Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sleeping through the Night Hunger Pangs...

[written by Sheela at The Joy of My Life, crossposted here]

At just about every visit for the last few months, Oggie's doctor has strongly recommended that I turn a deaf ear to his cries in the middle of the night, stay firm about not feeding him, and let him sob himself to sleep. Not in any cruel manner, but by using Kim West's technique like Shuffle or something similarly humane and gentle.

Now, the theory seems to be that a 'normal', average-weight 10-month-old can go upto 10 hours without feeding, with no adverse effect on his growth. He can be trained to recognize that 10-hour stretch of nighttime is to be reserved for sleeping without eating or drinking. This, after making sure he feeds every two hours during his waking hours. Go Figure!

Backing up a little, How much should a 10-month-old eat, and how often? Well, approximately 3 meals (3-4oz serving of veggies/fruits/meats/cereal) and maybe 3 snacks (baby's handful of finger foods/fruits) at daytime - viz., breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks roughly inbetween - giving allowance for his nap times, if they exist, plus about 16oz of breastmilk or formula (some claim up to 24oz).

Hm. Seems like a lot, doesn't it?

But, considering that his stomach is the size of his fist, and that I manage to sneak in only about 5-10 baby spoonfuls before he protests vehemently, turns his face away while mercilessly swatting my over-eager feeding-hand, I guess it makes sense to feed him as often as suggested so it manages to meet the nutritional needs for his age. Perhaps this is precisely why they recommend feeding attempting to feed every two hours or so during daytime...

How then can I train him to not expect any meal from 7:30 pm to 5:30 am, from his bedtime to his wake-up time?

The books I've read so far on teaching babies to sleep on their own, for I do believe I should not be a crutch that makes him rely on me for his restfulness, seem to be geared towards getting the baby to fall asleep on his own in the first place, and then simply extrapolate the same technique when he wakes up in the middle of the night.

Now, when a particularly delightful and sweet-tempered baby decides that no amount of cuddling/patting/rubbing/singing is going to make his hunger pangs go away, and holds out for the measly 4-5oz* of beverage that he sucks down in almost a single long gulp, I feel terribly cruel denying him that in the middle of the night in the name of teaching him to fall asleep on his own. I mean, he can fall asleep on his own if he is not so darn h.u.n.g.r.y, it seems to me...
* and, I have greedily attempted to offer 6-8oz hoping he would sleep longer with a fuller tummy - quite an unsuccessful enterprise so far

Unbeknownst to me, and much to my exasperation, my mother has sneaked into me this seemingly altruistic belief that once I have kids, my life is not my own: I live, breathe, sleep, wake up, eat and think only for the kids, and God forbid I put myself first every once in a while and choose sleep over burnout.

I have been breaking out of it slowly now with Oggie (seeing how detrimental it was for me with Ana), choosing not to co-sleep but to be at a sneezing distance from the wee one at nights, one ear cocked to the tune of the baby monitor and feeling terribly guilty the whole time.

How is that better for me? Well, naturally, it is better for me because it is better for Oggie as he is not dependent on me to rock him or cuddle him to sleep - he can fall asleep on his own terms. But, more importantly, after I set him down for his sleep in his crib, I get to take care of my other domestic chores, and maybe sneak in a movie or show or some good-reading to relax, or perhaps even grope for a sense of fulfillment by indulging in some sewing/crocheting/knitting/painting before I retire for the night and catch a couple of hours before Oggie's tummy tugs at my heart again...

Quelle horreur! I chose not to co-sleep because I can have some "me time"?! What sort of a mommy am I?

When Ana was a baby, she would not fall asleep on her own, so I'd have her on my bed, cuddling and patting till she seemed in deep delta non-REM state, enduring my overfilled bladder and longing to read a book but not daring to turn on the light, or for that matter move much as that would wake her up screaming... it was harder for her to break out of it than me, I admit, but, she eventually accepted her crib away from my bed and learnt to fall asleep.

And, of course, each baby is different, so, I cannot expect Oggie to mimic Ana in every way, at least not at this age, not in any significant way... so, I have to figure out what works for him. And me, of course.

And, letting him cry for an hour before giving in and feeding him makes no sense. So, I watch for signs and count the hours before his wee tummy might feel the hunger pangs again - this depends on how his previous feeding went, naturally - and just get up and feed him. Which turns out to be every four** hours still!
** p.s: it is not like I have not tried loading him up right before bedtime with a thickish 8oz mixture of cereal with formula as the doctor suggested... after wasting about 6 of the 8oz for about 6 out of 6 days in a row, I decided to respect Oggie's tastes.

And my colleagues wonder why I bother chugging down decaf by the potful every morning, leaning over my desk dangerously close to resting my carelessly up-swept hair on the keyboard, blissfully unaware of my mismatched socks...


Asha said...

You know, when I had my first child I was in UK without any guidance except a doctor husband. I heavily relied on Western books to learn the child rearing and try to do everything by the book at first, but when the child arrived, natural instinct took over and I did what mother nature told me to do ie that is feed the baby when she wants and we both did fine. Yes, you have to wake up in the middle of the night for many babies but so what? Can you listen to your baby cry and not feed him? I couldn't. That's the sacrifice we make as parents, and it will be better after he is a bit older. Right now, do what you feel is right, you are the mom of that child and trust yourself that you are doing the right thing. I bet he will be happier and sleep when he is not hungry! :)

Sandeepa said...

I too get up mid-night to give the baby a feed. Though it hurts my sleep I like it. Since I don't feed her during the day the mid-night feeding makes me happy ;-)(some way to assuage the guilt!!!)

I feed dinner at around 6:30 -- 7:00 then the dad gives her a 4 oz bottle around 10, while I snuggle up with the older one. Midnight I get up to feed.

My daughter is a poor eater and takes a looong time to drink.2-3 oz is all I give at night(around 2 -- 3) and that takes 20-30 mins to be done. I do it part laying and doesn't feel all that bad. The only part I don't like is going downstairs to get & heat the milk, since I formula feed and that too a liquid one

Try feeding the last milk late(around 10 maybe), that way Oggie will get up for only one feed

bird's eye view said...

I did start out by feeding puddi at night but after around 6 months of age, I used to give her a formula feed at bedtime and that used to suffice till about 5 am. The 'baby whisperer' suggests giving them a 'dream-feed' around 10 pm ( a bottle feed but in their bedroom, without waking the baby up) to help mums get their rest. As of now my chug-a-lug sleeps around 8 and wakes up around 4-ish for a feed...working on extending that period.

tonymanx said...

It is nothing short of cruel to leave a hungry baby crying at any time. Of course a baby could get "used to it" the same way you get used to being beaten or not having parents or any number of non-optimum situations. Where do "people" get these ideas? And then these same "people" try to make parents guilty for doing what is natural and correct.