When formula is life saving
Jenna was crying when I called her for her consultation.
She had just come back from the Doctors office, and had been delivered the blow that her beautiful 3 month old daughter Rosie, was still only gaining 50-90 grams a week.
Born on the 85th percentile, Rosie had dropped to the 5th percentile, and was being classified by her Dr as failing to thrive.
I listened to Jenna cry as she explained she had taken every herb available, she was pumping after each feed, despite nothing coming out. She was up feeding 2 hourly at night, and ensuring Rosie was at the breast at least 7-8 times a day.
Jenna told me how she felt like such a failure, she couldn't even feed her own baby, and on top of the stress of her daughter not gaining weight, she wasn't sleeping well.
This isn't surprising when you consider how closely linked feeding and sleeping are.
But isn't it crazy how much we blame ourselves for things which are entirely outside of our control?
We can't make our babies gain weight, yet we are riddled with guilt when they don't.
Jenna's Doctor had strongly suggested for Rosies health and well being, mum needed to start offering top ups of formula, and work towards getting 400-600ml of formula into Rosie on top of any breastfeeding she was doing.
We de-briefed and after a few deep breaths we had a plan.
Sleep couldn't be our main priority while weight gain was so low, but establishing a more consistent routine was a great place to start, while gradually increasing formula volume, and getting Rosie back on track.
After such a stressful 3 months Jenna was worried I would suggest we let her baby CIO, and there wouldn't be any options for her to improve the sleep, so she was relieved when I suggest we start by only working on her routine and not worry about settling.
Carry on rocking her to sleep........ words you would never imagine a sleep consultant would say.
I stayed in touch with Jenna over that first week as she increased the formula top ups, and Rosie was taking to the bottle.......like a hungry baby!
By the second week, Rosie was slipping into the nap routine I provided easily and the doctors were happy with the 210 grams she gained!
I was worried Jenna was becoming house bound, as she had spent so much time feeding and pumping over the last 3 months, and now with a new nap routine, I needed to show Jenna she could go out, and the wheels wouldn't fall off.
I challenged her to go for a walk for Rosie's 4.30pm nap each afternoon, and Rosie loved it. They left the house at 4.15pm and by 4.30pm Rosie was fast asleep, and Jenna was getting the exercise she had missed.
Next I explained how Jenna could take a bottle with her, and go to coffee group at 10.30am, she didn't have to stay home for all feeds anymore (no more pumping!). This went off without a hitch and Rosie still took her nap, despite only getting home at 12pm, after falling asleep in the car.
Jenna was relieved to see how she could have a life, and Rosie could still get her naps. A friend at coffee group had told her, the minute she booked a sleep consultant she wouldn't be allowed to leave the house anymore.
After 3 weeks, it was time to tackle the nights.
Despite 3 weeks of good weight gains, and formula volume increasing, Rosie was still waking 6 times a night, and this was becoming unsustainable for Jenna. She had realized that Rosie wasn't hungry at every feed, and was rocking her back to sleep several times a night, and offering a combo of formula and breast at other wake ups.
Jenna was worried I would suggest she drop all of Rosie's feeds now that she was close to 4 months old, and Jenna wasn't ready to night wean, she felt nervous and anxious about Rosie's weight gain, and she enjoyed the quiet breastfeeding at night.
But maybe we could ditch the rocking to sleep, and get a routine happening with these night wakes?
That's exactly what we did.
We worked on some gentle self settling to replace the rocking, and consolidated Rosie's breastfeed and random formula top ups into one full feed with a 150ml formula top up around 11pm.
Within 8 days Rosie was sleeping solidly, taking her feed and sleeping until 6.30am.
After nearly 4 weeks of working together Jenna decided to take a break and focus on enjoying what she had for a few weeks before she made a decision to tackle the naps or not.
Rosie was in a good routine, she was just being rocked to sleep, and often rocked back to sleep in her midday nap.
I heard from Jenna about 3 weeks later, Rosie was back up above the 50th percentile, but had become to resemble a bag of snakes when it came time to rock her to sleep.
With her new weight gains, came new strengths and new energy's, Jenna was ready to work on the naps!
We decided to use the same approach that Jenna has used at night for Rosie's naps.
Things were going well, and a week later Rosie was self settling for both her morning and lunch nap......BUT she wouldn't stop cat napping so the lunch nap was a hot mess, and there was no end in sight.
We chatted about the strategy and how gentle it was. The staying in the room with Rosie had been necessary for mum and baby a month ago, but now Jenna felt it might be over stimulating Rosie, especially as a re-settling tool, when bubs had already had a 45 minute sleep, and wasn't as tired as the start of the nap.
I couldn't agree more.
Could we switch techniques? Jenna inquired.
Yes! Don't think you are locked into the first technique you ever try, especially as bubs grows and develops and we change as parents. Making decisions based on babies temperament is ideal.
Thankfully getting out of the room and giving Rosie some space resulted in much LESS tears and after 3 days, a longer nap!!! 1.5 hours!
We were on the way to success.
This was a long journey for Jenna and Rosie, but starting formula, saving Rosie's life, then gradually improving her sleep couldn't be rushed, and shouldn't be rushed.
There is no ONE way or RIGHT way to improve your babies sleep.
The way that works for your family and your situation is the right way.
Emma is the owner and founder of Baby Sleep Consultant, she is a certified infant and child sleep consultant, Happiest Baby on the block educator, has a Bachelor of Science, and Diploma in Education. Emma is a mother to 3 children, and loves writing when she isn't working with tired clients and cheering on her team helping thousands of mums just like you.
Our Baby Sleep Program helps tired parents TO DEVELOP HEALTHY SLEEP HABITS BY FOCUSING ON NAPS, SETTLING AND NIGHT SLEEP.
- Empowered: Feel empowered as a Mum as you learn to understand your growing baby's needs and cues.
- Simple effective settling: Gentle, proven self settling, evidence based techniques.
- Content happy baby and parents: Better sleep creates content babies & happy parents.
- Freedom: Predictable routines and longer nights creates freedom. Solve your sleep problems for more freedom.
- Work with your babies circadian rhythm: Work with your babies biological clock for faster easier results.
- Awesome naps & nights: You'll create consistent naps and nights with our support.
Try our online sleep program, complete with FREE email support.
My baby has reflux can you help?
When your baby has reflux, feeds can be difficult and your baby can be in a lot of pain both during and after feeds. This pain can cause feeding aversions and failure to thrive. This is why true GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease) needs to be treated by a doctor. Once your baby's doctor is satisfied your baby is feeding well, and you have the right medication or formula then we can start a sleep plan and you will be successful.
My baby has colic will this help?
Colic is defined as 3 or more hours of crying per day in infants. Crying subsides in the second second trimester. If you are still experiencing colic symptoms speak to your baby's doctor about whether this could be reflux, an allergy, or over tiredness. We can help you work on better sleep with this program at the same time as your doctor investigates the pain and crying.
What if the program isn't working?
We have a dedicated help line to ensure your success. Just email our team via the details in your program and a certified, experienced and friendly sleep consultant is ready to stare you in the right direction to ensure your success!
My baby was born early, can you help?
Sleep is neurological so we always work off your babies neurological age, that is their corrected age. When you look at our sleep programs purchase the program that your babies corrected age fits into.
What if I have questions or need more help?
Our sleep programs come with private email support. You don’t have to post in any public forums or groups, just email the exclusive helpline that our team of certified sleep consultants look after and we’ll answer all your questions and help you on your way.
Can this program help with my babies night sleep?
Yes, all our online sleep programs contain night sleep plans. We will teach you how to move from multiple night feeds to 2 or 1 or none (depending on what is age appropriate and appropriate for your baby.) Don’t worry we will show you to figure this out too. If your baby is unsettled at night but not feeding, our plans will help you with consolidate night sleep and self settling when age appropriate.
My baby is cat napping can you help?
Cat napping is a very normal physiological stage that your baby goes through. At this stage (3-8 months old), cat napping can start to be a long term issue and compound into over tiredness and affect night sleep and your babies happiness. Good news, this is a great age to work on re-settling, self settling and better longer naps!
I have 3 children, can this work with my family?
I totally understand how busy life is with 2, 3 or more children! Even if you need a flexible schedule we can still work on settling regular naps (some on the go!), and better evenings and night. Flick our consultants any specific questions about your family's schedule of activities and we can help you work out what is possible nap wise.
I don't want a fixed routine, can you still help?
Yes. A fixed routine is one option, regular naps and regular awake times is another. Both are valid and you are welcome to do what works for your family. We understand you are all different and what works best for one family won't be best for another.
I'm formula feeding, can you still help?
Yes we have specific advice for formula feeding parents, and we support your decision to feed any way you choose. We even have a special video series on formula feeding and everything you need to know. Just ask our consultants about this extra if you need it.
I'm exclusively breastfeeding, can I follow your plans?
Yes! While breastfeeding babies need to feed frequently they still need quality sleep day and night. We have specific advice for breastfeeding mums and an exclusive discount on Julia Daleys breastfeeding course if you need extra help.
I'm bed sharing, can your program help me stop?
Yes. We often fall into bed sharing, we call this reactive bed sharing. Or we have simply changed our mind, and moving on from bed sharing we need some support. Our programs and consults will guide you through gentle sleep methods, which are more appropriate for most bed sharing babies who are moving towards independent sleep in the cot.
I'm feeding to sleep, can you help me stop?
Yes. Feeding to sleep is a common sleep association and one that works well for lots of newborns. Often we need to move on from feeding to sleep when it starts to cause short naps, or prolonged settling or frequent night wake ups as baby looks for their association to go back to sleep over and over again at night. We can teach you how to teach your baby to self settle and move on from feeding to sleep when the time is right.
I'm rocking to sleep, is their a solution?
Yes. These are common sleep associations, we refer to this as assisting to sleep. Let us show you ways you can develop independent sleep and settling strategies with our online sleep program, or one on one consult.
Is this program based on Cry It Out?
No. Cry it out is the common name for a sleep training method where you put baby down and don’t respond or check until they are fast asleep. There is no CIO involved in this program as we feel this should be only done under proper supervision. Instead we have included all our very gentle approaches and more mainstream techniques for you to choose from.
Is this based on Science or Art?
Both! As a scientist I (Emma) have spent over 8 years researching the science of sleep. I have educated and certified over 500 consultants around the world as sleep consultants, and have worked with thousands of clients. I love the scientific explanations of why we see the sleep patterns we see, and this science helps us to shape plans and solutions that we know will work. But there's an element of art to getting a baby to sleep, understanding the right combination of things that will work best, and this is where your instinct comes in.
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