Sleeping FAQ: 9-12 months – Night Waking

My 9-month-old baby is not sleeping at night – she wants milk

We are having problems with our 9-month-old girl, Molly, and her sleep routine (or lack of!). We have two boys aged 3 & 6 who weren’t great sleepers either. Molly was born at 7½ lbs and has maintained a healthy weight gain since then. She has been in hospital a couple of times as a small baby with suspected infections that were never conclusive. A doctor also thought she had ‘silent reflux’ and put her on renetadine medicine. Molly has been quite behind on her solids.

This is her feeding routine at the moment:
4.30-5am – bottle, 6oz
7-8am – cereal, 5/6 spoonfuls.
11.30am – lunch 1 jar (4 month size).
2.30pm – bottle 5 oz.
5pm – dinner, as lunch but with ½ jar pudding.
7pm – bottle 7oz.
10pm – bottle 6oz.
1-2 am – bottle 6oz.

Sleep-wise she settles well at her 7pm bedtime and is happy to fall asleep by herself. But in the day she is less happy to fall quickly to sleep and can just fall asleep with exhaustion. This is also the case at 1 or 2 in the morning when she often cries for 1 or 2 hours! We have tried several times to drop the middle of the night feed but she cries for 2 hrs. She is now crawling and I feel she should be having more solids but she just won’t eat more, sometimes she cries all the way through the feed. Any advice? We would be very grateful for any tips.

Kind regards,
Emma and Simon

Ask your doctor for advice before beginning to try to cut down on these night feeds. He should be aware of her past history of silent reflux as crying through feeds is a symptom of this distressing condition, and it may need further investigation.

Molly is taking 12ozs of milk during the night, which is causing her to be uninterested in her daytime solids. I realise that she has had feeding problems in the past but it is only by cutting back on this milk intake that her daytime appetite will increase.

As your daughter is nine months, she should be able to pick up small finger foods such as lightly steamed batons of carrot, florets of broccoli, small pieces of cheese, mini sandwiches and small pieces of pizza. If she is given the chance to feed herself with a small but colourful selection of food, you may find she becomes more interested in eating.

Is it possible that you could begin to introduce some home-cooked food into her diet? Commercial food, although convenient, does have a low protein content, which could be a cause of Molly’s night-time hunger. Perhaps you could make some apple or pear puree which could be given to her with her breakfast cereal. Introduce a small amount of home-cooked chicken and vegetable casserole at her lunch. For a few days you may need to mix the home cooked food with that from a jar. Increase the home-cooked portion and decrease the readymade as she becomes more accustomed to the taste and texture. Home-cooked food will fill her up and help her become used to satisfying her hunger in the day.

Will Molly eat yoghurt or fromage frais? This could be given at teatime to replace her jar of pudding, after offering her a home-made savoury such as vegetable soup with mini sandwiches.

For ideas on what to prepare Molly, I suggest you read the Complete Weaning Guide which has many recipes and ideas to tempt your daughter.

The best way to wean Molly off her night-time feeds, without leaving her to cry excessively is to dilute the feeds. This is done over a period of time. As she begins to take less milk in the night, her appetite should improve by day, if she is tempted with finger food and homemade dishes. Diluting feeds must be done slowly. Try one feed at a time. If you could increase Molly’s 10pm feed to 7oz she may go longer before waking again. Dilute her 1-2am bottle by 30mls (1oz), so use180mls (6ozs) of water to 5 scoops of formula. Dilute this feed each night by 30mls (1oz) until the feed is only 1 scoop of formula to the rest water. Molly may drink more at her next feed (4.30/5am). This may happen as you are trying to eliminate the feeds one by one. Once she has had the very dilute feed for a couple of nights, try to settle her if she wakes at 1-2 am with plain water. Be prepared for the first nights to be disturbed as she may take a while to settle. It is important not to give in and feed her again at this first waking. If you can get your husband to help you, perhaps over the weekends you should be able to cut down on these feeds in time.

Once the first feed is eliminated work on the 4.30/5am in exactly the same way. By the time you start to do this, Molly may be showing signs of an increased appetite by day so you could start diluting the feed by 50 per cent. Once she is taking just water and settling until morning you can be sure she is getting enough to eat by day. Then is the time to attempt controlled crying if she should wake.

Crawling babies can often keep going until they are exhausted. Try to watch for the first signs of tiredness during the day and put down her to sleep then. She should be able to settle herself more easily if she is not overtired.