When Did We Get a Newborn?

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Remember the sleepless nights?  Remember waking up every few hours to feed a newborn?  Remember feeling like a zombie the next day because you’re so sleep deprived?

Maybe you do remember this.  Or maybe you have blocked it from your memory for good.  Or maybe you are currently living these newborn nights right now.

We are.  We are living them right now.  But not because we actually have a newborn in the house.

We’re living it with a four year old.  He wakes up every few hours and claims “I’m starving momma.  My tummy is starving.

What do we do?  Do we feed him?  Do we send him back to his room?


I think a portion of this hunger is that he likes the independence of getting up by himself and helping himself to whatever snacks he wants without mommy and daddy telling him no.  Some nights we don’t even know he has woken up and gotten his own snack.  Some nights he has to come and ask me to help him open the packaging of a particular snack.

Last night he went to bed around 8pm.  He read books in bed and didn’t fall asleep until after 9:30pm.  He was awake by 1am asking for a snack.  I brought him back to his room and explained why we don’t eat in the middle of the night and explained that he needs his rest to grow.  He was up again at 3am wanting a snack and wanting to play.

We’re exhausted.  We’re not sleeping through the night.  And we don’t have a cuddly, snuggly newborn.  We have a temper-tantrum-throwing 4 year old instead.  One that talks back to us throughout the night.

What do you suggest? Should we feed him and allow him to snack in the middle of the night?  I’m afraid we’re creating a bad habit here by allowing him to do it.  Kind of like a newborn trying to wean them from their middle of the night feedings. If he truly is hungry, I don’t want to deprive him of food.

How would you handle this situation?  What should we do?

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  1. I’m a mother of four ages: 26, 23, 17 and 8.

    My youngest was the most challenging child, by far, of the four…and I had him when I was 40…very funny God. 🙂

    One thing I have learned over almost 27 years of parenting is that parents stress out too much over the wrong things. Like your child’s eating habits. My youngest is a super-taster and was so picky when he was little (say ages 3 and 4) that for a couple of years his food repertoire consisted of: Cheetos, cookies-and-cream ice cream (still his favorite), shredded cheese, spoonfuls of peanut butter, chocolate chip cookies, Cheerios…and that’s about it. Seriously. He stopped drinking milk when he turned three and since then will only drink water.

    I really don’t care about the parents who say I should have made him eat. He was a “difficult child” and if he didn’t get something in his belly every couple of hours we could look forward to a one-hour head-banging tantrum. Just not worth it. And guess what? He is incredibly healthy! (And we haven’t experienced tantrums in years though he can get whiny but what male doesn’t? 🙂

    I did nurse him for his first fifteen months and I think that helps. And now that he is older his eating habits are much better, for him. He will eat pizza and cheeseburgers and spaghetti and peanut butter sandwiches (no jelly, he has never liked anything fruit-flavored though he will now eat bananas and sometimes apples). He will eat oats-and-honey granola bars and Life cereal. For most parents they are so used to their kids begging for hamburgers and chicken nuggets…for us we were so excited when our son finally started eating hamburgers and chicken nuggets! For several years he was essentially a self-imposed vegetarian. Oh, and he will eat an egg if I make it as an omelet…something to do with a Veggietales episode I think!

    Anyway…on to your problem. Maybe your son really is hungry. Maybe you need to allow him to eat a larger “snack” before bedtime, kind of like a mini-meal. Make a big deal out of it. If he doesn’t have bed-wetting problems make sure he drinks plenty of water in the evenings because dehydration can mask as hunger…and not fruit juice, just water.

    Also, consider having a snack in his room that if he gets up and is hungry he can eat it. Obviously it needs to be something that won’t attract bugs and that he can eat by himself so he’s not waking you up. On the other hand, that may not really be safe. If he starts choking, would you know? So probably better to just make sure he eats something filling before bed and then tell him that during the night the only thing he is allowed is a glass of water. If you stick to that plan the novelty will likely wear off.

    If you want to connect more send me an e-mail: anne@homeschooling911.com

  2. Carol Abrahamzon says:

    Is he eating his dinner well? If not – no snacks, period! If he is I would offer a high quality bedtime snack then put a (safe to eat and deal with) snack and water on his bed table (in case he is going through a growth spurt and really needs the extra calories) and explain to him that this is IT! If you wake up hungry, eat your snack and go back to sleep. You are a big boy and do not need to wake anyone else up to help with this. The rest is just manipulation and attention getting tactics. I know you give those boys plenty of attention. 🙂

  3. My boys are older also (17,15 and 10). Honestly, I only had 2 thoughts on this.
    1) What is his nap time like? Is he still taking an afternoon nap? Honestly, I can’t remember when my boys stopped taking them. I do know that they were willing to give them up, long before I was reading for them to do so. My thought was that if he is still taking an afternoon nap, maybe it is time to either shorten it or cut it out, so he is more tired in the evening. I know that that is a horrible thought that you might not have that down time also.

    2) I agree with Karen. Maybe he is actually just thirsty. I don’t know if you could have a water bottle in his room. I dont know if this is really age appropriate. Honestly, that seems like it was so long ago that any of my boys were 4.

    3) I did like the idea of having a reward system for nights that he sleeps through the night and/or doesn’t get up to eat.

  4. Hi there,
    My kids are older (16, 13 and 6). The good news is this won’t last forever!!! 🙂
    Seriously, though, when you’re going through it, it is crazy. Here are my thoughts based on personal experience:

    1. Protein! Eating is one thing, but making the calories count is another thing. Make sure breakfast and dinner are high protein meals. It takes longer to digest which means kids feel full longer and the blood sugar doesn’t change so quickly. For bedtime, our kids generally have a glass of milk and a peanut butter sandwich.

    2. Water. He may not be getting enough to drink. When we don’t get enough to drink, we crave more food. Is he drinking 6-8 4 oz. glasses of water and/or milk a day? (My older kids drink about 6 8-oz. glasses of water each day and at least 2 8-oz. glasses of milk).

    3. Attention! Is he getting quality time with you during the day? Or is this his way of getting your attention at night? If he’s awake until 9:30 each night, maybe reading a story before bed would help. When he wakes up at night, the gate might help. Whatever you can do to minimize your reaction is important if this is actually a behavioral attention getter rather than hunger.

    4. Quality of his diet overall. Is he eating chips? cookies? and lots of carbs? or is he eating fruits, vegetables, yogurt (real yogurt, not the “kiddie” yogurt that is mostly sugar), whole grains and proteins?

    I hope this helps you!
    God bless.

  5. Oh my goodness, this is EXACTLY what we are going through right now, too! My eyes are so tired and heavy they hurt. One thing we do is put any dinner he doesn’t finish in the fridge and he has that when he says he’s hungry until it’s all gone. We do usually let him have one snack before bed. Today I went to the store and bought the child-proof refrigerator and cupboard “locks” because at this point he’s literally eating until he’s sick (two pints of berries a couple nights ago).

    I really think that mostly they have to learn the difference between hunger and just saying, “I’m hungry.” If he seems to get full at our regular eating times then I’m pretty sure he’s just saying it emptily later on. But, it’s good to remember, also, that 4 years olds use a lot of energy. Maybe that’s part of it, too-making sure they’re getting healthy filling snacks…

    Sorry for rambling…like I said, we’re going through it too…good luck!

  6. Can you put a gate up at his door so he can’t get out? It wouldnt be necessarily locking him in his room but it would limit how far he can get.

    Also I wouldnt give a snack at night. period.

    Teaching him it’s ok to use hunger as a excuse to be out of bed, to me, just encourages him to use other excuses when that one stops working.

    I’d give a small snack before bed, and maybe do a reward chart when he actually stays in bed.

    Good luck. Its so hard going from kids sleeping all night to suddenly one deciding sleep is no longer important.

I would LOVE to hear from you!

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