Night Waking - Hunger or Habit?

Updated: Aug 10

We’re all willing to do whatever it takes to ensure that our babies are properly nourished.

But as anyone who’s been through this glorious journey of motherhood will tell you, kids are shrewd. They’re unimaginably clever. They will find ways to get what they want and they will repeat them relentlessly.

Which is not their fault, obviously. They’re just working off of instinct. They know what they like, and at a young age, they like Mum. A lot. I’m talking all Mum, all the time. You are to your baby what Pinterest is to middle age homeowners. Too much is never enough. And given the fact that they really only have one method of communicating, if Mum’s not around and they don’t think that’s cool, they fire up the lungs and they cry.

However, obviously they don’t only cry because they want Mum. They cry because they’re uncomfortable, or because they’ve got a dirty nappy, or because they’re too hot or too cold, and they cry because they’re hungry.

So when they wake up in the middle of the night and they start crying, it’s tough to determine whether it’s because they need to eat or because they just want to see Mum back in the room. I’m not trying to tell you that you shouldn’t respond to your baby’s crying. You know your baby better than anyone and I imagine you can tell when something needs to be addressed based on the decibel level, intensity, pitch, and duration.

But having said that, if your baby is waking up seven or eight times a night and insisting that you come in and rock them back to sleep, that can have a serious impact on everybody’s sleep, including theirs.

A lot of babies have developed a dependency on nursing, rocking, sucking, and so on, in order to get to sleep, and it’s not something they can overcome in 15 or 20 minutes. Solving that issue takes some real work and a firm commitment from you, but we can talk about sleep training in a minute.

First things first, here are a few things to consider when you’re trying to determine this oh-so-prevalent parental riddle.


Up until about the six month mark, babies typically need at least one nighttime feed. Their tummies are small, most haven’t started solid food yet, and formula and breast milk digest fairly quickly, so there’s a good chance they’re going to get a case of the munchies during the night. This isn’t the case for all babies, obviously. Some infants sleep through the night without a feed from a very early age and then compensate during the day, but generally speaking, you can expect to be summoned for a nighttime feed up until baby is about six months.


Once baby’s capable of sleeping through the night without a feed, you need to make sure they’re getting the calories they need during their daytime hours. The best way I’ve found to make this switch is to throw in an extra feed during the day, or by adding a few extra mls to each bottle throughout the day. This is also a great time to think about introducing solid foods.

The good news here is that baby’s body will typically adjust over a night or two to start taking in those additional calories during the daytime once they’re no longer getting them at night.

Just a quick but SUPER IMPORTANT reminder...

Before you attempt to make any changes to your baby’s feeding schedule, you need to make sure your baby is meeting their requirements for weight/length gain. Nighttime sleep is awesome but calories are essential. If your little one is underweight or not growing as fast as they should be, it might not be a good time to wean out night feedings, so again, chat with your doctor.


I’m sure you know this scenario. Baby starts crying 45 minutes after you put her down, you go in and offer a feed which she eagerly accepts, has a few sucks at the breast or bottle, then promptly passes out in the middle of things.

If this is happening frequent