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Baby Sleep and Feeding Questions and Answers

The Pre-Dawn Pooper

By Amalah


So I have been searching the internet endlessly for an answer to this problem, and have yet to find anything helpful. I asked our pediatrician, and she said to try less fiber at dinner (no results). My 11-month old has consistently been pooping at 4am for the last month or two, and it is ruining my life. She is, in general, a good sleeper. She goes to bed around 6:30 (sometimes a bit earlier or later depending on how naps go). She is still taking 2 naps a day. She eats well: 3 solid meals a day, a snack, and breastfeeding.

So it goes something like this… 4am. Baby wakes, talks a little to herself, poops, then cries because she now has a poopy diaper. I go in to change. Sometimes I feed and lay her down, sometimes I rub her back, sometimes I change and just put back in crib. No matter what I do, it takes quite awhile for her to settle. She’ll usually fall back asleep after half an hour. We get up for work at 5am, so basically, I am getting up at 4am every day because by the time she settles back to sleep, it’s more or less almost time for me to get up anyway.

I tried to do a pre-4am dream feed to see if I could just get her to sleep through and not poop – nope. She played quietly in her crib for 20 minutes after eating, pooped, and cried. I can’t just leave her crying in her crib with a poopy diaper. I’ve tried the internet wisdom of applesauce for dinner, no applesauce for dinner, toast for dinner, protein for dinner, cereal for breakfast, etc etc.

Is this just a phase? If it’s a phase, FOR HOW LONG? I need some light at the end of this tunnel.

Since you’ve pretty much tried anything and everything diet-related (and I’d hesitate to pursue that much further, since you absolutely don’t want to overshoot and end up in constipation territory), it’s probably time to try playing around with her schedule.

Analyzing baby’s schedule

She’s regularly pooping after about 9.5 – 10 hours after bedtime. Typically, a sleep schedule for an 11 month old recommends she get between 11 – 12 hours sleep at night, with two naps of at least an hour during the day. If her naps are running longer than that (my babies all took short morning naps and then zonked out for most of the afternoon), she might not need that many hours at night, and you could try moving bedtime back a little so that 9.5 – 10 hour poop time is closer to her actual wake-up time.

On the other hand, if she’s only getting two hours or less during the day, that 6:30 bedtime with a 5 a.m. wake time might mean she needs to go to bed earlier. (Sleep begets sleep, as all the sleep experts like to tell us while we glare at them silently.) But in this case, if she has more time in her sleep cycle BEFORE 4 a.m., it’s possible she’ll be sleeping too soundly for her body to poop, or for her to notice if it does happen. (Maybe slather her up with a really good barrier cream at bedtime as well?)

If you really don’t want to touch her sleep at all (understandable!), can you move dinnertime around? If her digestion schedule is running like clockwork (i.e. the 4 a.m. poop is exactly X number of hours after she eats), maybe pushing dinner back might help, or the addition of an extra snack right at bedtime (so her body has something more recent to digest overnight).

Can a partner help?

If nothing seems to work, I believe there WILL be light at the end of this tunnel, because she’s on the cusp of more growth spurts PLUS will likely be dropping down to one daytime nap soon-ish, which tends to shake things up at nighttime as well. But I can’t say exactly how long this particular schedule hiccup will continue. I’m sorrrrryyyyy.

I try very hard not to make assumptions about anyone’s home life situation beyond what they put in their letters, but if you DO have a partner or spouse, there is absolutely no reason why the 4 a.m. diaper change should be falling on you 100% of the time. It’s a diaper. Nursing her post-diaper change doesn’t seem particularly helpful, so if it’s at all possible, try to trade off mornings so you can get that extra hour of sleep some mornings. Or, if that won’t work, hand her over for an hour after work and sneak in a nap. Or arrange it so you get to sleep in as long as you want on the weekends, etc.



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About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


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 [email protected].

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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