Babies: Helping formula-fed baby sleep through night

My four-month-old daughter goes to sleep at 10pm and wakes up between 1am and 3am for a bottle. She's very hungry! We have started feeding her fruit mixed with cereal around 8pm, then offering three to four ounces of formula. If she is still hungry we feed her more formula. Is there anything we can do to help her sleep through the night?


Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

You probably have a couple of things going on here that are contributing to your baby waking up hungry.

First of all, cereal mixed with fruit is less calorically dense that formula so ounce for ounce she is getting less food. Because she is still so young, her stomach's carrying capacity is small and she may not be able to eat enough food to get her through the night. Secondly, she may be going through a growth spurt which is adding to her increased hunger.

The two together may be the cause. I suggest that you feed her the cereal and fruit earlier, perhaps even earlier than 7pm and then give her a bottle before she goes down for the night. If she has had the cereal earlier, she has had a chance to empty her stomach and work up a little appetite for the bedtime bottle, thus ensuring she drinks plenty and falls asleep on a full tummy.

However, if she is going through a growth spurt, even this may not work and you might just have to wait it out, hoping that once her hunger has died down she won't waken in the night out of habit. If she does, then you can help to break her of this habit by gradually decreasing the amount of milk you allow her to drink in the night until eventually she is getting none at all.

Your baby is still on the young side to be eating solids. At her age she really needs the caloric density of formula or breastmilk. Solids will only dilute that. Therefore, go easy on them, using them at this point only as a way for her to practice eating. Over the next couple of months you can gradually increase their use. You have made a wise choice to start with cereal and fruit. To help keep the calories up, mix the cereal with formula instead of water or juice. I hope you and your baby can get a good night's sleep!

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