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My child is 13 months old. She is breast fed, eats solids but doesn't eat a lot during supper time. Apparently she eats well at day care. She wakes 3 to 4 times at night and sometimes every hour. Twice I have ended up force feeding her baby porridge during one of these wakings and then she sleeps through till the next morning. She is definitely hungry. When we eat dinner she nibbles and I can't get her to eat more than she wants to. She has no problem eating biscuits and chips after supper so there is clearly space. I have now taken the chips and biscuits away completely. She refuses to have formula or a bottle of expressed milk - which I could add porridge to. How can I get her to eat more on her own so that she can be full and sleep longer at night without force feeding her?

  • What kind of solids are you giving her? Regular food? – Dave Clarke Jan 26 '16 at 13:56
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    Can you cut out (or cut down or make earlier) the afternoon snack so that shes really hungry at dinner time? Also shes old enough to try lots of new foods. Are you putting a small variety in front of her so she can try feeding herself at dinner? – user7678 Jan 26 '16 at 14:15
  • Hi Dave & RachelC. Thank you for your replies. She eats with me at night. I make veggies, meat - either chicken or beef, potatoes - either sweet or normal and sometimes rice or couscous, sometimes I make stews. She basically nibbles. I do cut everything into small pieces and if she doesn't want to eat from me, I then put it in front of her to help herself. She still nibbles. – Leigh22 Jan 28 '16 at 5:36
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You must be very tired, and very stressed!

The good news is that I think you might be able to fix this quite quickly and easily.

But first, you mustn't ever try to force-feed your child. No matter how worried or tired you are, this won't work and could cause serious problems.

You don't say that your child is underweight, so I'm going to assume her weight is fine.

Therefore she is getting enough food, period. Because she has "space" for biscuits, it does not mean your baby is hungry or needs the nutrition. Most humans will eat sweet, high calorie food at any time if offered - that's probably down to the way we evolved, when it was a sensible strategy!

Unless there's some underlying medical problem, there's no reason your 13 month old now needs food during the night. If your baby is of normal weight, then she's getting enough calories, so there's no reason she needs to feed during the night at this age.

If you think about it, your final question

How can I get her to eat more on her own so that she can be full and sleep longer at night without force feeding her?

doesn't make sense. If she is of normal weight and in the absence of a medical problem, she can't both (a) be hungry and (b) need "force-feeding" in order to sleep. If she doesn't want food during the night, then I think there is no issue of feeding and the problem is entirely one of sleeping.

All humans, just like your baby, wake up several times during the night. If we don't have a sleep problem, we turn over and go back for another cycle, and we don't even remember the partial waking.

The problem is that she's not falling back into deep sleep by herself. My guess from the information you give is that she has a sleep association problem. This is like a habit; expecting something to be a certain, usual way when she goes to sleep. It can be easy to fix!

Therefore I suggest you investigate the sleep problem.

It might simply that your child has an association with something unhelpful, such as

  • you being there when she falls asleep (unless you are co-sleeping and you want to be)
  • being nursed or fed to sleep

In particular, if she is used to being nursed or fed to sleep, it might be that she is used to feeding when she wakes during the night, and now hasn't learned how to sleep without this (because you keep trying to feed her!). Since she's not hungry now, since her stomach has grown since she was a baby and she's now getting enough food during the day, that is creating the confusion for her and you.

To sleep independently, she needs to learn to fall asleep by herself so that she can fall asleep after her partial wakings. For more information, read the book by Ferber "Solve your child's sleep problems" which helped me immensely.

Good luck!

  • Hi MontyBom. Thank you for your reply. She is under weight. She started daycare around 4.5 months old and had what I thought was flu from about 6 months old till year old. She stopped picking up weight at the rate she was picking up. The doctors say she is 2kgs under weight. I thought the flu was normal as everyone says she will be sick all the time if she goes to daycare. Anyway, we took her for tests etc in December and it turned out she had Moraxella in her lungs. She is now better now and has picked up 900g in the last month. I will look for the book, thank you. – Leigh22 Jan 28 '16 at 5:50
  • I did take her to the doctor a few times while sick and got given antibiotics which seemed to help a bit but not fully. – Leigh22 Jan 28 '16 at 5:51
  • Sorry to hear she was sick. Our daughter got very sick too when she first went to daycare. (I think it is very common unfortunately, as you say!) I'm glad to hear she is gaining weight again. Since she is gaining weight, following an illness which is resolved, I believe everything in my answer still applies. (Obviously, first and foremost take the guidance of your doctor.) – MontyBom Jan 28 '16 at 10:23
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I asked a very similar question here about a year ago

1 year old baby won't eat in day, drinks milk all night

and I got some helpful answers although no-one could really suggest how to get my son to eat more.

A year on, we've had some success trying certain things and I think that just time in itself makes a big difference. It's not very well accepted by society now that extended breastfeeding and children waking up at night is a normal and natural thing. You only need to look at how many questions there are on this site and the internet in general to see it's not at all unusual. Therefore, if you want your daughter to eat more and wake less at night, you can't really expect her to just do it by herself for a while longer yet.

What we did that helped was some fairly basic and gentle night weaning. There are more structured and stricter versions you can try depending on how much you want to achieve. The idea is to get the baby used to having less milk at night and they will gradually compensate by eating (or drinking) more during the day. Search online for night weaning, you'll get lots of suggestions.

With us, we started with my husband going in for the first night-waking which tended to be around 12:30. He would offer comfort and bottled milk to my son but he didn't take it. He cried what seemed like a lot the first night, but checking the clock it was only about 20 minutes. The second night he cried less and after that he was OK and mostly stopped waking at that time. When he went back to sleep, he slept for as long as he would have if I had breastfed him. This and the fact that he refused bottled milk led us to believe that he wasn't really hungry at this time.

We then moved on to the next waking around 3 am. Occasionally he would drink some milk from the bottle but not as much as breastfeeding and after a while he stopped bothering. We had a good spell where he would sleep until anywhere from 4:30 to 6. I would then breastfeed and stay with him and he'd go back to sleep until it was time to get up. We could probably have cut out this too but I didn't mind it as I work full time, I enjoyed keeping this chance for closeness with him.

My son is gradually starting to enjoy his food more. He's still not a big eater, he's only a small child, but now he can speak he actually tells us he likes a food even if he doesn't eat much of it. We try very hard not to push him to eat although it can be difficult to avoid, especially if you feel that you're going to be up half the night. But the more he can communicate, the more we realise that there's no way to make him eat when he doesn't want to.

  • Hi MiniMum. Thank you for your response. My problem is I'm a single mom most of the time but when my husband gets back from his trip, I will try get him to go to my lg. I will stop the force feeding. I've only done it 3 times. – Leigh22 Jan 28 '16 at 5:42
  • Hi Leigh22. It will be easier to try this with some help but there are a lot of different ways to do it. There's even some for co-sleeping. One that I was considering trying was Jay Gordon's method. I think it's important to stick to something once you start so if your husband is away a lot then I'd suggest looking for something you can do mostly by yourself. Dr Sears also has some good tips if you want to try a gentle approach. – MiniMum Jan 28 '16 at 7:57
  • It is not at all clear to me that it is normal and natural or healthy for adults and toddlers to go night after night after night after night without a full uninterrupted night's sleep. Sleep is IMPORTANT, and a baby waking up 3 times every night probably isn't getting enough. Tiny babies evolved to feed through the night, but a child that old can get enough food during the day to get a full night's sleep. – swbarnes2 Nov 28 '17 at 23:52

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