Blog Posts 1–5, based on the United States of America Department of the Army Field Manual: Holistic Healing and Fitness, describe what really matters for your child’s sleep. If sleep is an important enough topic for national defense than surely sleep should be considered a serious topic for parenting!
Is my child hungry in the middle of the night? Between 6 and 9 months of age, when your child awakens at night and quietly cries or fusses, sometimes a parent is unsure whether to go to their child at night to offer a feeding or whether to ignore the quiet sounds. Of course, if your child loudly cries or fusses at night, consider that your child might be hungry, wet, soiled, or in distress and needs prompt attention.
Here are some suggestions that might help you decide whether your child is truly hungry:
Pay attention to the suck-swallow pattern.
The hungry baby will initially suck-swallow, suck-swallow, suck-swallow and so on. Every suck is followed by a swallow. Later, there may be more swallows for every suck.,
The baby who is not hungry will initially suck-suck-suck-swallow, suck-suck-suck-swallow, and so on. Many sucks and few swallows. Sucking is soothing so your baby sucks but because your baby is not hungry or thirsty, there are fewer swallows.
Have the father offer a test bottle of expressed breast milk or formula once in the middle of the night. Pay attention to both the volume taken and the time required for a feed.
The hungry baby will quickly suck down 3-4 ounces or more.
The baby who is not hungry will slowly suck down only 1-3 ounces.
Implement a 3-day trial of graduated extinction or extinction.
The hungry baby will not decrease crying or fussing over the 3-day trial. Stop the trial.
The baby who is not hungry will cry and fuss much less by the second or third night. Continue with graduated extinction or extinction (Blog Post 25).
If you are exclusively breast feeding and suspect that you might have insufficient breast milk because you are expressing less and less and/or you are feeling more and more thirsty during the day, or for whatever other reason, please consult with a lactation consultant.
All of these suggestions will help if, and only if, the bedtime (based on drowsy signs) is not too late. Why? A late bedtime creates night wakings. Because sucking is soothing, a late bedtime can create the illusion that your child is hungry at night when he is really overtired from a late bedtime.