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Reasons a Toddler Wakes Up to Eat at Night

by
author image Sara Ipatenco
Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.
Reasons a Toddler Wakes Up to Eat at Night
It is normal for toddlers to wake up at least once during the night. Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

You've breathed a sigh of relief because you can count on your child regularly sleeping for at least eight or nine uninterrupted hours every night. Just as you're settling in for a good night's sleep yourself, your toddler wakes up complaining that she's hungry, and it happens several nights in a row. Before you despair that you're back to square one with sleep training your toddler, find out what's causing the nighttime hunger so you can nip it in the bud sooner rather than later.

Night Waking

Most toddlers wake up in the middle of the night from time to time, and that is completely normal. If a toddler regularly wakes in the middle of the night, that is referred to as night waking. Some toddlers might wake up at least once each night, and that is something that you should look into since your child needs several hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Night waking can happen for any number of reasons including nightmares, the desire to snuggle with Mom and Dad, sickness or hunger, according to the Family Education website.

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Not Eating Enough At Dinner

If your toddler does not eat his fill at dinner, his stomach is likely to start growling long before morning. Monitoring how much your toddler eats at his evening meal will help you make sure his stomach is full before he heads to bed. Encourage your toddler to eat a good portion of the food you serve, and remind him that it will help keep his tummy full until morning. While you do not want to become a short-order cook, offer your toddler foods that you know he will eat. Dinner is a good time to serve his favorite pasta, soup or chicken dish. Save the new flavors for lunchtime when your child is not going to need a full tummy for the next 10 to 12 hours.

Goes to Bed Too Early

Your toddler needs plenty of sleep to be pleasant, as well as to grow and develop normally, and a regular bedtime is one part of meeting that need. If you feed your child an early dinner and put him to bed, he might get hungry before it is time to eat breakfast. This can especially be the case if you do not feed your toddler immediately when he wakes up in the morning, but instead make him wait awhile until the meal is prepared and the whole family is ready to eat together. Toddlers who are tired, which is why your probably sending your child to bed early, don't always eat well either. That continues to vicious cycle of going to bed too early and not eating enough food ahead of time.

Making It Stop

Before you accept your fate of having to wake up in the middle of the night until your toddler is a grown-up, know that there are several things you can do to encourage him to sleep through the night. You might consider waiting for a half hour to an hour to serve dinner. Instead of eating at 5:00, you could try eating at 5:30 or 6:00 so your child does not have to go as long without another meal. You might also try feeding your toddler a bedtime snack a few minutes before he brushes his teeth and gets into bed. A snack, such as a small bowl of cereal or a slice of whole-wheat toast with peanut butter, will top off his stomach, which ups the odds that he will sleep through the night.

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