My 14-month-old doesn't eat enough at dinner time, so she is always hungry at 3 AM. When she is hungry she will cry for hour long, eventually tire herself only to cry again in 30 minutes. To prevent this we gave her formula at 11 PM (we essentially pick her up and feed her. She usually does not wake up).

I am looking for ways to make her eat better, but I feel like this will be a long war. I heard this type of night feed is not good for teeth, so in the mean time (before I can get rid of the night feed), what can I do to protect her teeth?

  • As an aside… Do you know what's in your baby's formula? Our son would also wake up every night, indicate he wanted to go to the kitchen and munch through a banana like he'd starved for a week. Then he stopped. That's not a solution, necessarily, but an alternative to — yuck! — formula. – André Levy Nov 22 at 23:45
up vote 1 down vote accepted

The simple solution to overnight tooth care for a baby that is genuinely hungry is to give a few sips of water to rinse the milk from her teeth after her bottle. This reduces the amount of sugars/lactose that can stay in the mouth and promote decay without the insanity of trying to brush her teeth in the middle of the night.

Personally, I would wait for her to wake from hunger and then offer the formula or a snack, since I think it promotes developing a healthy sense of one's own hunger cues more than a dream feed does. After a few nights of being offered her cup or bottle upon waking instead of being left to cry hungry, she probably won't get as worked up, but just drink and head back to sleep pretty calmly. However this is more of a parenting decision, vs. a proven fact.

I'm assuming your child as a few teeth.

  • I would try a variety of vegies and fruit (raw and cooked) to find out what she likes or doesn't like.
  • You could also change her feeding schedule, so you feed her lunch earlier or dinner a bit later or skip the snack before dinner.
  • she could also have food texture aversion, so see a paediatrician.

I think you should back off the 11pm sleep-eating. It just seems like a horrible habit to get her into, but I sympathize with the 3am alarm clock. Perhaps you could put a bottle of water in her crib. Show it to her when you put her down and tell her that if she's hungry when she wakes up she can have that. Then, encourage her to find it when she wakes during the night. Eventually she will be able to look for the bottle herself and drift back off to sleep. The water won't hurt her teeth and it will sooth an empty stomach. As she grows, you can substiute the bottle for a sippy cup, a sports bottle, etc.

Try introducing snacks throughout the day Try changing foods you offer at dinner Also try to give the milk right before sleep.

To keep the teeth healthy you can buy a baby toothbrush and age appropriate toothpaste.

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