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David - sleeping case study

David - aged seven months

Problem: excessive night-time feeding
Cause: fed too much convenience food

David, who was bottle fed from birth, would wake up screaming every hour and a half in the night, and was fretful and miserable for most of the day. When he was three months old, his exhausted parents decided to try the contented little baby routines. They later admitted to being both suspicious and sceptical about my advice and techniques because they contradicted nearly all of the advice in other book that they had consulted. However, as the other advice hadn’t worked, desperation led them to follow my routines to the letter. Within three days David was sleeping through the night and had become a happy and contented baby during the day. This pattern continued for two months.

Then, when David outgrew his Moses basket at five months of age, his parents decided that they would move his 20-month-old sister Andrea into a bed and give her cot to David. He continued to sleep well when moved to the big cot, but the move from a cot to a bed for Andrea turned out to be a disaster and resulted in weeks of hysterical crying and sleepless nights.

While the situation with Andrea was becoming steadily worse, exhaustion led her mother to neglect David’s diet and routine. He was given jars of baby food rather than the fresh food that had been an essential part of his dietary requirements. She also started to cut out his bath and massage in the evening. Soon David started to wake up every night at around 10pm and would not settle back without a feed, even though he had dropped this feed a good six weeks previously. Worse still, he started to wake up when his sister was crying in the night. His mother ended up giving him a formula feed in the night so that he would settle back quickly and allow her to return to a hysterical Andrea.

This excessive night-time feeding resulted in David eating even fewer solids than usual. He would take only a small amount of cereal after his morning bottle – about two tablespoonfuls at lunchtime, and two teaspoonfuls of baby rice mixed with milk at teatime. This was too little and did not include any form of protein, which is essential for a baby aged seven months and weighing 17lb.

Although she was exhausted trying to deal with two sleepless children, David’s mother followed my advice and made two batches of chicken and vegetable casserole and two batches of lentil and vegetable casserole. Within two days of introducing this food at lunchtime, David began to drink less in the night. She gradually increased his lunchtime solids to six tablespoonfuls of chicken or lentil casserole and his teatime baby rice from two teaspoonfuls to six teaspoonfuls mixed with a couple of tablespoonfuls of either fruit or vegetable puree. These amounts were much more realistic for a baby of David’s age and weight. Although he continued to wake for a further four nights at 10pm, his mother was able to settle him back to sleep with a small drink of cool boiled water. Within a further three nights, David was back to sleeping from 7pm to 7am.

I believe that the main cause of David’s sudden night-time waking was genuine hunger caused by not receiving the correct amounts of the right sort of food for his age and weight. In my experience, the occasional use of convenience food is fine, but babies who are being fed constantly from jars and packets are much more likely to develop sleep problems related to feeding.


Gina offers a personal telephone consultation service to parents of young babies and toddlers who are struggling with feeding, sleeping and behavioural problems. Over the last twenty years Gina has helped over 10,000 parents resolve serious sleeping and feeding issues.

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If you wish further details of how a personal one-to-one telephone consultation with Gina Ford works, we would request that in the first instance that you send a detailed feeding and sleeping diary for 48 hours, along with a concise summary of what you think your problem is, using this form. If Gina thinks she is able to help you we will contact you with details of the type of consultation Gina feels would be best for you, along with the cost of consultation.

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