2 Year Old Waking up Middle of Night for Milk

Updated on August 02, 2009
M.R. asks from Glendora, CA
10 answers

My 2 year old used to sleep through the night. Now he wants milk every night at 1am. He is now in a habit of it. How do I break it?

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answers from San Diego on

You have to get tough - just say no. It will be hard for a week or two, but eventually he will get the idea he can't drink milk in the middle of the night - bad for teeth too.

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answers from San Diego on

I have to respectfully disagree with Julie.

Many children wake in the middle of the night hungry, especially in a growth spurt. Milk is fantastic quick food (proteins, fats, sugars...all rolled into one). One of the best things that you can do for early development is to feed on demand. It not only promotes healthy bone/muscle/brain/organ growth...which of course is the MOST important...but for later in life it has their metabolism primed to believe that there is food aplenty and that it doesn't have to hoard every single calorie it comes across.

My own son was a faster grower than most (tall family), he'd not only have about 12oz of milk right before bed *every* night until he was 5...if he was about to be in a real growth spurt, he'd actually wake up and eat an entire meal...regardless of whether he'd eaten and drunk right before going to bed. (When he was about to start shooting up, he would actually double what *I* eat in a day...then of course he'd fall out of it in a month or two and barely eat enough to keep a bird alive...then start doubling what I ate again, ad naseam).

Which brings me to the next possibility:

I know several mum's whose children...if fed an entire meal (heavy on the fats) right before bed...would at least sleep until very early in the morning (6ish) before waking hungry. Actually this would work *sometimes* with my son, but it wasn't something that I chose to try and push.

Personally I would rather do the midnight snack thing (when he was actually hungry...instead of prophylacticly) and then get to sleep until 8 or 9 (and allow my son essentially 11-12 hours of sleep) than pump him full of slow digesting food and wake up reeeeaallly early, but having slept enough to not be able to go back to sleep. But that's me.

In any event, food is key. Whether it's in milk form or solid form, feed them when they're hungry...and then the waking hungry will pass along with the growth spurt. Usually in 1-3 months.

Good Luck

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

Okay, ditto Riley.

Now, no child stays the same all throughout childhood. This includes sleep patterns or abilities.
Sleep 'ability' can be tweaked due to:
-growth spurts... they get hungrier more often and need more intake.
- teething
- illness
-Cognitive deveoplment
- growing pains... which also includes ALL the developmental spectrums
- different manifestations of "separation anxiety" ( each age set has different manifestations of separation anxiety and needs for "bonding).
- Gross motor changes/hitting milestones
- Newly developing "night-time fears" or nightmares... COMMON at this age forth.

Now, BOTH my kids did that too, at the 2+ year old juncture. It is a major age change and developmental time of change. AND they get hungrier.
My son for example, started sleeping through the night from 2 years old... BUT when he was growing exponentially, he would wake TOO, once a night. THEN, he'd actually guzzle a whole 9 ounce bottle, then konk out again blissfully sleeping. For my son, I didn't perceive it as a "bad habit" because I knew he needed it. He was growing and hitting a LOT of milestones at this time, IN TANDEM with his once nightly waking... and yep, at around the same time as your son! My son would wake anywhere from 1:00-2:00am, like a clock.

AFTER he passed this growth-spurt, he went right back to sleeping all night. On his own. He'd occasionally rustle during the night-time and make noises (my son talks in his sleep sometimes and dreams a lot), but overall, I didn't wake him just because he made "noises." I let him be. Because I KNEW it was just normal natural night-time noises and stirrings. EVEN adults do this. But we don't know because we are sleeping... but I hear my Hubby doing it too!

If you go with the flow, letting the natural rhythm and pattern of a child's growth/developmental spurts happen... and needs for intake at night, then it will pass AND your child will be getting what they need.

Or, yes, you don't give them what they need, and have them just deal with it, but they will still wake.
Or, you give them a bottle of water instead.. .and leave it in the crib with them, so they can "self-serve."

What your son is doing is normal stuff. BOTH my kids did that and it passed. I don't view it as a "habit" that's "bad"... but rather, a normal child change of pattern that is temporary.

MORE sleep interruptions will occur. As a child gets older, they will even wake during the night because of night-time fears, night-mares= because kids this age have active imaginations and it IS a developmental stage, per our Pediatrician. Then, they will wake because they have to pee too, and are scared of the dark. Etc., etc.

Its a matter of perspective... but to me, not all "habits" have to be "broken." For me, there are normal/biological/developmental/sleep needs and difficulties for a child... THEN there are actual behavioral based "problems" which are then solved by various means of "discipline" or handling.

Not all inconveniences are "bad" nor that the child is trying to be cumbersome, "on purpose." It just is. Its a child's constant changing which is developmental and biological based.

Actually, your son waking just ONCE a night is pretty good. My daughter, at that age, woke a LOT more and was a very restless sleeper and very noise & temperature sensitive and would wake up at the drop of a pin. But my son, was "easier" and more oblivious to noise/temperature. So to me, in your son's case, it is not that bad, because it could be worse.

All the best,

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

My daughter is three. She still has a glass of milk before bed. Sometimes we pull through McD's for a milk because we know she will ask.



answers from Los Angeles on

i would just leave a sippy cup or a bottle in there when i went to bed and he can get it himself then put less and less in it til he stops waking or just leave water in a sippy i still do that..b/c i like to have water by the bed myself..also try carbs for dinner



answers from Santa Barbara on

Hi M.,

My son ( a long time ago) went through a stage like that. The pediatrician told me to stop giving him milk- or his stomach would get used to it in the middle of the night, not that he needed it. I think with him, once I decided no more night time milk- he didn't even wake up for it. That might sound strange, but that's what happened. If your son isn't that easy- maybe you could taper off by giving him a sip of water "if he's thirsty", but no milk- encouraging him to stop the water ASAP. Maybe similarly to my son, if you talk about that mommy and daddy and other big people don't drink in the middle of the night ( and that your 2 year old is a big boy too), that will help.



answers from Los Angeles on

Hi M.,

Unfortunately, I think there is only one way to break this habit. I have seen this happen many times in families - a child starts getting up in the middle of the night for either milk, food, wanting to watch a movie, etc. I have seen parents struggle for months with sleepless nights. The children, on the other hand really enjoy it. The house is quiet, the phone is not ringing, parents are not distracted with any other activities. There is no reason for the child to stop and they will not stop on their own - why would they - from their perspective this time is great. I think the only way to stop it is for you to stop it. Explain to him before he goes to bed that you will not be getting up to get milk...that even if he cries and screams that you will not be getting milk - that this is sleeping time and people do not get up in the middle of the night - getting up in the middle of the night is silly. Make it clear that you are not doing this any more. Then put him to bed. He WILL wake up and test you to see if this is true. He will try whatever strategy that uses that has been working to get what he wants - crying, etc. Remind him of your conversation. Tell him that you will not get the milk. Stay calm and just wait. This part won't be fun, but a couple nights like this will stop the behavior. He will test you and most likely give it all he has. When he sees that his strategy is not working, he will stop. Getting up in the middle of the night will no longer have the same appeal and he will definitely stop.

Good Luck!

P.S. Is he eating his dinner? If he is not, I would tell him that if he does not eat, he will be hungry and that you will not get up in the middle of the night. This is a natural consequence to not eating dinner and if he is crying in the middle of night, you can tell him that his tummy hurts because he did not eat his dinner. The next night at dinner, if he does not eat, remind him that his tummy may hurt at night if he does not eat. At age 2, even in a growth spurt, he should be able to sleep through the night... if he is eating during the day. Dinner may be the problem.



answers from Los Angeles on

Be consistant.... If you want to cut the habit you need to stop giving milk- there will be crying- but you can get through it....



answers from San Diego on

Hi M., I would say it's a habit. Milk is one of the worst things for their teeth, and no one needs milk in the middle of the night. You need to make him stay in his bed at night unless he has to go potty. Habits are not easy to break but if you just plain and simply stop. He won't like it but he will get over it. J. L..



answers from Los Angeles on

Think back to how you got your two year old to sleep through the night in the first place...back when you KNEW he didn't REALLY NEED to eat at 1-2 am (whatever age it was for him). I'm guessing there were tears, but after a few nights they stopped and he started learning his new routine? If you start giving in to his "new" demand for milk at 1 a.m then his little body is going to re-set its clock, and he will continue. Prepare yourself for a couple rough nights, buy some really good earplugs, be willing to turn OFF the monitor and stand your ground. Put some WATER in a sippy (with plug in) and show him where it is and that if he gets thirsty if he wakes up that is all mommy and daddy have at night for him because the refrigerator is closed at night. He will get it. Good luck.

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