The sleeping and eating habits of your babies is a constant source of worry for new parents. Though grandparents and doctors will reassure you over and over again that everything is normal, you'll probably still be pretty concerned more often than you'd like. One of the reasons the eating and sleeping cycles of your little one are so hard to feel comfortable with is because over the first five years they will change pretty often, and quite drastically.
There are a few reasons these changes are happening, and simply understanding what is going on can go a long way toward soothing your frazzled parental nerves. The following are the top five reasons your baby is having such dramatic shifts in her sleeping and eating patterns.
1. Body Plumping = Less Sleep, More Eating
Your baby will from time to time suddenly develop a huge appetite, while at the same time he seems to stop sleeping all together. This is caused by his need to stock up on baby fat. Baby fat is a basic building block for growing every part of your little muscle man's new body. However, baby fat is stored energy, so in order to store some of it, your little bunny will need to take in quite a bit more than he is using. Eating as much as he can hold means he has a whole bunch of energy, kind of like drinking several energy boosts, and it makes sleeping very difficult. In those brief periods where he does sleep though, his body will be converting any unused energy into baby fat, so those naps, even though they are hard, are still extremely important.
2. Body Stretching = More Sleep, Less Eating
Then suddenly just when you think your little cuddle monkey must be allergic to sleep, and she seems just about as plump as a cherub, she starts sleeping all the time, and hardly eating a drop! Some parents mistakenly think it is a sign that their rolly-polly bug has gotten lazy from gaining too much weight, but that is just not the case. What is most likely happening is that your sweetheart has stored up plenty of energy and now her body is using it to help her grow. The best source for building strong bones, healthy muscles, and efficient internal organs is that adorable baby fat. But turning the baby fat into new, bigger, better, body parts takes a lot of energy, so your little princess spunky-butt will be catching as much sleep as she can, even if it means skipping a meal here or there.
3. Brain Plumping = Less Sleep, Less Eating
Now, brains don't get fat, so "plumping" is a bit of an odd term. But what I mean is that during this part of the ongoing cycle of growth and development, your baby will be gathering information. He'll be fascinated by everything, looking around, grabbing, smelling, tasting, and generally absorbing everything around him. He's too busy to eat, too curious to sleep, and basically driving you crazy with wanting to play at 3 am. This phase is a hard one, because it takes a lot of energy from you and there seems to be no way to slow him down. Generally you'll see this behavior pop up around the time your little Sherlock passes a developmental milestone. The world will seem to change a lot when he learns to roll over, or figures out how to sit up. There are lot's of new things he'll need to learn very quickly! Don't worry though, this cycle will eventually take a break and let you catch a little much needed sleep too.
4. Brain Stretching = More Sleep, More Suddenly
All of that new information your little one has been gathering eventually needs to be processed into her rapidly growing brain, and nervous system. You'll notice a sudden change of pace, and your frenetic little huggy buggy will suddenly fall into a pattern of falling asleep in the middle of a big meal, and then needing a nap afterwards. This might look just like the Body Stretching part, but it is characterized by the suddenness of the need for sleep. Ever see a picture of a baby falling asleep mid meal? That baby probably is growing some important new brain cells, and translating direct experience into memory and cognitive function. Now, for babies that are still very little, you might notice that they fall asleep while eating extremely often, maybe even every time. Yes, that is in part because of how fast their brian is learning. It will slow down and eventually be much more rare for your infant to fall asleep while eating, but it is a very good sign when it happens, especially early on.
5. Immunity Boosting = More Sleep, More fussy
Sometimes your little button nose will have just had a nice long nap, much longer than normal, and yet when she wakes up starts fussing and crying as if she is exhausted! This is usually a good indication that your baby-cake is trying to fight off a cold. Your baby doesn't always catch every illness that she is exposed to, and the reason why is a healthy immune system. But the immune system needs a boost of it's own from time to time to keep running smoothly. This basically means that her body is going to need a lot more nutrients like vitamin C, Carotenoids, B Vitamins, Vitamin E, and Zinc among others. These nutrients are stored in your baby's body, in muscles, fat, and organs. So when she needs to process them into her immune system, she will not feel great, and need a lot of sleep. Usually there is no need to worry, but if you ever have the feeling that there is something more seriously wrong, you should talk to your pediatrician.
Just like us grown ups, our babies will sometimes have changing sleep patterns and appetites. It is important to remember that almost everything your baby does is completely natural, and normal. However, if you ever find that you cannot wake your baby easily with a little jostle and noise or notice that he is refusing to eat for more than 12 hours, you should bring it to the attention of your little one's doctor right away. There are few things our little squishy britches will keep doing from one day to the next, being cute is really the only thing that doesn't change. So relax and enjoy the roller coaster, your baby is just waiting for you to get used to this new pattern so he can change it on you again. Happy parenting!
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