightly gentler method though, of settle her back down in her bed and go back every 5 minutes. If after 15 minutes, she was still not going back to sleep, then okay, I’ll give her the boob. and then stretching it 5 minutes longer the next night, until she stopped waking up for food.

  • Jessica

    I think my son was around 6 months old when I mentioned to his pediatrician that he was waking every night for a bottle. She suggested that I give him a bottle before I went to bed, being careful not to wake him. Sure enough, he slept right through taking an entire bottle and it worked wonderfully! That feeding was enough up get him through the night and he stopped waking for a middle of the night feeding. She did also suggest using a cloth to wipe off his teeth after his bottle to prevent decay.

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