I'm feeling conflicted about a situation with my 3 year old. We've always been pretty low pressure about food around here. She gets offered 3 meals and 2 snacks a day, eats what she wants out of what I give her, and I rarely encourage her to eat any more after she claims to be finished. She tends not to eat much at any one meal/snack, but if that's all she wants, that's okay with me.
BUT - lately she's been complaining of hunger at night-time. Usually she eats supper at 5:15 or so and is asleep for the night by 6:45, but more often lately she's been having some trouble falling asleep. On these nights, after lying in her bed for a while, she starts telling me she's hungry, that she doesn't know how she'll be able to fall asleep without eating, etc. etc. In between my checks on her, she lies quietly with her eyes drooping - but she doesn't fall asleep, and when I come in to check on her, she reiterates that she's hungry and can't sleep. A few times I've fed her a dish of plain yogurt, and when she finishes it she goes to sleep instantly. Other days, she'll fall asleep quickly at bedtime, but she has this charming habit of waking up for several hours in the wee hours of the night - 3 - 5 a.m. or so. Again, she seems to want to sleep, lies quietly in her bed playing her glowworm over and over again. When I ask her what's wrong, she says she just can't sleep. After several hours of this, I generally will get her a little snack, and shortly thereafter she falls back asleep.
So, the first thing I'm wondering is if she's truly experiencing hunger that's keeping her awake during these times. I tend to believe her because she does not seem to be vying for my attention and seems to want to sleep, but you never really know for sure with little kids. Could she be feeling something that she's mistaking for hunger? Is she starting to associate the snack with going to sleep, so she tries to solve her insomnia by asking for food?
And if she IS hungry, I'm not sure if I should just give her a snack when she asks, or if I should try to teach her that she needs to do her eating during the day. It feels wrong, though, to encourage her to stuff herself at supper so she can fill her belly for the night. The way she eats at supper is a normal amount for her, but it just isn't sufficient to keep her full all night, apparently. So...do I force her to be hungry at night and refuse the snacks? Is it right to push her to eat beyond the point where she feels like she's done at suppertime? Or do I just keep giving her snacks when she needs them and hope she develops a larger daytime appetite as she gets bigger?
At three years old, I would consider pushing both dinner and bedtime back a little later and seeing if that helps.
Midwife (CPM, LDM) and homeschooling mama to:
13yo ds 10yo dd 8yo ds and 6yo ds and 1yo ds
Hmm. Her trouble falling asleep at the usual time is the result of a weekend trip where she went to bed at 9 p.m. two nights in a row, but she seems to be headed back to her regular bedtime, asleep at 7:30 the past few nights. She's funny with bedtime - I've tried to push it back many times in her life and it always creeps earlier and earlier. If she doesn't start going to sleep at her usual time, though, I will just push her whole routine back to better jive with her new sleep time. That would give her less time to get hungry after dinner.
I've been considering how to work a snack into our routine. She could theoretically snack on some cheese while we read books, and then brush teeth, but we only recently switched away from that pattern. She got too cozy during reading time and it was a fight to get her back out of the bedroom to do tooth-brushing. Now we do tooth-brushing right after supper and the rest of the routine in the dimmed bedroom, which seems to work better for her. But doesn't allow a snack. Sigh.
I also wanted to mention that I really don't believe that she's stalling. She is generally very willing to go to bed and to sleep at night. The "I'm hungry" thing generally crops up after she's already been willingly lying in her bed for an hour, by all appearances really trying to sleep. And if it was a stall tactic, I'm pretty sure that she wouldn't go right to sleep after the snack. I'm pretty sure that she really wants to sleep and really thinks that eating something will help. I don't know if that really means she's hungry, though. I mean, she also thinks that every stomachache must mean that she has to poop, so it could be that there was ONE time that she couldn't sleep because she was hungry and food helped and now she thinks that whenever she can't sleep she must be hungry. KWIM?
Leave a high protein, high fat snack like cheese or full fat yogurt by her bed. If she wants it as part of her bedtime routine, great. If not, it's there for her to nibble if hunger is keeping her awake after you've tucked her in or if she wakes in the middle of the night. And maybe it's time to stop checking on her, especially if she's clearly sleepy and then arouses when you check.
Any hints on the logistics of this? I don't even want to think about what would happen if I left this girl a dish of yogurt by the bed :) She's a pretty sloppy eater, still. And then, for the night, I'd have to have it in a cooler or something. I DO really like those snack ideas. I really don't want her getting used to having kind of worthless foods like pretzels or cereal at night, just because they're the only things I can figure out how to give her. I think plain full fat yogurt is the perfect snack for these instances, but I usually feed it to her, in her bed, in the dark, in silence.
As to whether or not I should stop checking on her...I don't know. It's so abnormal for her to take a long time going to sleep that I'm really not sure what's going on with that part of things. I DO usually do regular checks on her at night, as part of "learning to fall asleep alone" thing. But usually it's only one check and she falls asleep right after I go in that first time. I'd much rather just have her falling asleep quickly again!
I guess what I'm really wondering here is if there's a principle at stake about eating enough food in the daytime so that she doesn't get hungry at night. Whether I should be trying to "teach her a lesson" by refusing to give her food in the night. I really don't want to set a precedent of midnight snacking, but I also feel like it's cruel to let her lay in bed hungry and awake for hours.
Struggling with the exact same thing here too. No suggestions, unfortunately. We're concerned for her teeth.
Work at home, homesteading mom sharing child care 50/50 with my wonderful WAH DH. DD1 born Jan. 2010. March '12. DD2 & DD3 (twins) born Feb. 2013
We read books on the couch, go to the bathroom to brush teeth, and then bed is for sleeping and only sleeping. That could help with your new routine for snacks before night, but stear clear of carbs. Even cheese is mostly lactose, which is a sugar.
My 2.5 year old went through a phase where she needed a snack at bedtime and then the need went by the wayside. I think it may have been a growth spurt and we simply rolled with it. Remember that they are still so small with small stomachs and honestly I don't believe stuffing her uncomfortably full at dinner would make a difference at bedtime. Why not try to take a glass of water, her toothbrush, an empty bowl and a snack into her room, then she can snack during storytime, then brush her teeth and rinse while in bed, then simply get tucked in.
You know, several people have mentioned to me this week that they think my daughter looks way bigger all of a sudden. I'll have to measure her on the wall chart, but could definitely be a growth spurt happening. I like the idea of bringing the toothbrushing stuff into the bedroom. That could definitely work, and it wouldn't change the routine much, aside from putting Daddy out of a job :) Thanks for the suggestion.