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Thread: 3yo asking for food to fall asleep, not weaned yet

  1. #1
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    Jul 2009
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    Default 3yo asking for food to fall asleep, not weaned yet

    Hi all!

    I'm having a concern, and I'm starting to think I'm crazy, because everyone I mention it to says that I'm overreacting, so I'd like all your input too ...

    My 3yo and I are still bfing, once for nighttime and once in the morning. This works just fine for us. But recently he has begun asking for food to fall asleep, over nursing. (Any food, but he prefers frozen food.) Part of the reason for this is that he gets congested from allergies, and the frozen food clears him up mysteriously. So this is one thing nursing cannot do, in fact nursing is very difficult with a congested nose. That part makes sense, but the fact that he is eating and falling asleep bothers me a lot! Sometimes he will spontaneously start falling asleep while playing, then awaken, and actually request food to finish the job off. After 3.5 years of this perfect bedtime snack (nursing), now he is requesting food, *any* food that will give him the sensation of eating and fill his belly to fall asleep.

    I was okay with nursing to sleep because it is mama, milk, and mama love, and human touch, etc. I am also okay with bedtime stories, babywearing (he still fits in the Ergo), cuddling, time with Dad, basically other rituals that involve settling with people, etc. But this food to sleep thing really bothers me. I'm worried it could set him up for really poor food associations, just wanting to cram food in to feel settled, stuff like that. I am pretty rigorous with my own eating, I eat because I'm hungry, and I could never imagine wanting to eat to fall asleep. But maybe that's not true for everyone?


    Am I overreacting?? Someone on another forum said that it's very common for kids to wean themselves by eating food to fall asleep. I'm not trying to wean him,but maybe this is something kids just do when the weaning process is left up to them?? I'd love to hear ...

    Thanks in advance!
    Patty with DS 3 years
    Mom to DS Pablo
    for 30 months and loving it!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: 3yo asking for food to fall asleep, not weaned yet

    I wouldn't let him eat when he was that sleepy just because it's a choking hazard, I believe. I don't think there's anything wrong with a nighttime snack, my 3 yr old has that, and I can't sleep if I'm hungry so I get that. If you're worried he's eating for emotional reasons, you can ask if he wants a storybook or snuggle time or how he is feeling. I have recovered from an eating disorder and we do talk about feelings a lot and ask if her tummy is hungry before she eats and as soon as she says she's full, we're done, no asking her to eat another bite or anything and I really reinforce "if your tummy is full then it's time to stop eating" so I think habits like that help avoid eating disorders although I know they're very complex.
    Nursed my sweet daughter 3 years, 3 mos.

  3. #3
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    May 2006
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    Default Re: 3yo asking for food to fall asleep, not weaned yet

    I would worry about eating and not brushing his teeth after if he falls asleep eating. I would worry about cavities.

    Perhaps look into other ideas to relieve congestion like a humidifier perhaps or...??

    I have never heard of this issue but it seems like something that a child would do, it doens't sound strange.
    Mommy to 3 beautiful girls!

  4. #4
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    Default Re: 3yo asking for food to fall asleep, not weaned yet

    Krystine, that was helpful. I was concerned about an eating disorder because of emotional eating. He sometimes suffers a disappointment (like not being able to get something he wants) and will ask for frozen mangoes to soothe himself. Wondering if you think that, at three years old, this might be cause for concern? I'm not sure how seriously to take this, just let him outgrow it, or actively say "no" or what ... I'm lucky that he will very honestly and sweetly confide in me the real reason why he's eating (for comfort, for hunger, for sleepiness, etc) ... I wonder if I should just give other options and distract, when his answer is "because I feel sad." etc. Thanks in advance!
    Mom to DS Pablo
    for 30 months and loving it!

  5. #5
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    Default Re: 3yo asking for food to fall asleep, not weaned yet

    Nola, thanks so much for responding. Yes, I'm concerned about cavities too. Just wondering, what do you think about offering something savory like cheese? Would you, as a parent, be okay with that in terms of dental health? Or would you not want him to fall asleep eating, period? (Wanting to double-check whether my resistance to this might be just me, or really valid!)
    Mom to DS Pablo
    for 30 months and loving it!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: 3yo asking for food to fall asleep, not weaned yet

    My son often wants a snack right before bed. Part of it is that he often has dinner around 5, and then needs another snack before bed at 8 in order to be full enough. It also was a delaying tactic for not going to sleep, but that doesn't sound like what's going on. If he's hungry before bed and you are uncomfortable with feeding him immediately before sleep can you offer him a snack 30 minutes before bed?

    Also, not to dismiss your concerns, but kids go through weird little phases. My son was creating more and more elaborate rituals for when DH or I left in the morning and when our nanny left in the evening. It was sort of getting pathologic. And now it's gone. It's like it never happened. So maybe that's a piece of it? I personally wouldn't worry about an eating disorder at this point.
    Ellen

    Mama-surgeon;
    DS Ethan 12/16/2008
    Breast fed/pumped 11 months as a surgical resident, 80 hours a week at work
    DS Abram Daniel 12/20/2012
    Feel like we've gotten a strong start

  7. #7
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    Default Re: 3yo asking for food to fall asleep, not weaned yet

    Thank you Ellen! There are more pieces to the puzzle because he uses the frozen fruit to help soothe his congested nose (allergies). So sometimes when the sensation of fullness or wetness in his nose bothers him, he will become so agitated and ask for frozen foods. So it's not just at bedtime.

    I hear you about the weird little phases. Yes, I've heard that too, and it helps to know that you don't consider this a concern just yet. I just spoke to an IBCLC near me and she said she'd worry about this at 5 or 6, and if it was his only way of falling asleep. So similar perspective, and that helped to know too.

    Thanks for chiming in!
    Patty

    ETA: I realized I didn't answer your question about offering it as a bedtime snack. Yes, I'd be up for that and we've started doing just that. The tricky part (and why I mentioned the nasal congestion) is that the request comes very spontaneously, depending on how his nose feels. I think ultimately he's trying to treat his stuffy nose so he can sleep, but sometimes it feels okay, sometimes it feels awful, it all depends.
    Mom to DS Pablo
    for 30 months and loving it!

  8. #8
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    Default Re: 3yo asking for food to fall asleep, not weaned yet

    I think having some other ideas for comfort would be helpful. So if he wants to soothe himself with mango, you could say, how about we read a book/color/whatever 1:1 he would like to do for attention/comfort. There's a book called Thin Kids that is (if I remember correctly, it's been so long since I read it) good about how to raise your kid to understand physical vs emotional hunger and eating food just when physically hungry.
    Nursed my sweet daughter 3 years, 3 mos.

  9. #9
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    Dec 2008
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    Default Re: 3yo asking for food to fall asleep, not weaned yet

    Also, if it's the cool sensation rather than the actual food, maybe one of those frozen teethers? Or a frozen washcloth? That way he's separating the coolness from the food?
    Ellen

    Mama-surgeon;
    DS Ethan 12/16/2008
    Breast fed/pumped 11 months as a surgical resident, 80 hours a week at work
    DS Abram Daniel 12/20/2012
    Feel like we've gotten a strong start

  10. #10
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    Default Re: 3yo asking for food to fall asleep, not weaned yet

    I'd offer a healthy snack before bed, and let him know that once he is finished, you are going to brush his teeth and put him to bed, and that after toothbrushing, there's going to be no more eating until morning. The risk of dental decay- even from a savory food as opposed to a sweet one- is just too high for me.

    If cold foods soothe his allergies, how about offering some cold water or crushed ice instead of food?

    ETA: Jinx!
    Coolest thing my big girl said recently: "How can you tell the world is moving when you are standing on it?"
    Coolest thing my little girl sang recently: "I love dat one-two pupples!"

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