Thursday, September 13, 2012

Sleep Part Five: Cereal vs. Formula

I do trust the medical profession.  I'm not someone who is suspicious of doctors.  After working with doctors for many years I believe a lot of them are lacking in communication skills, but nevertheless they are doing their best and want to help their patients.  With all their good intentions, though, I think sometimes doctors and nurses have no clue what they're doing!

At five and a half months Jeff and Aaron are still not sleeping through the night.  Is it better?  Yes.  There are times when we get four or even five hours without a feeding.  But some nights we're still on the every-three-hours feeding schedule as well as Aaron waking up once or twice between those feedings just because he...well...ummm...just because.  Yeah.  Just.  Because. 

After 167 days of four and a half hours of sleep each night I called the doctor yet again to ask what to do.  When you call with a question during the day you usually get connected with a nurse.  The nurse I talked to was nice.  She seemed genuinely sympathetic.  She understood why I was frustrated.  Here was her advice:

1) They shouldn't be needing bottles overnight.
I know...tell that to THEM!

2) You should give them cereal.
Against the American Academy of Pediatrics' advice (but in following my doctor's advice) we've been giving them cereal two times a day since they were about four months old and they still want to eat every three hours...or two and a half hours.

3) You should wake them up at about 9:00 p.m. if they don't wake up on their own for a final feeding before you go to bed.
When I wake them up and try to feed them they take an ounce or two and then fall asleep.  Plus, how does waking them at 9:00 and feeding them do anything?  All it does is make my feeding schedule become 9:00pm, 12:00am, 3:00am and 6:00am instead of 10:00pm, 1:00am, 4:00am and 7:00am.  Plus I run the risk of having a cranky baby. 

4) Are you sure they are actually hungry?  Do they actually take a bottle?
Yes, they take a full five ounce bottle.  We even tried giving them six ounces for a few days.  The nurse told me that six ounces was too much.  Again, tell that to THEM, nurse!

And my favorite...

5) Give them an extra tablespoon of cereal before bed and that will end the night feedings.
Really?  Two tablespoons of mush a day isn't sufficient but a third will solve all of our problems?  Ummm...did you not hear that we already give them cereal?  We do one during breakfast time and one around dinner time and after those feedings we still have crying babies two and a half to three hours later.

To recap: my children should know that they shouldn't be waking for several feedings in the middle of the night, feeding them 15-18 ounces at night isn't good and apparently one tablespoon of cereal should take the place of three bottles.  Oh, and I remember being told that babies know how to regulate themselves so we shouldn't force them to be on our schedule, but apparently that changed at some point even though I wasn't told. 

Got it.

By now I've learned to make peace with the fact that I haven't slept for months.  It has been going on for so long I don't know what I'd do with a real night of sleep.  When I finally do sleep I think it will be weird.  Tomorrow I'll be staying at a hotel (in a king size bed!) for a conference and we'll see if my body automatically wakes up every few hours.  Maybe the opposite will happen and I'll sleep for 24 hours straight and miss giving my presentation!

As hard as this is, I really do believe that babies do what their bodies tell them to do.  If that means they still need to eat every few hours, so be it.  For now, I think Derek and I will just stick to what we know how to do and what our babies tell us they need.  I'm also sticking to my theory -- doctors sometimes have no clue what they're doing.


  1. I put the plain rice cereal in my daughter's bottle at night before bed (replacing one scoop of formula with one scoop of cereal, so in a 6oz bottle we did 2 scoops formula and 1 scoop cereal) and whamo! She slept all night long. Might be worth a try? Good luck!!

  2. How often do the boys need to eat during the day?
    Could they simply have a fast metabolism and need more food?
    Ask Doc, ask the source of answer.
    IF they can go 4 or 5 hours in the day between eating, it is a different kettle of fish you are dealing with than if not.
    How is their weight gain?
    Normal and average? This would imply they need the calories they are requesting/demanding.
    If a bit slow then maybe they need a higher caloric formula or maybe just when they sleep. Ask doc this too. Not Nurse. Make appointment and ask doc in person.
    When you try and wake them for "dream feed, 9 or 10pm feed, do you strip em down to keep them from being warm and cozy and going right back to sleep and quitting eating.
    How many calories does the doctor think they need to be gaining at the rate they are gaining? How many calories are they actually consuming? Look at the differential and ask what doc thinks is happening.
    Some babies just need more calories and are not ready to eat less frequently. But maybe you need to be checking it out in clear grizzly bear parent style. Let us know answers too please.

  3. We could tell our youngest son didn't need to eat in the night anymore because he stopped finishing the bottles (I think he was about 6 months old.) At that point we increased the bedtime bottle by a couple of ounces and started decreasing the amount he got in the middle of the night, taking away an ounce every few nights. And after a little while of doing that we stopped the middle of the night bottle completely. I won't lie, it was rough, and for a while it meant we were awake longer in the night to settle him. But we stuck it out and did everything we could to comfort without giving a bottle or picking him up (unless he needed a diaper change.) And after a while he just started sleeping through the night and has been a superstar sleeper ever since.

    Until three weeks ago. (He's three now.) But I don't think you want to hear that story.

    Good luck!

  4. Remember these two things: a doctor has to work from a general template that's designed to fit most babies, while you have to work from the specific case; and the human body is a flexible and adaptable device that is capable of a great deal of self-regulation.

    Commensurate with those facts, and if they were my boys, my strategy would be to replace the last feeding -- what, around 9? bedtime, anyway -- with a MASSIVE (for a baby) meal of *thick* cereal, followed by as much of a warm bottle as they'll take. Stuff the bejeezus out of 'em. And be prepared for the next diaper change to be... potentially challenging. ;) But at least you'll be better rested. (I won't say "well rested" for at least another decade.)