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Saturday, April 06, 2013

How to Wean the infant off frequent Night-time feeds

Many parents have approached me with this very common problem faced by them: the baby has grown beyond her first birthday, and is still waking up the mother for breast feeds or top feeds almost three or more times during the night.

The problem is accentuated by the fact that many middle-class families have working mothers who need the rest at night time. Being woken up by an irritable, fretful child can be very taxing for both the parents and sometimes even the older children in the house or the grand-parents in case of an extended family.

Such a problem needs to be first understood from the child's perspective. The child wakes up her mother not because she is really hungry, but because she is habituated to fall asleep while suckling or needs to suckle every few hours. It is important to remember that mother's milk is no longer very nutritious by the time more than a year has passed in the age of the baby. If the mother does not discipline the child at this age, the problem may not go away until the child has grown older, much older.

So, how does one go about it? Imagine that a child is waking her mother up four times in the night: at 11, then 1, then 4 and finally at 6 a.m. When she wakes up at 11 p.m., feed her immediately. At 1 a.m., let the child cry for 5-6 minutes and then feed her. Ditto at 4 a.m. At 6 a.m., feed her immediately. The next night, the child will learn to wake at about 5-10 minutes past 1 a. m. Delay this feed by 5 more minutes the next night, and so on till one feed (the 6 a.m. one), gets pushed on to the morning. Repeat this till both the night feeds have been eliminated.

The following two changes may help prevent frequent wakings AND development of the urge to demand night time feeds: the first is letting the baby sleep in her own separate bed/cot/.crib from mid-infancy; the second is having a separate baby room so that the baby learns from early on (say from around the age of 10-11 months) to sleep alone. 

I hope the above write-up helps my readers.

On the face of it, the words "let the baby cry" may sound inhuman or cruel, but, believe me, there is no other alternative. People have tried giving sleeping medication or even opium to the baby ... but surely you aren't going to try that, are you?

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Dr. Fuhrman

Dr. Fuhrman