Eating patterns and adjusting after breastfeeding

"My 2 year old nursed at night before going to bed until just a couple of months ago when she was weaned. Now she needs to `eat' just before going to bed. I don't know if this is normal behavior, or is she being manipulative, or if she is really hungry. She screams and cries if she can't `eat' at night. I don't want to create a pattern now for eating disorders in the future. Any comments?"

"She is probably used to a snack before bedtime. Let her have a cup of milk or something nutritious to eat before putting her to bed. She'll gradually not need to eat before bedtime."

"This could take a while to change habits such as nursing. Don't encourage or give in to the eating but maybe offer a cracker and small amount of juice or water. Put a limit on the amount and let that be known. You could also begin to offer and extra story, listening to a tape or singing an extra few minutes. Make sure they feel secure and make gradual changes."

"I nursed all my children at night (during the night) until they were ready to be weaned. Tony was 18 months, Phillip & Sarah were 10 months & 6 months. As soon as they could hold a bottle themselves I started putting them to bed with a bottle full of water. It won't fill them up or hurt their teeth. It seems to satisfy that night time sucking urge. Once I started that my children started sleeping through the night. They tend to be wetter in the morning but I don't mind."

"I don't think it's unusual for her to want a snack -- after all, how many adults end the evening with a midnight snack? My son (now 8) always had a snack (usually his choice of crackers and juice) before bed from the ages of 18 months to 3 years. As he got older his interest in eating before bed diminished -- by 3 1/2 he rarely had a snack. I believe that making an issue over eating before bed is much more likely to create a later eating disorder than just making it a part of the bedtime routine. It's not surprising that she wants some food before bed since she just stopped nursing before bed (that is, she's used to going to bed with some recent food in her stomach). Eating, just like `wanting another glass of water', or `reading another story', shouldn't be used as a

delaying tactic at bedtime, but could easily

become part of a bedtime routine".

"Maybe what your toddler misses before bed is actually the closeness she felt and not the feeding she was getting. Try a few ounces of milk before bed. (It is filling and nutritious.) Hold her while she is drinking and gaze lovingly into her eyes as you probably did when you were breastfeeding her. Make her feel warm and secure. Soon her dinners should tide her over until morning, but she will always need to be shown affection."

"I could be because her tummy is still small at this age and empties quickly, or it could be she misses the attention and comfort associated with nursing. Either way, a small healthful snack before bedtime will solve the problem and in no way cause future eating disorders - although it is commendable that you are concerned with this. Apple and cheese slices with a small cup of milk would be a healthy choice, and perhaps the snack could be followed with gentle teeth cleaning."

"She gave up a very special time and a very `close and special routine' being weaned. Don't deny her loss. But tell her you understand it. Try rocking and singing in place of the nursing. Maybe it's just the routine of those last waking moments being spent close and cuddled to mommy she misses and not the food. I'd try a `tippy' cup and warm milk in the rocking chair. Two is such a tender age, she's still a baby."

"When a child ends the nursing experience they still have the need for comfort and security that you give while holding your child while she is nursed. She does not know how to express it in any other way than saying that she wants to `eat'. My advice is to let her have a snack before she goes to bed if she asks. Don't offer her anything if she doesn't. Also, hold her before you put her to bed while rocking in a rocking chair or reading a book. She then would be receiving the comfort and security that she is really asking for."

"Unless she goes to bed quite soon after dinner, what's wrong with a small nutritious snack? Many 2 year old's don't eat enough at meals anyway and probably need healthy snacks."

"We always give our son fruit or ice cream before bedtime, although we try to give it about 1 hour before bedtime. I believe it makes for better sleeping at night and he doesn't wake up crying in the morning from being too hungry. When we were growing we always had a night time snack. I don't think you have to worry very much about it creating an eating disorder."

"I don't see that there's anything wrong with eating before bedtime, as long as it's not a full meal. `A snack' before bed is something I enjoy often and always have found to be relaxing. Perhaps a cracker and milk or some fruit, just enough so her little tummy isn't empty. When is her dinner time? If it's more than 3 hours before bedtime, she probably is hungry."

"Yogurt is a healthy before bed snack, or some milk, preferably followed by a drink of water. Our 2 1/2 year old sometimes likes a few crackers or Kix before bed and he always has a cup of water beside his bed."

"It seems a pattern had been set for her until you weaned her. I would continue to give her a snack or whatever before bedtime until she no longer desires it. She got used to the nourishment/routine of nursing before bed and what would it hurt to continue giving her something to eat. A relaxed attitude toward food is best. Making a big deal out of things would seem to cause future hang-ups regarding food."

"My twins (4 1/2) used to have a bowl of cereal before bed at 2 to 3 years old. I think it helps them sleep better and it is perfectly normal to be hungry before bed! At 4 1/2, they seem to eat a big dinner, and don't need a snack before bed, unless they go to bed late like in the summer."

"I think it's great that you nursed until she was ready to wean. That takes a lot of motivation! My 19 month old just stopped his bed time bottle and it's hard to settle him down for sleep. What helped me is to offer milk out of a cup and lots of cuddling, singing soft songs and rocking in a dark room. I also give him a pacifier and blanket when he goes in the crib. It's a tough transition for mom and child which takes time and extra TLC."

"I have a 5 year old who still has to have his `bedtime snack', and I still haven't figured out if he's really hungry or not. But I try to be casual about it, giving him complex carbohydrates (bread, cheese, peanut butter, etc.) instead of sugary snacks. We also have a long standing rule. He has to ask for his snack (I don't offer it), and it must be eaten before he brushes his teeth. If he forgets to ask till after, he can have only water. I figure if he's really hungry, he'll remember to ask for his snack, and if he forgets, he's probably not hungry."

"My children and I still enjoy an evening snack and their ages range from 12 years down to 2 months. A glass of milk and Graham Crackers I feel are pretty harmless. None of them are overweight and it helps to signal the end of the day. We eat dinner around 5:30 p.m., usually don't have a big dessert so by 8:00 p.m. they need a little something."

"When my one year old was waking at night to be fed, our doctor enlightened me on a biological fact. Our metabolism's have a memory. Children's bodies, like ours, expect to be fed at a certain time. Once a pattern starts, it's hard to break. The solution for our one year old was to feed water in the night, if anything. Your two year-old isn't abnormal, but is perhaps, hungry. Personally, I see nothing wrong with a bedtime snack. If it doesn't bother you, give it. Making an issue of eating with a toddler is more likely to cause problems than the time of day she eats."

"Eating may be her way of finding comfort prior to sleeping. You may need to help her find comfort from a blanket, or an animal or a pacifier. At the same time, a piece of cheese and/or a little milk is a good night snack if you think she really is hungry. I don't think this will lead to eating disorders."

"My eldest son was one to `need' food just prior to bedtime. It was because his body was growing and devouring the food faster than `sticking to his ribs'. A light food snack such as dry cereal, fruit, etc., is fine as in time it'll be hard to get them to eat anything and their needs slow down. Slowly weaning her off the night time snack may be necessary by age 4 or 5 as then food disorders usually begin, if she hasn't weaned herself off. Always encourage teethbrushing afterwards!

"In our family I have found if we eat early in the evening my girls are always ready for a snack before bed. I have found that if they are really hungry they will accept a piece of bread and glass of milk, sometimes they can have fruit. You know they are being manipulative when they ask for snacks such as chips, cookies or junk food."

"She'll eat what she wants. Also, offer her juice, water or milk. She was used to falling asleep while nursing. Read her a book and cuddle just before bed. She is used to the closeness. There is fruit also. She'll do just fine."

"You might try going along with her `eating' time but limit her choices of foods so that the snack time isn't too rewarding i.e.: water, meat, etc. Also, you could let your daughter know that after toothbrushing - no more food - for obvious reasons - and let her choose to eat before that time if she'd like. By making the toothbrushing time closer and closer to after-dinner time you may help eliminate her desire to eat before bed."

"I have a 6 year old and Twin 28 months old's and we always let them have snacks before bed. I make sure they are good food - cereal, toast, pop corn, etc. They are all well proportioned and not overweight at all."

"The worst thing to do is to assume because by this she'll have an eating disorder later. Try not to make a big deal about this especially in front of your little girl, she could pick up on it and then it could be a problem. As for a solution try replacing the food for a bedtime story or a little rough play or a drink of water. Soon she will forget about eating before bed and rather want to do the other activity. Good luck!"

"I don't see anything wrong with having a snack before bed. Just make sure it's a nutritious snack like; milk, cheese, apple slices, etc. Children don't have large a enough stomach to get all the food they need with only 3 meals a day."

"Concerning eating, I think it's important to have respect for your daughter's desires. If she wants to eat before she goes to bed, let her do so. It may not have anything to do with eating but obviously it's important to her, maybe she cherishes that time with you."

"I often allow my son who is 4 years old to have oatmeal or cereal (non-sweetened) before bed. It seems to satisfy his needs which I think is hunger. And it usually helps him to have a good night's sleep. More important is what he/she eats before bed, than if he/she eats."

"Overnight is a long time for a small tummy. My 2 1/2 year old has a snack before bedtime. Then we change her diapers, put on her pajamas, and brush her teeth. If she co-operates with her teeth, we read stories she chooses, and rock. If she is difficult, she goes directly to bed. I do give her second and sometimes third chances of co-operation."

"My daughter did the same thing. I'd say that she (your daughter) really is hungry. At 2, kids need more than 3 meals a day. I'd say that you're more likely to cause an eating disorder by depriving her of a snack at bedtime than by letting her have one. Adults eat when they're hungry, why shouldn't kids? Make it a part of her bedtime ritual."

"Any habit, once to a certain point, can be difficult to change. Mostly it will take patience and persistence. You could offer small amounts of milk or water prior to bedtime. You can substitute another activity, such as reading books in the chair you nursed her, or just cuddling and rocking her to sleep. Singing has always soothed my one year old when getting him to bed."

"Gradually cut down on the quantity and variety of food offered at night, until eventually she is only getting, say, a glass of mild. If you realize that there is no need for her to change immediately, you can do this so gradually that she'll hardly notice the change. "

"Two possibilities - gradually move the last evening snack earlier and earlier, so it eventually loses it's connection with bedtime, or (perhaps more likely to be successful) cold turkey the bedtime snack (she'll scream for a few days, but probably not more than a week, when she realizes that screaming won't bring the snack back). While you do this, though, you have to continue to provide the other half of what nursing used to provide - undivided close and physical attention just before bed (read a book, or do a puzzle, or sing a song or something instead)."

"Our daughter was the same way. We finally decided to put a bowl of cereal in her room at night. We weren't sure if she was hungry or being manipulative just to keep from going to bed. She was not allowed to leave her bed, but if she wanted to eat, she could. At first it was a mess, cleaning up cereal every morning but after a couple of weeks she didn't touch the cereal and we took it out of her room."

"Small children have small stomachs, so in order to keep them full they need to eat smaller quantities more often than adults do. I would allow her a healthy snack (such as a banana) before going to bed."

"I would tend to believe she is hungry. My 15 month old has just been weaned (bottle at night) and if she's not fed dinner an hour or less before bedtime, she needs a bedtime snack. Rice cereal and yogurt is great! Growth spurts and also the change of weaning is very draining to a tot. I vote that it is normal behavior."

"In the past your daughter was used to being held close and nursed as part of her bedtime ritual. Maybe you could try reading to her on your lap and allow her to have a little glass of milk and a couple of Graham Crackers. We have done this with our son after he was weaned and it has worked out well."

"I grew up in a family of bedtime `snacker's.' None of us are overweight. Nighttime is a long time for a two year old tummy, especially if she's accustomed to some calories before bed. Just make sure the snack is reasonably nutritious and that she has to brush her teeth afterwards."

"I think eating before bed is fine. I really doubt she is being manipulative - whether she wants food for the comforting effect nursing used to give or because she's hungry, allowing her to eat wouldn't create an eating disorder but denying her food when she's asking for it might."

"Don't worry about eating disorders quite yet. Remember, your 2 year old is struggling with a habit/routine that's 2 years old. She's known it all her life. So it is a big change. Try a `lite' snack before bed time - say, milk and fruit (or even occasionally a cookie). Bed time snacks can be very soothing. Our older children always enjoy it when dessert is forestalled for some reason, and they then have it with their pajamas on. You could try a sort of systematic dessert together - have a bedtime snack immediately prior to bedtime then over the course of a few weeks (months, or whatever works) move the snack to an earlier time till it's at a time you are comfortable with."

"Children have smaller stomachs than adults and need to eat small meals or snacks throughout the day. I find a snack before bedtime helps my children sleep through the night. If you don't make a big issue of it and provide her with a healthful snack before bedtime it shouldn't contribute to any eating disorder."

"More hugging time before bed. Let her nurse some."

"The way this question was worded, with `eat' in quotes, is a little confusing. Does she mean eat or does she mean the child wants to nurse? Personally, I think it's a good idea to wean a baby by about age 1 to 1 1/2; if you wait until they are older, it becomes very difficult to wean from the breast, the bottle, or the pacifier, because they get very set in their habits. If it were me, and my two year old still wanted to nurse, I would kindly but firmly put her to bed without nursing, but have a regular, fun bedtime routine with lots of hugs and bedtime books. Mostly because I can really sympathize with a parent who is ready to be done nursing! If my child just wanted some food, I would go along with that. It might signal a growth spurt, and in a few days I would try going back to the regular bedtime routine without a snack."

"I think kids usually are hungry before bed. I'd suggest letting her have a healthy snack (cereal, toast, yogurt, fruit, etc.) This doesn't seem like it would create any bad patterns for the future. She probably needs it to get through till breakfast - especially if dinner was early."

"If by `eat' you mean have a drink of milk, I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. Nor do I see anything wrong with a bedtime snack -- we've worked it into the bedtime routine of our 6 year old and it works well. One thing about kids - they won't eat if they're not hungry (that is, they don't eat because they're lonely or bored, etc. ) If she wants food, a healthy snack is fine. I've found my 6 year old will actually refuse a snickers bar if he's not hungry and he sometimes chooses to skip bedtime snack if he's had a big dinner. I believe in giving kids as much control over their own lives as possible especially in areas such as how much they eat. So, don't worry too much and don't make a big deal out of this. As with other things, especially food, kids will try to use this against you if they since it really bugs you."

"After supper, wait 20 to 30 minutes for desserts. Then explain to her that when she's done with dessert she'll brush her teeth for night time, and after brushing teeth she can have a glass of water before bed and nothing else."

"Listen to your child. She knows what she needs to ease this transition for herself, and she is telling you in the only way she can. Let her have her bedtime snack - make it nutritious and light. If you want to drop it later, begin to now and then `forget' - if she reminds you, feed her cheerfully. You'll know she doesn't need it anymore when she doesn't remember to ask."

"Try giving her a snack at bedtime - something not to sugary and when snack is done - take a toothbrush without tooth paste or a tiny bit and brush her teeth. She may grow out of bedtime snacks. I don't thing a healthy snack is bad at bedtime as long as the teeth are cared for too. At this age they need to learn to brush teeth anyway."

"A healthy snack just before bedtime can be a good idea. Half of a banana (a treat which actually contains an ingredient which aids sleep) can hardly be disapproved of. Even a small portion of yogurt is just enough `snack' to satisfy.

"She probably needs more `cuddle' time before bed like she's used to. Starting brushing teeth then holding close during a story or water bottle with the lights low may be an interim step."

"I think it is very normal to want to have a bedtime snack. I would definitely let her have a small snack. Refusing her a snack is more likely to create eating disorders than letting her have one."

"When our children were through nursing, I started the habit of having a small bowl of cereal (always unsweetened) at bedtime. As adults we often have a snack then and the little cereal the children eat seems to satisfy them. It also helps set the bedtime routine. I wouldn't worry about "eating disorders" unless it's a full blown meal she desires."

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