Updated: Dec 12, 2022
This is a very common question asked by many moms who are exhausted from feeding baby multiple times at night knowing that their baby does not need it anymore. They come to me and ask me how and when to stop these night feedings? As per the AAP guidelines when a baby is over 12 pounds of weight or over 12 weeks of age then chances are their little tummies are big enough to go all night without feeding.
When do you consider weaning night feeding, and how do you know if they will go without feeding or they just use feed as comfort or snack?
Are they eating well all-day?
Are they snackers or just taking comfort feedings?
Reflux or any other health concern involved?
Any other factor that needs that need to be concerned?
If your baby is over those markers of 13-pound weight and 3 months of age and you feel they are just waking out of habit or maybe just feeding to get comfort to fall back asleep
Talk to your pediatrician and ensure your doctor is comfortable with your no overnight feeding decision.
Signs of comfort feeding:
The minute you put the bottle in their mouth they start closing their eyes and get drowsy or pretty heavy
If you notice that your baby is only falling asleep while nursing at bedtime then they may not have the skill to put themselves back to sleep in the middle of the night.
At this point, you need to work on bedtime independent sleep skills first before you move further with dropping night feeding altogether. If you need one-to-one support in teaching baby independent healthy sleep skills then I am here to help families to strengthen their little ones sleeping skills.
Now you know “when” to drop night feedings.
Let’s move to the next step which is "how?”.
FIRST STEP - Monitor their everyday feeding amount
If they are typically feeding two times at night then you can start by limiting them to one first
Put some parameters around that night feeding, such as holding off until midnight and then feed somewhere between midnight and 4am.
Focus on reducing the number of feeding from two to one, and then down to none.
Check out the amazing features of the Onoco app. Good to track little one’s information in one place and learn more about their routines.
Method - how to drop night feeds?
If your baby is 6 months and up, cold turkey is often the best choice. Stop offering the night feedings. Night one will probably be difficult meaning but once baby learns to fall back to sleep without feeding then they will catch on pretty quickly!
The second method is to reduce the time per feeding:
If you normally breastfeed the baby for 15 minutes then drop the time to 10 minutes and gradually lessen the amount of time by 2 to 5 minutes every other day
If you are bottle feeding baby for 6oz normally then reduce the amount to 4 oz, 2 oz and then drop it to zero
Log everyday progress on Onoco app.
The most important thing is if you going to continue to feed but reduce the quantity of feeds each night, then you are going to do your best to keep the baby awake while feeding sessions because if they are feeding for comfort and to fall asleep then it really does not matter how much they are getting it but matters are they are using it as comfort tool! So you want to try to keep your baby awake throughout the night feeding so you can lay them back into the crib and they can learn new ways to fall asleep and not always fall asleep on those night feeds.
So the most important thing while dropping those night feeding is consistency.
The first night is going to be difficult for both mom and baby as they did not get control of middle-of-night feedings.
But if you can catch it through the entire first night, most babies will see some of the improvement the next day so on night two you may have the same number of wakings but they will be getting shorter. Most average babies with good independent sleep skills that they already have mastered at bedtime will see a reduction in night wakings and/or a reduction in the duration of night wakings by night three.
When I go for cold turkey with feeding, I find it’s a little bit quicker; however, for parents who are comfortable, they do a wind-down method. It may take a little bit longer for your baby to get the clue that night feedings are not offered anymore. So it may take a week or more before those night wakings are really resolved.
Choose one method and stick with it, and know that it will not be one night process! It might take several nights for your baby to get hang of it but if you stay consistent with your messaging and your signalling cues to the baby they can and will learn pretty quickly.
That's dropping night feeds, in a nutshell! If you feel like you already tried these tips and you want some specific tips then get in touch.
More uninterrupted sleep means the baby’s mind and body get more of those glorious restorative effects that take place during the night, making for a happier, healthier tomorrow!