When you first have your baby, you will feed often – too many times to count sometimes. As they get older you will find that the time between feeds increases. One of the common questions I get asked is “when should I stop feeding at night, and how do I stop?”
There are some babies who will drop the feed on their own. A lot of others will continue to wake for that feed – or multiple feeds out of habit or as a way to fall back to sleep.
A few things to consider:
- If your baby is 4 months or older, talk to your doctor or lactation consultant and ask if you still need to feed during the night.
- I work with a lot of clients who decide to keep up with the night feeds until 6-8 months when they are eating solids. If this is your preference, then stick with the feed until then.
- Are the nighttime feeds interfering with the daytime feeds? If you find that you have a very distracted eater during the day, a baby who doesn’t eat a lot but then makes up for it during the night; drop the night feeds. She will shift those nighttime calories to the day and she will start to eat better when she is awake.
- Is your baby really eating during the night, or is it just a quick feed to fall back to sleep? If it is only a few ounces, or a few minutes, then chances are she is using the feed to fall back to sleep.
“How do I get rid of the feeds?”
There are a few ways to do this.
- If your baby falls asleep on her own then you can let her fall back to sleep on her own without going in, or you can go in and respond to her, without feeding, until she falls asleep.
- If you help your baby to sleep at the start of the night, you can go in and help her back to sleep – but don’t feed her. You might decide to stop the feed to sleep association at the start of the night as well, which is a great idea! Find a method to respond to her, without feeding, and be consistent until she is asleep.
- Some people decrease the feed time or the bottle size. I would not suggest swapping the bottle out with water, because that can quickly become the new sleep association, and you will be waking up to give her water instead of formula/milk. If you decide to decrease the feed, plan it out on paper before getting started so that you have a clear date in mind for when the feeds will stop.
If you need to keep the feed for medical reasons, keep it until you get the go ahead from your doctor to drop it. At that time, pick one of the ways listed above to stop the feed.
Be consistent, and your baby will show you that she will be just fine without the nighttime feeds!
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