How many times have you heard someone say something like, “If you feed your baby A LOT right before bed, they will sleep through the night?” Come on, raise your hands. So how true is this saying? Let’s explore it, shall we?
Also, random side note, most everything I say in this article, and most of my other articles, will have another article you can find that will totally go against what I just said. It’s always your right to research, and figure out an answer for yourself. However, here’s what I think. And since it’s my duty to inform you, here goes! Take it or leave it.
There’s this thing some parents do called “cluster feeding” where they feed their baby a lot of feedings all very close together. Why? They hope that their baby will be so full that they will stay asleep longer. I didn’t even know this concept had a name until I had my twins. After researching it more, I realized that it’s something babies may even do on their own! EEEK! Most of what I read about it was always an explanation to parents on how to stop this behavior, as it is obviously not preferable for mom.
So why on earth would a mom choose to cluster feed her baby? Well, in theory, it sounds like it might make your baby sleep through the night, right? Let’s back up a second and talk about you, or even your older children. Sometime before bed, maybe about two or three hours, you probably eat dinner. You may even have a snack afterwards. You finish up your day, and head for bed. Now tell me, how often do you wake up in the middle of the night STARVING because you didn’t eat RIGHT before you went to sleep? I assume you’re going to say that this does not happen often, if at all. You wake up in the morning hungry enough to eat breakfast, but you most likely don’t wake up in the middle of the night starving.
Let’s split these two things up: eating and sleeping. Your body needs food to function. You consume calories, and then your body metabolizes them. Your body uses them to provide energy. Your body takes this energy and uses it to make your body work. Without taking in calories, our brains, heart, and other organs would just stop working. Your body needs sleep to repair itself from the wear and tear of your daily life. Sleep helps grow muscles, repair tissue, and synthesizes hormones. Food and sleep are necessary for our bodies to function correctly and optimally.
Now, I want you to think about how fast a tiny baby grows into a toddler. Think about how much food and sleep a baby needs to GROW, and so very quickly. So, wouldn’t it make sense that a baby needs to eat more often than you? AND, wouldn’t it make sense that a baby needs to sleep more than you, too? I surely hope you don’t need to grow as fast as a baby when you’re an adult. ;) That being said, would it make sense to say that a baby needs to eat more in order to sleep? You tell me.
Now, a baby can, of course, wake up because they are hungry. Maybe they didn’t get enough to eat at their last meal, or maybe you fed them while they were going to sleep, so they couldn’t get a full meal in. But why, why, why, why would a baby need to eat very few minutes in order to sleep all night? Shouldn’t one FULL meal be satisfactory?
As you think about all those questions, I’ll throw my experience at you for a minute. All of my babies have slept through the night (that includes my set of twins) by seven weeks of age. I have never done this cluster-feeding thing. And never would I ever want to! It sounds exhausting. So how could three individual children have slept through the night, that soon, without ever cluster feeding? Not even that, but none of them have ever been fed so they would go to sleep. You always hear moms talking about how they nursed their child to sleep? Red flags go up all over the place in my mind! How will a baby ever take a full feeding, ensuring they had a good meal, if they are so tired they fall asleep while eating?
Do YOU have to eat to go to sleep? Let's picture this. You’re sitting at the table enjoying your dinner. You know you’re exhausted, but you have to eat to go to sleep. You take a few bites; one bite, then another, and another. What seems like all of a sudden, you open your eyes. Food is stuck all over your face. You realize it’s 8 a.m. and you’re covered in food, while sitting at the table. This is how you slept all night. You get up, wash your face, and get ready for the day. Your night always ends like that, right? That's normal for you?
No, I didn’t think so. ;)
- Mama Jackie
*Sleep is essential. We need sleep to function, to take care of our children, to keep up on every single task life throws at us, to keep our sanity. Are you getting your eight hours or do you have a baby who is keeping you up? Let’s remedy that! In the “Rested Mamas are Happy Mamas” series of our blog, sleep expert Jackie answers all of your sleep woes. Have a question or problem that needs fixing? Comment on the series and Jackie will address your specific issue!*