Q. My son is now 6 months old, and he still doesn't sleep through the night. In fact, he usually gets up twice between the hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. He fusses and sometimes cries until I go into his room. His head is up and he is looking around. I pick him up and he starts to root. I feed him and he goes right back to sleep after eating for 10-20 minutes. (I'm still breastfeeding.)
I've tried water with no success. My husband has given him a bottle of formula, which he took and fell back to sleep.
My fear is that I'm encouraging a bad habit. Some friends advised me to let him cry for a few nights to break the habit. However, I'm not ready to do that. When I look at him, I see a happy, healthy baby growing at a rapid rate. He's in the 90th percentile for height and weight. Developmentally, he's ahead of schedule with creeping and sitting and standing. I started to give him solid foods a few weeks ago in the hope he would fill up more and sleep longer. He's just not that interested.
If I could be sure the problems would go away in a few months, I could survive. At this time I am not working outside the home so I can nap during the day. However, I plan to return to work in the fall. Am I deluding myself that he eventually will sleep through the night?
A. You sound like you're doing just fine--and so's your baby.
Six months is pretty late to want a nighttime feeding, and especially two of them, but six months is pretty early to be standing and creeping. Your son is just a big boy who burns up more calories than most children, which means he needs more to eat--and breast milk is what he needs most. The more foods you introduce to him in the first year, the more likely they will trip an allergy.
The possibility of a habit shouldn't concern you. If your little boy didn't eat much at his nighttime feedings, and then wanted to play or would cry to get in your bed, he would be waking up to get your attention, and that would be a bad habit. But this isn't the case. He only wakes up to eat and then falls right back to sleep for a simple reason: He needs those feedings.
If you get too tired, your husband can give one of the nighttime feedings regularly, preferably your own breast milk which you have pumped and bottled. Even if you use a commercial formula, on a regular, part-time basis, it won't kill your milk supply since it's adjusted by your child's appetite.
However, you may be able to change your little boy's schedule by offering him an extra feeding during the day and another before you go to sleep. A demand schedule works best when parents realize they can make demands, too.
As for what his eating pattern will be in three months--worry about it in three months. By then his growth spurt may have slowed and the solid foods you give should have more effect. Until then, let him have his nighttime feedings.