Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Perils of Reverse Cycling

KellyMom defines reverse cycling as the occurrence of a "baby [that] nurses frequently at night and less frequently during the day."

I still contend that Dylan is a good sleeper, but he is reverse cycling. Just a few short weeks after Dylan came home, he was giving me long stretches of nightly sleep, and by the time I went back to work, he was waking between 3:30 and 5:30, eating, and going back to sleep. Bliss!

In the first month after I returned to the land of work, I was terrified that I would struggle to make enough milk to hit my 6 month goal of exclusively breastfeeding. He was eating anywhere from 14 to 16 ounces a day. I was making 15.

Ever so gradually, he began to eat less during the day and more at night. It was so gradual that I chalked it up to growth spurts or teething or colds. I'm now convinced that it's none of the above.

Sometimes breastfed babies will fall into reverse cycling. They'll eat little during the day--Dylan eats about 7 to 9 ounces from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.--and wake frequently at night. At first, he threw in a 12:30 or 1:00. Now, he's trying to throw in a 10:30, 12:30, 3:30 and 5:30. And somehow, I'm supposed to function under these conditions. He had a better schedule as a newborn!

There are a couple theories at work here. Some say that baby just prefers the breast. Others say baby is fulfilling an emotional need to be near mommy. Others still say baby needs to be forced to recognize night time is for sleeping. And others...well...they say it's time for cereal.

Here's what I think is going on with Dylan. I was home with him for 12 weeks opposed to 7. He had fewer bottles in that 12 weeks than Ethan. He's used to the breast. And I think he prefers it. So he says, "screw the bottle, Momma. I can wait for you!" He does want to be near me. Don't I feel so special. I think he spent so much time with me that he's comforted by me. He's all super cozy at night.

I do not think he needs cereal. For one, rice cereal is junk and I'm not giving it to him at all. For two, he's not ravenous or he'd eat more during the day. For three, he's growing just fine. He's not missing any meals. He's just choosing to get them all when I'm around.

At 6 months, I'm going to quit the pump and start supplementing. I'm hoping that he'll like the formula and want to drink it during the day, leading to less night feedings. And if he backs off, maybe I'll just keep him with me when he does wake to eat.

Every kid is different. Every kid is a mystery. But this mom...well, she's tired!


  1. bless your heart, that is just rough!

  2. I've said it before… I have NO idea how you are managing this schedule and working, Here I'm lucky to bathe and make dinner! I do think its really sweet he wants to eat with you though.

  3. I have never heard of reverse cycling but it makes perfect sense to me. So sorry about your sleeping. Too bad you can't sleep at work :)