For many parents giving their baby a bottle of milk in the middle of the night is the solution to get the baby back to sleep. So many times this means babies are waking in the night and “needing” another bottle to get them back to sleep. The parents have unwittingly created a bottle habit. This can become a big problem, so much so that some babies start eating less and less during the day because their main source of nutrition is during the night.
So, what´s the answer?
As a sleep consultant I recommend having a night time routine with your baby. Babies as early as 3 months respond well to having a strict night time routine. When you put your baby in bed at night, it’s totally fine to include the bottle in her routine. But make sure you avoid giving your baby the bottle until she falls asleep or putting her in her crib with the bottle.
The problem starts here.
If your baby uses the bottle to fall asleep she will more often than not wake up during the night and want another bottle to get back to sleep. This habit is only teaching your baby that she needs the bottle to go back to sleep. The bottle is becoming a sleep prop to help her sleep and she doesn´t know how to sleep without one.
Having a lot of bottles throughout the night can also be damaging to little baby teeth. So, that is another good reason to think about teaching your baby another way to fall asleep. You can keep the bottle in the bed time routine but it´s a good idea to move it a step earlier. Ideally before you read a story or sing a song, that way your baby still gets to have her last bottle of the night, but she isn´t using it as a prop to fall asleep. After the story or song you need to put your child in bed awake for her to fall asleep by herself.
Many babies and children suffer from sleep problems in the first years of life. One of the main reasons why they are not able to sleep is that they have developed a sleep association and cannot sleep without it. A sleep association can be being breastfed or bottle fed to sleep, being rocked or held to sleep, using a pacifier, being carried around in the baby carrier, or pushed in the stroller. If the child thinks he needs these things to sleep, it will be very difficult for him to go to sleep without them.
It will be better for both of you that she learns to fall asleep independently so that you don´t need to keep going into her room with a bottle at night time.