When and how can I wean night feedings?Jan 25, 2022
If you are like many parents who is just finding yourself through the newborn phase into infancy, you might have just survived the every 2 hour nightly feedings! Or maybe you are starting to see your child is sleeping a couple hours longer the first half of the night, but there are still 2 feedings in the middle of the night you are wondering when they won’t be needed anymore?
Let's define that night feedings are any feedings that occur after bedtime and before your desired wake time. Here are some ways to determine whether your child is ready to wean those middle of the night feedings!
First, it's important to note that newborns (ages 0-12 weeks) are very likely and developmentally still likely to need middle of the night feeds. There are some babies who can be nutritionally capable of weaning night feedings around 4-6 months of age, while some might be more ready to wean all night feedings by 8 months of age.
SIGNS YOUR CHILD IS READY TO WEAN NIGHT FEEDS
- Your pediatrician says so! Before changing any feeding amounts or schedules, it is important you receive clearance from your pediatrician.
- Your child has started to develop a core night stretch, which is one long stretch at the first shift of the night without waking. This long stretch can be 4 hours or more.
- Your child has been consuming more during the day.
- Your child constantly drinks about 24-32 oz in a 24-hour period.
- Your child is waking at night, but when you feed them, they take very little and go back to sleep!
At the same time, as a parent, and working with so many, it’s a natural reaction to also being concerned about taking anything away from your child. This is where it’s important to know at what point is waking due to hunger or habit!
Pay attention to your hunger cues and log your feedings to be sure that your baby is getting enough for the day is key to successfully weaning.
HOW TO WEAN YOUR NIGHT FEEDS
There is not a one-size fits all strategy for weaning, and they can be done gradually or cold-turkey. Finding the right strategy or even group of these tactics that work together will depend on what you feel comfortable with as a parent, your clearance with the Pediatrician, and what you believe will work best for your child.
Adding a Dream Feed
While this isn’t necessarily going to remove a feeding, if your child is already showing signs of longer stretches, this could help move your core night stretch closer to your bedtime so you can enjoy that core night stretch at a more appropriate time for your sleep. Dream feeds, however, are not a sure thing, and are not effective for every child. Find out more about the dream feed in our other blog!
It is natural for babies even during growth spurts to find more effective ways to gain the calories they need during the day. If you feel this feels right for your family, you can look to start gradually decreasing your feed in the middle of the night by as small as .25 oz every few days until you have seen you are able to successfully drop that feeding. If you are breastfeeding, this can mean that you are slowly decreasing total time at breast every few nights.
Another strategy is to slowly push out your child’s middle of the night feeding to change their feeding habits. For example, if your child consistently wakes at 12 am for their first feed of the night, you can start delaying the feed to 12:15 am, but either encouraging them back to sleep, or delaying the feed to include a pause before responding, a diaper change, and some soothing. After a few days, some babies will begin to get used to the later feed. Once you see them consistently wake for that time, you will gradually add more time until it merges with the second feed.
Whatever method you decide to pick, make sure you are focusing on offering very full feeds and calories during the day. Once you are confident on your day feeds, pick an approach and make a plan to stick to it consistently for at least 2-3 weeks. You got this!
If you you aren’t sure what approach is right for you, or need a coach who can guide you through to finally get those longer stretches specific to your baby’s needs, I’m always here for you!
"Learn more about how we work with families to help their babies sleep 10+ hours at night without Cry-it-out or Ferber. Join our free webinar!"
Rested Mama, Happy Baby Founder
I'm your certified pediatric sleep coach and new parent educator, Mica Deshaw. I help families on their journey to establish healthy sleep habits and get the whole family sleeping again, working with children ages 0-4 years old.
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