Parents can worry when their baby shifts around age 9 months because we often think of sleep and feeding in a linear way. So when our baby wakes up throughout the night again it can feel backwards. It can feel like the progress made has been lost and that something HAS TO be wrong! It’s ok, nothing is wrong.
Your baby wakes up throughout the night for the first few years of age for many reasons. Some are important, some seem like they shouldn’t matter so much, and others are just annoying at times.
I will always maintain that we don’t actually NEED to know why our baby wakes up and wants to nurse back to sleep. There are thousands of reasons why. If we meet their needs as they come, and make sure ours are met too, they will grow and become wonderful adults.
Consider these 3 things around 9 months of age:
1. As long as you are feeding in a supply and demand system, you can meet the demands no matter how and when they come. This means that you feed when baby wants and not on a schedule. This is the only way to maintain a full-term milk supply. When we purposefully reduce demand (weaning, night weaning, sleep training, stretching feeds) we may also be purposefully reducing our milk supply.
2. Requests for milk will change for many reasons. Mostly as a response to regulating milk supply which dips and increases all the time. Your baby’s needs for different types of milk, different components within milk, and even different quantities of milk will change all the time. When your baby needs more of something – more calorie rich or fatty, protein, quantity, etc. – they will change their demand to give your body information. The way they feed, the frequency and duration of feeds, and even the on-and-off behaviour that might come in between all send signals and messages to your body. Your body then translates these signals into what type of milk your baby gets. Amazing!
3. Around 8 to 10 months there is a huge transitional shift in their identity. Babies see themselves first as a continuation of mom’s body. Around this time they begin to realise they are actually separate beings. The developmental stage of object permanence comes in, and they have a stronger need to be closer to you and more frequently. It may become a very frightening world if they’re feeling this distance and don’t have access to their mother. Nursing helps them reduce the stress of the situation. Also, this is when separation anxiety sets in. As stress levels increase, your infants’ need for outside regulation of stress increases as well. Breastmilk and the act of breastfeeding has been perfectly designed to meet this need as quickly and intimately as possible.
Your baby is fine! No need to worry.
This new night waking that many experience at 4, 9, 12, and 18 months addresses and satisfies these needs well. It’s the normal process. It can feel so wrong when many business owners of sleep industry products and services create their market by convincing everyone that this normal behaviour is not okay. Some even propose it’s harmful. Of course we would worry with these kinds of messages. Of course we would do anything in our power to change it so we can have healthy babies!
As an Infant Sleep Educator, I assure you that meeting your baby’s needs – as your baby shows them to you – is an impactful way to meet your baby’s true needs.
Ashley Pickett, IBCLC