Why Does My Baby Always Wake Up Hungry?

What to do When Your Baby Keeps Waking Up Hungry?

Because babies are hungry quite often, it poses the question of “What am I supposed to do to get my baby back to sleep?”. As a fellow exhausted parent of a child, I set out to find some answers and here’s what I found from my tireless efforts of extensive research.

What are you supposed to do if your baby wakes up because they are hungry? It’s normal for newborns to wake up a couple times every night. This is part of their normal development so you shouldn’t worry about that. If you are adequately feeding your baby, there should be no reason for them to wake up because of hunger. A full baby is a happy sleeping baby.

Night feedings are a normal part of your baby’s development. However, if your baby seems to only want to eat at night, it might be a sign that their feeding schedule is off. Be careful not to vary your baby’s feeding schedule too much. Consistency is the key. By having a consistent feeding schedule, your baby will learn that nighttime is for sleeping, not eating.

My Baby Keeps Waking Up Hungry

It’s actually completely normal for babies to wake up being hungry in the middle of the night for their first year of their life. It’s a fairly common occurrence in most children. Some babies might actually even be able to sleep a full and uninterrupted 10 or 11 hours a sleep at a time, but that certainly is not the norm.

By monitoring their daytime feedings and ensuring that they are getting enough food throughout the day, you’ll be able to give your baby the opportunity to get a full night’s sleep.

However, your baby can be waking up for other reasons other than hunger in the middle of the night. I’ll go over that as well.

A Typical Feeding Schedule for The First Year of Their Life

The first year of a baby’s life is probably their most important, due to the amount of the development that they experience. Everything from their brain, body, intelligence, immune system, and so much more start developing at this time. Science and the human body are truly remarkable in every sense!

With these constant and altering developments, appetite, general hunger, and so much more will change during that time.

For newborns and for the first few weeks of any baby’s life, it’s absolutely critical that you try to get them to feed as much as possible throughout the day. It’s a difficult challenge for babies who are that young, because they’ll typically sleep all throughout the day and could possibly end up staying up through the night.

Make sure that you follow a strict and consistent feeding schedule, because your newborn will try to take advantage of you and your spouse/husband and get as much sleep and feedings as they want. Some of them will eat too much; some also eat too little. Usually after they feed, they want to fall sleep. If they don’t eat enough, and they frequently choose to not eat that much, then this will greatly increase their chance of waking up in the middle of the night from hunger.

Make sure that each and every time that you feed your baby, that you are patient and try to give them a full feeding if possible. Each child is different in terms of what they can handle in a feeding; it depends on their size, weight, and their age. Most babies will take roughly half an hour to finish a full feeding.

It’s absolutely essential that you give them a full feeding. If you know your child hasn’t eaten in a while, then it might actually be worth it to wake them up even if they’re sleeping so that they can have a feeding. If your child is younger than six months old, a good amount of times that they should feed is about four times the day. You could start at around 7 to 7:30 AM, and use three-hour interval naps between each time you feed them. Remember that 30 minute feeding goal that I mentioned above. If your child takes around half an hour for a full feed, then that’s usually a good sign.

The sooner you get your child into a consistent feeding schedule, the more well-equipped you’ll be to reap the rewards at night as well. It makes sense if you think about it. Consider this: if you feed them randomly throughout the day, then one can expect that your child will randomly wake up in the middle of the night too.

Once your child starts to get into a habit of feeding at certain times throughout the day, you’ll be able to also control how much that they sleep at night. Even if you’ve the perfect feeding schedule created, and follow it to a T every single day, your child still has the possibility to wake up in the middle of the night. However, if you follow a strict schedule and make it as consistent as you can, the amount of time that they wake up throughout the night will dramatically decrease over time.

The “Fake” Night Time Feeding

At around six months old, your child will begin to wake up much more frequently than before. At this age, your child is starting to develop a much greater and unique sense of independence and is starting to realize and be more aware of the world that is around them. At this time frame, you might notice that your child is starting to wake up more for “fake out” feeds.

What is a “fake out” feed? A fake out feeding is when your child wakes, then you put a bottle in their mouth and they fall sleep shortly after. This can even happen within seconds. Yes, it might be frustrating to witness, but try not to get too frustrated. Your child is actually waking up because that they enjoy you and your company.

It’s not needed to feed them or wake them up and try to feed them when they do fake out feed from you. The main reason that they woke up was because that they enjoy your company, and would rather be soothed and comforted back to sleep instead of fed.

How to Tell If Your Child Is Really Hungry or Not at Night

To tell if your baby is actually genuinely hungry or not can be quite difficult. Here are a few signs that can help determine if they truly are hungry:

  • Your baby falls asleep shortly after eating.
  • Your baby sleeps for long periods of time.
  • Your baby isn’t eating enough throughout the day.

The amount of times that your child feeds throughout the night will depend entirely on their age, when they are fed last, and so on. If your child is less than a year old, it’s completely normal for them to wake up at least once each night for a feeding. At around the nine-month mark, you should try to wean them off of night time feeding.

Switching Back and Forth Between Liquid and Solid Foods

Another thing that you can do to help your child sleep much better throughout the day and have less awakenings during the night, is by having them switch over to solid foods instead of just milk.

Solid foods such as bananas, green beans, pears, apples, and other soft foods are wonderful choices because they are thicker foods – they’ll make a child feel more full and are healthy and full of nutrients that your child needs for optimal development.

Most children in general are able to start eating solid foods at roughly 4 months old. To start the transition into solid foods, start your feedings with breast milk or formula followed by solid food. Even if it’s just a little, try something like have a spoonful and see how your child reacts.

It might even take a few tries for them to even consider it, and they might not like it initially. However, because their taste buds are still developing and changing, it can be quite a challenge to find something that they enjoy eating. You might have to go through quite a lot of food before you find something that your child doesn’t find repulsive and actually enjoys eating.

By switching to solid foods, your child will be able to absorb and get more nutrients that are essential to growth both mentally and physically for them. It’s also important to note that solid foods in general will make them more tired after eating them, but we can use that to carefully craft and incorporate into our naps and nighttime sleep.

Let’s say that your child is waking up at least a few times each night for a feeding. By introducing solid foods to them throughout the day, you’ll be able to slowly wean them off of nighttime feedings by adjusting their feeding schedule during the daytime.

If your child woke up at around 5 AM and appears to be hungry, give them some milk and count that as their breakfast. The next time that they wake up during the day, skip the milk and try to give them some solid food and see how they react.

The goal here is to get them to eat more solid food, so that they’ll be less hungry for milk and will be able to sleep for longer periods of time.

By doing so, you can attempt to completely erase one night time feeding. See how your baby does by doing that. Once they start eating enough solid food, they will be able to at least try this change. If your child is used eating during the night, this will be quite difficult, but not impossible.

In the event that your child does wake up in the middle of the night and is crying, try to put them back to sleep without feeding them if possible. They can always wake up another time, then you can give them as much milk as they want. Remember that you should be giving them at least 30 minutes to feed as much as they want/need.

What we’re trying to do is replace the nighttime feedings with more solid foods throughout the day so that your little growing little one can hopefully make it until a reasonable time in the morning before they are hungry again.

Before you try to get your child weaned off of the final night time feeding, note that it can be difficult and should only be attempted when you’ve met the following three circumstances:

  1. Your child is able to sleep consistently and doesn’t wake up until around 7 AM.
  2. Your child is able to eat various solid foods throughout the day.
  3. Your child should be having only one night time feeding for at least three weeks.

Once all these criteria are met, this is when you can begin to start weaning your child off of the night time feedings.

Even though it sounds simple enough, it can be much more difficult to actually implement. One way to carry this out is to gradually decrease the amount of milk you give your child each night when they wake up wanting to be fed. Aim for somewhere around 2 to 3 minutes less each night if you’re breast-feeding, or somewhere around half an ounce less via bottle.

Formula Feeding, Breast-Feeding, And Sleep

A question that a lot of parents consider is, “Will switching from breast-feeding to formula feeding/vice versa be an effective way to help my child sleep better?”

These different ways of feeding will impact your child in one way or another, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Let’s go over the pros and cons of each below.

Formula Feeding

A great alternative for others who don’t want to breast-feed, whether it makes them uncomfortable or if they simply aren’t capable of formula feeding. It’s generally agreed that formula feeding isn’t as healthy as breast-feeding, but there aren’t any obvious negatives to it.

Another positive of formula feeding is that it allows much greater flexibility when you’re feeding your baby. It’s as simple as filling up a bottle and allows for dad to feed the baby while mom gets some well-deserved rest.

Another advantage of formula feeding is that babies tend to formula feed faster than those who breast-feed. This is a great advantage because you don’t need to plan around as much for their schedule or their feeding time because of the reduced time.

However, the negatives are simply that formula feeding can’t match the overall quality of breast milk. Breast milk is simply superior in the nutrients that it contains in comparison to baby formula.

Breast-Feeding

It’s generally believed by various health experts that breast-feeding infants is the most healthy and beneficial way to feed them. It’s also recommended that breastmilk be a part of an infant’s diet for at least the first six months to one year of their life.

Breastmilk has even been called the “perfect food” for an infant. Not only is it great for their digestive system because it contains so many nutrients and antibodies from the mother, but it contains other essential vitamins and other proteins that babies need to grow and develop in the best way possible.

It’s also extremely simple to digest for babies and their stomachs will typically agree with it much more than formula feeding. The likely have less chances of constipation or diarrhea as well.

Another positive aspect of breast milk is that it helps infants become much more accustomed to different tastes in general, which will help them transition to solid foods much more easily when they’re ready for it.

Above all else, breastmilk is completely free and convenient to obtain. You don’t need to warm up any bottles, or head to the store for formula when you run out. You’ll have free, 24/7 access to give your baby everything that they need in terms of sustenance.

However, breastfeeding also has plenty of negatives. The first is the initial pain that most mothers usually experience in the first week to 10 days of feeding. If this persists longer, it could possibly even be an infection.

Breastfeeding also requires much more time and effort than formula feeding dose. It’s also less filling in comparison to formula feeding, so your baby will most likely have to be fed for a longer period of time, and much more often. Mothers who don’t have much free time in their day will find this difficult to fit into their busy schedule.

To all mothers who breastfeed – you also have to pay close attention to your diet as well, considering that you transfer everything you eat to your breastmilk. If any of you moms out there enjoy spicy foods or caffeine, you might have to take a break for quite some time in order breastfeed.

Which of These Are Better for Helping Babies Sleep Longer and Better?

It’s been shown that babies who are formula fed usually sleep longer than babies who are breast-fed. Even though the evidence and studies are fairly limited, most moms agree that babies will sleep longer through the night if you give them formula food instead of breast milk. What are some of the reasons for that?

Breastmilk is actually digested faster than formula food, which means that your baby will usually become much hungrier in a shorter amount of time. It’s also means that you’ll need to feed them more often and for a longer time due to the intensive factors of breast-feeding.

Plus, children who have been breast-fed may tend to rely on it to be put back to sleep. This type of dependency could cause problems later down the road. Some research suggests that children who are breast-fed might actually have more problems sleeping until they’re about a year old. That’s a fairly long time for sleep problems for parents to deal with.

Given the information above, the choice is ultimately up to you and your significant other. Each choice has a bunch of positives and negatives, but try to give it some thought and pick whichever works ideally for both the mother and father.

FAQ

What is Sleep Training?

Sleep training is a method of carefully and consistently trying to change your baby’s sleep cycle so that they’ll be able to sleep in a way that both benefits them and your household. Initially when they are born, and as they develop, their sleep cycle and schedule can be fairly sporadic. What sleep training does is attempt to regulate their sleep cycle so that through different practices and techniques, you’ll hopefully be able to adjust their sleep schedule so that they’ll be able to sleep more throughout the night.

Why is My Baby Crying in The Middle of The Night? I KNOW They Aren’t REALLY Hungry because they just were fed a few hours ago!

There are several reasons for this – some completely unrelated to hunger. Other than being hungry, something such as separation anxiety could possibly be a factor as to why your child is crying at night when they are hungry. This is especially true if your child is around 6 months old.

This anxiety is simply caused by your child’s development and an increased awareness for their environment around them. Infants are still learning how to grow up, and with that comes them wanting to be more independent. However, they feel more anxious when they don’t have their parents around, and this causes them to be distressed and wake up throughout the night.

About the Author Elizabeth

Hi everyone, I'm Elizabeth. My beautiful daughter Alice keeps me awake occasionally...but when I'm busy and can't sleep, I post parenting tips and different ways you can get your baby to sleep soundly through the night, and even naps!

>