Night Feeds and Weaning These
All babies will need to be fed in the night during the early weeks. There is no set age or stage when we ‘should’ expect a baby to be able to last all night without a feed because there are a number of variables to consider, for example:
- Developmental readiness
- Any feeding concerns or growth concerns
- Individual's overall feeding patterns and capacity
Keep an eye on how much your baby is feeding in the night. Making a night feeding log might help. Can you spot if it Is hunger or just a comfort thing?
If your baby is growing well and has no medical complications, he may be able to take on enough milk and calories during the day to not need any at night, somewhere between 3-6 months of age. Once your baby is lasting a night without milk, you know he can do it so try to hold him to this unless there is an unusual circumstance such as illness which would suggest additional milk is needed again.
A growth spurt is not a reason to bring back night feeds. If additional nutrition is required, they are capable of taking this on during the daytime.
If you are breast feeding you can cut down the length of time the baby is on each breast by about 5 minutes every few nights.
Once you're down to just 5 minutes of feeding, you can stop altogether and use soothing techniques instead.
Unlatch your baby when she finishes feeding properly even if this is sooner than the time you were working to and try to put her back down awake (even if a bit sleepy).
For babies who are formula fed, you can give a reduced amount of milk in baby's bottle every few nights until you are down to just a few ounces and then stop night feeds.
Step one is to reduce to just one night feed for three consecutive nights. Choose a suitable time for the feed such as, the first time she wakes after 3 a.m and stick to this rule. Any other night waking is to be met with your soothing techniques (not a feed).
Step 2 is the drop - On night four just offer your reassuring techniques for EVREY night waking and don't feed at all.
For this approach to be right for your baby, you need to be confident that the current night feeding is more for comfort than hunger.
Dream feeding works really well with sleep training because you offer your baby a feed when she is asleep, rather than responding to a cry with a feed.
You feel reassured that you know your baby has had enough calories and will not be hungry for the rest of the night which encourages you to be consistent with your soothing response to your baby’s cries each and every time she wakes in the night.
You can simply stop offering any feeding at night. After the last feed of the day, you ‘close up shop’ until morning (after 6 a.m)
If breastfeeding, it may help to have dad or another caregiver handle the soothing in the night so as not to ‘tease’ your baby who will expect a feed from mum.
This method is good if you are confident that your child is not hungry in the night.
If you are not sure whether or not your baby still needs some calories in the night, you could follow the ‘Milk Reduction’ method above and once down to an amount that seems substantial enough, move to the Two-Step Drop method but remain on one feed per night for a little longer if necessary.
Doing it this way is more gradual and enables you to reduce rather than completely drop night feeding for the time being.