Why is My Weaning Child Waking Up at Night?

Weaning your child from a feeding tube can be stressful and exhausting for a number of reasons, one being that often, a weaning child (even a toddler, preschooler and beyond) can begin to wake up at night, crying for reasons that they can’t quite articulate. When this happens, it’s important to remember that this is totally normal – expected, even! Sometimes, when kids wean, even though they are older, they will start to wake at night as they begin to regulate their daily intake. And while 3 am is sleepy time – especially for us parents! – there are some good ideas for helping you to get through.

1.     Go ahead and offer your child something to drink/eat, using language that can help them to associate what they’re feeling with the need to eat: “It sounds like your tummy is hungry. Let’s get a snack before we go back to sleep.”

2.     Offering a middle-of-the-night-snack can cause some parents to worry that they will form a bad night-waking habit, which is something that no one is particularly fond of. But at this stage, this isn’t something I would worry about. Offering a snack is a temporary support measure, used to keep things happy as intake regulation begins. Sleep will likely regulate itself again down the road.

3.     Teeth coming in at the beginning of the wean is super common: one hypothesis I heard is that the production of saliva in response to food, and the actual oral eating of food, helps to trigger the growth of dentition. In other words, the body is responding to eating happening by "helpfully" growing teeth. (Of course, this is not the only cause for tooth growth, but there's something there based on alllll the anecdotal reports of "My kid started eating and omg! The teeth are coming!") 

So for all of you tired parent who are once again navigating the not-so-magical world of night wakings, I raise my coffee to you with the happy reminder that this will not be forever. As your child progresses through her wean, her body will regulate, and sleep will come again! In the meantime, enjoy the extra caffeine!

Olga Owens, JD, Lead Parent Coach