BABY CARE

4 Ways to Baby Sleeping All Night

How to Wean Night Feedings

Babies sleep through the night around 4 months old but many eat at night until 6 to 10 months old. And, you’re probably wondering how to wean night feedings when your baby is ready. In this article, I’ll teach you 4 different ways how you can night wean and get your baby sleeping through the night based on my 15+ years as a sleep consultant!

In this Article:

How Many Night Feedings by Age

There’s often the question of whether your baby actually needs night feedings or if it’s just a habit to eat. How can you tell?

First, it’s a good idea to compare how many times your baby is waking at night to eat with the average for their age. Of course, if your baby has a medical issue or is not staying on their growth curve, there’s a chance your baby will need more than average. But, it’s a good place to start. Here is the average number of night feedings by age:

Newborn to 8 Weeks Old

Newborns generally have to eat every 2 to 3 hours. In fact, your doctor may not instruct you to wake your baby in order to eat. Once your doctor allows you to stop waking your baby to eat, we expect night feedings every 3 to 4 hours. If you’re breastfeeding, we expect your newborn baby to wake up to eat every 2 to 3 hours.

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9 to 16 Weeks Old

Once your baby is 9 to 16 weeks old, they will likely wake 2 to 3 times a night for a night feeding. Breastfed babies tend to sleep in one longer 4 to 5-hour stretch and then will wake up every 2 to 3 hours for the remainder of the night. Formula-fed babies tend to sleep in one longer 5 to 9-hour stretch and then another 3 hours for a total of one or two feedings at night. There is a small percentage of babies (usually formula-fed) who will sleep all night without feedings at this age.

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4 to 5 Months Old

Once your baby turns 4 months old, you might find your baby wakes more than when they are a newborn! But, usually, this has nothing to do with night feeding and everything to do with the 4 month sleep regression and sleep associations. If that’s the case, night weaning isn’t the solution and you should follow our 4 month sleep regression ultimate guide before you drop any night feedings.

If your baby is NOT waking excessively, the typical number of night feedings for a breastfeeding baby is 2 to 3 feedings and 0 to 2 feedings for a formula-fed baby.

Some formula-fed babies drop all night feedings at this age, however, that typically requires larger bottles every 4 hours during the day ala 12 Hours by 12 Weeks.

Note: Keep in mind that babies with reflux tend to keep more night feedings for a longer period of time.

6 Months and Older

After 6 months old, many formula-feeding babies are sleeping through the night for 10 to 12 hours without any feedings at all. If your formula-fed baby is still waking once a night, it is NOT unusual. With your doctor’s approval, you can try to use one of the methods below to try to get them to drop all of their night feeds. Alternatively, if you don’t think they are ready, keep one feeding for a bit longer.

If your baby is breastfeeding, many babies will still need to eat at least once a night AND it’s better for your milk supply if you do NOT go 11-12 hours without nursing. Even if your baby doesn’t need the feedings, we highly recommend pumping before YOUR bedtime to keep up your milk supply! If your baby is waking twice a night, this is NOT considered abnormal at all and it’s fine to continue.

For anything more than once a night for any baby 6 months and older, you might want to use one of the below methods to wean one or more night feedings provided your doctor has deemed it appropriate. Remember, if your baby has had any issues staying on their growth curve, it’s important NOT to drop night feedings too soon!

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More About Night Feedings By Age

Signs It’s Time to Wean Night Feedings

There are common signs it might be time to wean night feedings which include:

  • Waking more frequently than every 3 hours past the newborn age
  • Not going immediately back to sleep after a feeding (i.e. the feeding gives them a jolt of energy)
  • Going longer than 4 hours during the day between milk feedings

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Is Your Baby Ready to Night Wean? Quiz

When to Wean Night Feedings

If you are seeing signs it’s time to wean one or more night feedings, it could be time to start trying. Common ages to wean night feedings are 4 to 6 months, 6 to 8 months, 10 months old, and 12+ months old. But, there’s no reason you can’t start any time if your baby is waking more times than average!

When NOT to Wean Night Feedings

Based on my 15+ years as a sleep consultant, there are a few times that I hesitate to wean night feedings. Those include the following:

  • Your baby is still nursing every 2 hours during the day past 12 weeks old – This might indicate a milk supply, latch, or tongue/lip tie problem. I recommend seeing a lactation consultant before you start trying to night wean.
  • Your baby has reflux – Babies with reflux tend to eat smaller, more frequent meals. They often have at least one more night feeding than average so be cautious if your baby has reflux.
  • Your baby is going through a growth spurt – If your baby is going through a growth spurt, which often lasts 4-5 days, it’s usually NOT a good time to start night weaning.
  • Your baby is becoming more active by the minute – If your baby is suddenly crawling, standing, running… their metabolism is speeding up! That means you might need to increase bottle size, increase solid food (depending on age), or allow your milk supply to catch up. Give them a few days to regulate before you start dropping night feeds.

These are just a few reasons you may NOT want to wean night feedings. If you aren’t sure, please feel free to call us for a free 15-minute assessment. We can help you decide if it’s time.

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Types and Amounts of Solid Food by Age

How to Wean Night Feedings

There are multiple ways how to wean night feedings. I will outline 4 methods from the most gradual to the fastest in most cases. It’s hard to predict how your baby will react and sometimes the gradual methods simply drag things out depending on how ready your baby is. I recommend starting with a method that most appeals to you and giving it 3-4 days before you consider adjusting it. With all of these methods, your baby will likely be sleeping in longer stretches within just a few nights!

Delay Night Feedings

The first method to wean night feedings is simply to start delaying the first feeding of the night by 30 minutes while also keeping at least 3 hours between any subsequent feedings. Here is an example:

Current Feeding Times: 11:00 PM, 2:00 AM, and 5:00 AM

Night 1: 11:30 PM, 2:30 AM, 5:30 AM
Night 2: 12:00 AM, 3:00 AM, 6:00 AM
Night 3: 12:30 AM and 3:30 AM

With this method, you’d continue offering a full feeding at the set times. You’re simply delaying the first feeding of the night. If your baby wakes up before it’s a feeding time, you’d try to get them back to sleep until the feeding time comes.

Please note that some babies won’t go back to sleep before a feeding and that’s okay! We even expect it at times. We are helping your baby get used to longer stretches of time between feedings and that can take a few days.

Reduce the Size of Night Feedings

The second method to night wean is simply to start reducing the size of one or all feedings you’re already offering. For example, if your baby is drinking 6-ounce bottles or breastfeeding for 10 minutes, start reducing the feeding(s) by one ounce or one minute every night. With this method, you are curbing your baby’s appetite but NOT filling them up so they will eat more during the day. With this method, once you get down to one or two ounces or three or four minutes, some babies will simply sleep through it.

Combination Approach

If you combine these first two methods, you’d delay feedings AND reduce the size of the feedings. The goal here is to help make the first feeding of the day after you wake up larger. Here’s an example:

Current Feeding Times: 12:00 AM (7 oz) and 4:00 AM (7 oz)

Night 1: 12:30 AM (6 oz) and 4:30 AM (6 oz)
Night 2: 1:00 AM (5 oz) and 5:00 AM (5 oz)
Night 3: 1:30 AM (4 oz) and 5:30 AM (4 oz)

and so on. This is night-weaning all night feedings 100%. However, if you plan to keep one night feeding because your baby isn’t ready, then simply reduce the size of just ONE feeding like this:

Night 1: 12:30 AM (7 oz) and 4:30 AM (6 oz)
Night 2: 1:00 AM (7 oz) and 5:00 AM (5 oz)
Night 3: 1:30 AM (7 oz) and 5:30 AM (4 oz)

and so on… Eventually, you’ll be left with one full feeding around 3:00 AM or later.

Abrupt Night Weaning (and the Pros and Cons)

The final method to wean night feedings is to simply stop offering feedings at night abruptly and cold turkey. Between the bedtime feeding and morning wake-up, you’d simply stop offering any milk. This method is usually best used with older babies 10+ months old and toddlers.

The main pro of this method is that you’re usually done night weaning in just 2-3 nights if not the first night. It’s also less confusing to the baby and your baby will be sleeping through the night in no time!

The main con of this method is that you could be up for hours with a hungry baby. Some babies will stay awake for a while and go back to sleep. However, some babies will stay awake until they are fed. Even if it takes all night. If your baby is not truly ready to drop this feeding, you could be in for long nights. And, if you haven’t made sure you’ve addressed the common pitfalls (below), it might not work at all!

Common Night Weaning Pitfalls

There are common pitfalls that could mean night weaning not working. Here are the most common:

  • Offering too much solid food: One of the more common mistakes I see is that the parent is overdoing solid food. If your baby is not hungry enough for their milk during the day, they WILL wake at night for it. They can only eat so much in one sitting. Make sure you are offering the appropriate amount of solid food for their age.
  • Not offering enough milk or solids during the day: Is your baby getting 5-ounce bottles but ready for 6 or 7 ounces? Are you offering two solid meals a day and your baby is ready for three? Is your baby ready for a snack between meals? We, parents, get busy and if your baby is eating every 3-4 hours, you might not realize they aren’t eating enough during the day to sustain them for 10-12 hours at night without milk. Just like Goldilocks, the amount of milk and food needs to be “just right.”
  • Stalling: A common hindrance to night weaning is not moving forward. Are you stuck at feedings at 2:00 and 5:00 AM because your baby is still waking at 1:30? Keep in mind that there’s not much difference between a baby eating at 1:00 and 4:00 AM versus 2:00 and 5:00 AM. We sometimes don’t see progress until the total milk decreases at night so they will eat MORE during the day!
  • Replacing Feeding With Something Else: Was your baby waking up 4 times a night for a feeding? Now you’re rocking them back to sleep? If you aren’t also teaching your baby to put themselves back to sleep, it’s possible you will be up just as much as before even if you have night weaned.

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Night Weaning FAQ

What is the appropriate age to wean night feedings?

The appropriate age to wean night feedings is when your doctor has approved it and your baby is eating more times than average.

Is Night Weaning Gradual or Cold Turkey?

If your baby is under 10 months old, we highly recommend a gradual method of night weaning. Cold turkey night weaning is often fastest with older babies 10+ months and toddlers.

Does Night Weaning Help Baby Sleep Through the Night?

Not necessarily but yes, it could! If your baby is waking for other reasons besides hunger, however, night weaning will not fix all sleep problems. Be sure to review the common reasons babies wake at night.

Is It OK to Feed a 1-Year-Old at Night?

Yes, of course, it’s always okay to feed your baby! However, it may be unnecessary. Most 1-year-olds do not need to eat at night unless there is a medical or growth issue.

Can I Give My Baby Water Instead of Milk at Night?

You can give your baby water but it is usually unnecessary and may not help your baby sleep all night. Instead, we recommend you get your baby used to sleeping straight through without expecting milk or water.

Does Comfort Nursing Count as a Feeding?

Comfort nursing can be very beneficial to both mom and baby, however, we do not count this as a “feeding.” If your baby is comfort nursing, we usually have to teach them to self-soothe, NOT night-wean.

Can I Night Wean While Co-sleeping?

Yes, you can night wean while co-sleeping. However, if you are breastfeeding, we find sometimes it’s hard to get rid of the very last feeding while sharing a sleep space. It doesn’t hurt to try! We’ve seen many families do it successfully.

Sources:

KidsHealth

Originally Posted Here

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