I have an eight-month-old son who is bottle-fed. I have a problem getting him to sleep all the way though the night, and to take longer naps. I am also having problems getting him to drink more than four ounces at a time. He wants to eat four ounces or less and then wants more about an hour or two later. He only takes two to three naps of about 20-45 minutes each. I hear that they are supposed to be sleeping about two hours at a time. Any suggestions on getting him on a schedule?
Getting a young baby onto a schedule can be a real challenge. Unfortunately, there is no sure-fire formula, but let me give you a few practical suggestions that may help.
Before trying to work on your baby's feeding schedule, I would suggest taking him to the pediatrician to check that his weight and overall development are appropriate for his age and there is no physical reason he has difficulty drinking more than four ounces at a time. Consult with your pediatrician on how often and how much your child should be eating at a time.
What is most likely is that your son has gotten used to getting small amounts of formula around the clock so that even if he is not hungry, he expects food. Then, since he is not actually hungry, he only drinks a small amount.
I would start the day by encouraging your son to drink as much as possible. Then try and stretch out the times between feedings. Before feeding him, check if there is another way to comfort him. Change his diaper, play with him, and make sure he is not too hot or too cold. Try and comfort him without food for as long as possible. If necessary, you could even give him a bit of plain water (not juice - juice will only fill him up with non-nutritious calories.)
The main point is, stretch the time as much as possible. Since he is used to eating every one or two hours, don't expect him to jump immediately to three or four. Stretch it out as much as possible, gradually. You will probably find that when there is a longer time between feedings, your son will be hungrier and will drink more. I assume you have also started some solid food by this point. If your son enjoys "eating," try and see if you can supplement his formula with a bit of rice cereal once or twice a day. (Introduction of solids should always be gradual and done with a doctor's consultation.)
During the day: Unfortunately for many weary parents, some children simply do not need as much sleep as others. While most eight-month-olds take at least two significant naps during the day, there are some children who thrive with only a small amount of sleep during the day.
It may be that you are trying to get him to go to sleep too often, with the result that he is not really tired and then sleeps for short periods of time. Try for only two or even just one significant nap a day. Do not put your son down for a nap as soon as possible. Instead, try and keep a long time between when he gets up and his first nap. I know you are anxious to have a break during the day, but try and hold him off and you may get a longer period of time to yourself. Do not try and put him down for a second nap until several hours after his first nap even if the first nap is very short. He needs time to get tired if you can want him to sleep for a significant period of time.
At night: You have a right to expect your child to sleep through the night by age eight months. Here are some brief things to keep in mind when your son gets up in the middle of the night:
- Do not feed him
- Do not play with him
- Do not take him out of his crib.
I suggest going over to him, kissing him, and saying, "Mommy loves you, but it's time to sleep now" and going back to your room. If he continues crying, go in again five minutes later and then ten minutes later and do the same thing. Hopefully, you won't get past this point. I know this is simple for me to write and harder for you to do, but at this point in your child's life you both deserve a full night's sleep. This approach was developed by a physician named Richard Ferber, who wrote Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems. Of course, not every approach works for every child. I find this approach, effective. You need to judge if it works for you and your son.
Good luck with working on a schedule. Let me know if I can help with anything else.
Esther Boylan Wolfson, MA