How do I get my baby to take more milk during the day?
My baby, Mia, is nine weeks old and weighs 11lb 8oz. The problem is that her milk intake is falling. She used to take 5-6oz each feed, but now it is only 2-4oz; she is exclusively formula-fed. I can cope with her feeding during the day, even if she only takes small amounts, but she has now started waking at 2am screaming for food. I know this is because she doesn’t take enough during the day, but I can’t encourage her to drink any more at the daytime feeds. I have tried offering cool boiled water during the night, but this gets her more irate, so I have always resorted to milk. Also, she won’t go to sleep without her dummy. She is a sucky baby and drinks her milk very fast. I am using the slowest teat possible, but still she finishes her 2oz in minutes. With regard to sleeping, Mia falls into a deep sleep when swaddled, but I prefer to put her in a sleeping bag overnight. I wonder if she would sleep better swaddled all night, but I don’t know if this is safe. I feel run-down and sleep deprived; I have tonsillitis at present and worry about passing it on – Mia has a dry cough, but otherwise seems well. I don’t know what to do next and would be grateful for your advice.
Using Mia’s weight as a guide, she needs to be taking about 5oz at each feed to meet her needs. Some babies require their feeds to be stretched over a longer period of time in order to take more.
When Mia wakes at 7am, regardless of what she has done in the night, offer her a feed. After about 3oz let her have a break, sitting in a baby chair for at least 20 minutes. Then offer the remaining 2oz. As Mia is such a fast feeder this should help her to take a little more at each feed. During the daytime, continue to feed her in this way, using the time in the middle of a feed for a nappy change or a kick on the floor. From your notes, it seems as though you have begun to use the split method at 5/6pm, which is another way to encourage Mia to feed better. Some mothers find it helpful to offer more feed at 5pm (4oz) and less after the bath (3oz), so their baby is really hungry at 10/10.30pm and feeds well.
At this stage, Mia still needs a feed in the middle of the night. If she begins to take more in the day, this may only be 2oz, but she will still need a small feed at some point to get her through to 7am. Once she begins to stretch out her night, Mia may begin to take a slightly bigger feed around 4/5am and then need a small top up at 7.30am to get her through to 10.30am. The manner in which babies begin to sleep through the night does vary tremendously. Until you feel that Mia is taking enough by day, it is better to offer a feed in the night, rather than trying to settle her with water only to end up feeding her anyway. Is it possible for your partner to feed Mia at 10.30 pm? This would mean that you could go to bed earlier to help you cope better with the night feed.
Providing you make Mia secure in her swaddle, there is no reason why she cannot sleep overnight this way, although at this age it is better that she gets used to being only half swaddled under the arms. If the idea of swaddling all night still worries you, then continue to put Mia in a sleeping bag. If you are using a low tog (0.5), as is suggested in ‘The Contented Little Baby Book’, tuck her in securely with a cotton sheet placed lengthways across the cot. Use two rolled up towels pushed down the cot spars on either side to prevent her from jerking herself when in a light sleep. The Moro reflex can still be very strong at this age and is a common cause of babies disturbing themselves.
It will take time for Mia to learn to settle without her dummy. Gradually removing it when she is more awake than asleep will work in the end, if you are consistent. Remember that Mia needs to have a calm wind-down period before sleep, and using a dummy to help her do this is fine.
Finally, if you are at all concerned about Mia’s health, then take her to your GP to be checked over. While it would be unusual for a baby of this age to have tonsillitis, it is better to be reassured. Generally when ill, it is important to be especially careful with hygiene and hand washing when handling your baby.