4 month old baby feeding more at night

Wakeful 4 Month Olds • KellyMom.com

by Jan Barger, RN, MA, IBCLC, FILCA. Reprinted with permission from the author.

Image courtesy of tostadophoto.com / CC BY-2.0 flickr.com

One concern about some parenting books and pediatricians/ health care professionals (HCP) who give advice about sleeping infants is this: Baby starts sleeping through the night at, say, about 3 months — or is sleeping 5 to 6 hours instead of 2 to 3. Suddenly around 4 months, little Buford starts waking up at night to nurse. Mom is understandably distressed. Some books say “it’s a bad habit that must be stopped.” Her HCP says essentially the same thing. Someone else points out that since the baby slept through the night at 3 months, it is OBVIOUS that the baby CAN sleep and doesn’t need to breastfeed. The book goes on to talk about how the baby is now manipulating the mother. The pediatrician says he’s big enough to go without eating at night. Grandma tells her to let Buford cry it out. So does the book. There may be different ways of stating it, but in essence, don’t pick him up and feed him….

Has NO ONE stopped to consider the developmental stage of the breastfeeding baby that begins at about four months and can go on to 6 or 7 months? Think about your four month old breastfeeding — what is he doing? This baby is on and off the breast — so interested in the world around him he can hardly stand it. “Oh look! There’s the dog! Hi, Mommy, I love you SOOOO much! The phone?! A car went by. The TV is on. Big sister comes into the room….hey, there’s just too much going on for me to concentrate on eating. I think I’m full now. I’ll see you later…..”

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When I get one of these babies in my office, I have to observe the feed without saying a word to the mother. The entire feeding is done in complete silence so that the baby will EAT and not look around at me. How many times have you been told to go into a darkened, quiet room to get a good feeding? OK, now think about night time. Buford is really hungry — he didn’t eat well during the day. Nighttime is here; it’s dark, quiet, and he has mommy’s undivided attention. So he has a really great meal. Doesn’t take long — he’s pretty efficient by now. He gets down to business and completes the feed in short order.

But WAIT! Someone told the mother that the baby can’t possibly be hungry — just let her cry it out. Now mom’s milk supply diminishes because the baby isn’t eating well during the day — too many things going on, and she’s going through some new developmental stages (when Hildegarde is learning something new, she doesn’t nurse as well until the new skill is mastered), and she isn’t nursing at night either.  Now mom is going to have to work at bringing her supply back up again by adding pumping/hand expression to the mix.

Why don’t bottle feeding babies wake up as much at 4 months? Because by this time, mom has often handed the bottle off to baby to feed himself, and/or seats him looking out so he can check out the dog, the phone, the sibling, etc — and continue eating at the same time.

Please don’t deny that your breastfeeding baby is quite possibly very hungry at night at four months, even though they may have been sleeping through the night prior to this. Look at the feed — can you hear swallowing? Does your breast get softer? Is he EATING? Then don’t make him cry it out! He needs to eat….and he needs his mommy.

Copyright © by Jan Barger, RN, MA, IBCLC, FILCA
Lactation Education Consultants

No portion of this text may be copied or reproduced in any manner, electronically or otherwise, without the express written permission of the author ([email protected]).


Jan Barger is a mom of three, and proud Grammie of three and one due in 2017. She has been in private practice as a lactation consultant, worked for many years for a pediatric practice in the Chicago ‘burbs as their lactation consultant, has a background in all aspects of maternal-child health nursing, and currently teaches with Lactation Education Consultants – an organization that provides education for those aspiring to become IBCLCs. Jan is a past president of ILCA, was on the IBLCE board and exam committee, and is a co-author of Clinical Experience in Lactation: A Blueprint for Internship, and Clinical Instruction in Lactation: Teaching the Next Generation. She lives in Wheaton IL with husband Bob and loves to travel and read.

Causes and expectations by age

The magic phrase “sleeping through the night” definitely casts a spell over us as parents, to the point where parents can start to be concerned if their baby isn’t “sleeping through” by a certain age. The reality is, there are many factors that contribute to your baby’s ability to sleep well at night.

In this article, we are drawing upon our vast experience and interaction with thousands of babies to share what we consider to be some realistic expectations around your baby’s night sleep, as well as some very common causes of night waking at different ages.

I'm going to add a wee disclaimer here, because articles of this nature are always met with very differing (and sometimes critical) opinions: baby sleep, as a topic, is a real can of worms. People parent in so many different ways and we are not here to judge or force you one way or another. We are here to offer help, from our position of experience, if you'd like help.

If you are happy with your baby's night sleep or don't believe babies can/should sleep through the night, the following article  probably isn't for you. However, if you'd like some help with possible reasons for why your baby wakes at night, read on! 

In this article:

  • Night wakes between 0-3 months of age
  • Night wakes between 3-6 months of age
  • Night wakes between 6-8 months of age
  • Night wakes between 8-12 months of age
  • Other common causes of night waking

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Night wakes between 0-3 months of age


This is a huge period of development in your baby’s life - the biggest, actually, they’ll ever have! The amount of physical and mental growth that happens in these few months is massive, so they do need lots of fuel for all this growing.

At this point your baby will be entirely milk-fed (formula or breast) and milk is digested much quicker than solid food, so your baby will be feeding every few hours in the day and you can certainly still expect night feeds too.

Settling & Sleep Environment

At this age babies aren’t really capable of developing “bad” sleep habits, so don’t stress too much about how you’re getting them to sleep or that they’re feeding in the night. It’s really only when you reach the 4 month sleep regression that you will want to start thinking about your baby's sleep associations.

For any night wakes under 3 months, assume hunger and feed your baby. Make sure these feeds are done in the dark, change their nappy only if absolutely necessary and avoid stimulating your baby or they will be very hard to settle back to sleep!

We recommend playing white noise all night long and definitely keep it going during these night feeds. Feed your baby in the room they're sleeping in so there is no sudden temperature change. We also recommend that babies this age are swaddled to suppress their startle reflex. Keeping your baby tightly wrapped for their night feeds will also help them stay in the sleep “zone” and they’ll be easier to settle again.

If you have a windy baby make sure you burp them really well after their feeds or they might wake again shortly afterwards and can be more difficult to settle.


If your baby is waking a LOT in the night or staying awake for long periods it is often attributed to what is happening in their day and with their naps. They might be having too much or too little day sleep, meaning that they are under or over tired. See THIS article for more information about how your baby's naps can impact their night sleep.

Newborn babies can also sometimes have their days and nights around the wrong way, where they happily sleep all day, then stay awake all night! It's not difficult to reverse this day/night confusion simply by having a bit more control over their naps during the day.

If you need a hand with this, we have daily, age-appropriate sleep schedules in our Little Ones App that you can use to guide you. These schedules help to ensure your baby is getting the perfect amount of sleep during the day for their age, so that they can settle and sleep well overnight too.

Night wakes between 3-6 months of age


Between 4-6 months your baby may start waking more in the night for milk, genuinely hungry, even if they can self-settle and had previously been sleeping through the night. This is often a sign they are getting ready to start solids, as their calorie intake from milk alone isn’t quite getting them through the night anymore.

Milk is still the most important food for a baby until 8 months of age, however, milk is digested very quickly and doesn't sustain your baby for long periods. So if your baby is breastfed or bottle-fed and you don't want to start solids until 6 months, you will need to assume your baby's overnight wake is due to hunger and feed them straight away.

If you have started solids and your baby is still waking, you may need to increase their solids intake. We would advise you to refer to health guidelines or talk to your GP about starting/increasing solids if you think your baby is ready.

If your baby uses a pacifier and overnight you are resettling them with a pacifier instead of feeding, be careful. A pacifier can mask the fact that your baby is actually waking because they are hungry. When a baby sucks a pacifier, their brain thinks they are getting food so they may go back to sleep, but then wake hungry again shortly afterwards.

If your baby is waking frequently to have the pacifier replaced, try feeding them at their first wake to see if they are actually waking hungry. If they continue to wake frequently, the pacifier could actually be causing more problems than it solves. You can read more about this HERE.


At this age sleep gets a bit trickier as babies experience a maturation in their sleep patterns and can start waking fully between sleep cycles (every 45 minutes in the day and every 2 hours overnight). Now, your baby can come to rely heavily on the method used to settle them to sleep (rocking, feeding pacifier etc.), and they will need that same method to go back to sleep between cycles.

This means night waking can definitely be caused by a settling issue rather than hunger. However, this can be hard to work out if your baby is not yet able to go to sleep independently for their naps and at bedtime. Once your baby is able to self-settle to sleep, it's much easier to distinguish between your baby waking out of genuine hunger, versus a need to be fed back to sleep.

If your baby needs some help learning how to self-settle, our Sleep Programs have several gentle methods you can use to guide your baby towards this skill. A lot of babies are capable of sleeping through the night, 7pm-7am, in this age bracket, if all their ducks are in a row!

Night wakes between 6-8 months of age


Some babies will still need a milk feed in the night at this age. Babies who started solids after 6 months or who are doing baby-led weaning are generally not getting enough calories from solids (or protein at the lunch meal) yet to help them get through the night.


Between 6-8 months babies will transition from 3 naps, down to 2 naps a day. Babies who are still having that third late afternoon nap can begin to wake overnight because they are under tired and ready to drop that nap now. Read THIS article to find out more about navigating this nap transition.

Habit wake

Beyond 6 months of age, babies can begin to form habit wakes - these typically happen at the exact same time every night. If you are feeding your baby multiple times a night, yet you think they surely don’t need the milk, they may be waking out of habit rather than hunger.

In som cases, what can end up happening is that a baby takes most of their milk calories during the night and consequently, feeds less during the day. This turns into what we call reverse cycling - when they have their feeding times/quantities the wrong way around! Read THIS article to find out how to switch things back around.

Night wakes between 8-12 months of age

Feeding/Habit wake

Babies this age are far less likely to wake out of genuine hunger if they are well established on solids. By now, your baby should be also drinking small amounts of water during the day to keep them hydrated. From 8 months of age, solids can be offered before milk feeds but you’d still aim to have 3 good milk feeds a day. Waking overnight at this age is more often due to a settling issue or habit wake, rather than actual hunger.


As your baby approaches 12 months of age, they will get ready to transition down to one nap a day. This nap transition typically occurs between 12-15 months of age. If your baby is still having quite a long morning nap, this can have a knock-on effect with their second nap of the day and their overnight sleep. Our Sleep Programs can help you to prepare your baby for this transition, by gradually reducing the length of their morning nap as they get older.

Beyond 12 months, if your toddler is still having 2 naps a day, or is napping for longer than 2 hours across the day, it can definitely start causing more night waking because they're simply not tired enough to sleep through the night.

Other common causes of night waking

If you can rule out hunger, here are some other common causes of night waking in babies of all ages:

  • They are too hot or cold
  • They don’t have white noise playing all night and are being woken by environmental or household noises
  • They are sick
  • They can’t self-settle (beyond 4 months old)
  • They aren’t swaddled (for babies younger than 5 months, who aren't rolling yet)
  • Their sleep environment is too stimulating - ie there is a nightlight or a musical toy
  • They have a medical condition such as tongue tie, reflux or allergies
  • They have had too much or too little day sleep
  • Separation anxiety in babies going through big changes or developmental leaps
  • During particular periods in their development babies do wake simply to "practise" their new skills (crawling etc). This is common at 8 months and 12 months.

So there you have it... the most common reasons why babies wake at night based on our experience working with thousands of families all over the world.

If you're feeling exhausted by your baby's night wakes and would like a helping hand, take a look at our Little Ones App. Our trusted, evidence-based sleep solutions can help you and your baby to have a better night's sleep in no time!

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Coons, S., & Guilleminault, C. (2008). DEVELOPMENT OF CONSOLIDATED SLEEP AND WAKEFUL PERIODS IN RELATION TO THE DAV/NIGHT CYCLE IN INFANCY. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology26(2), 169–176. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-8749.1984.tb04428.x

Dewar, G. (2017, January 2). Newborn sleep patterns: A survival guide. PARENTING SCIENCE. https://parentingscience.com/newborn-sleep/ 

Dewar, G. (2018, January 2). Baby sleep patterns: An evidence-based guide. PARENTING SCIENCE. https://parentingscience.com/baby-sleep-patterns/

Dewar, G. (2020, July 17). Baby sleep deprivation: How to tell if your baby isn’t sleeping enough. PARENTING SCIENCE. https://parentingscience.com/baby-sleep-deprivation/

Iwata, S., Fujita, F., Kinoshita, M., Unno, M., Horinouchi, T., Morokuma, S., & Iwata, O. (2017). Dependence of nighttime sleep duration in one-month-old infants on alterations in natural and artificial photoperiod. Scientific Reports7(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/srep44749

How to wean a child from night feeding, wean a child to eat at night

0-6 months


5/5 2 reviews

A newborn baby eats at any time of the day, day or night. As the baby's digestive tract grows stronger, the interval between feedings gradually increases. Moms have a natural question: when and how should you stop night feedings so that the baby sleeps all night?

8 min. for reading Feb. 17, 2022


Should I feed my baby at night

How many nightly feeds does my baby need

  • For breastfed babies, combination breastfeeders and babies with reflux
  • Formula-fed babies

How to know if your child is ready to give up nighttime meals

How to wean a baby from night feedings: expert advice



Is it necessary to feed a baby at night while taking care of the baby if you are chronically sleep deprived. But why can't a baby go without food at night?

In the first months, the baby does not have a clear regime, he still weakly distinguishes between day and night: during prenatal development, the baby is used to getting everything he needs from his mother at any time. And most importantly - at the beginning of life, the child grows very quickly and requires a lot of nutrients, while having a small stomach and a still fragile digestive system. For these reasons, the baby cannot go without food for a long time and requires food approximately every 2-3 hours, and pediatricians, in turn, insist on the need for nightly breastfeeding of a newborn.


Sleep and nutrition patterns, as well as the need for them, are individual for each child. Therefore, if it seems to you that the baby eats little and rarely, or vice versa - too often, consult with the doctor you are seeing.

In addition, night feedings, although they interfere with sleep, are useful not only for the child, but also for the mother. They help to properly establish lactation, because it is at night that the hormone prolactin is produced, which is responsible for the amount of breast milk.


With proper organization of night feedings, the baby eats half asleep and quickly falls asleep further. To do this, start a night light in the room and be ready to feed as soon as the baby wakes up. Sleep in comfortable nursing clothing if you are breastfeeding.

How many night feeds does a baby need

The smaller the child, the more often he needs to be fed. But over time, the digestive tract gets stronger, and the baby can eat more and endure longer breaks between meals. Below is an approximate number of night feedings, depending on the age of the baby:

1. For breastfed, mixed breastfed and reflux babies:

Age Number of night feedings
0-3 months breastfeeding on demand approximately every 2-3 hours
3-4 months 2-3 ​​times as required or every 3-6 hours
5-6 months 1-2 meals
7-9 months 1, possibly 2 times
10-12 months sometimes 1 feeding
12+ months usually without night feedings

Number of night feedings 0-3 months feedings every 2-3 hours on demand 3-4 months 1-2 times per night or every 3-6 hours as required 5-6 months possible, 1 feeding 7+ months usually without night feedings


During growth spurts, your baby should be fed as needed. Such bursts occur approximately at 5, 8, 14, 19, 26, 37 and 46 weeks of life and last about 7 days.

How do you know if your baby is ready to give up nighttime meals? After this period, the need for nightly meals depends on the pace of development, individual needs and the health of the child. If the baby was born prematurely or is not gaining weight well, experts recommend waking him up 3.5-4 hours after the previous feeding and offering the breast.


If you're not sure if your baby is ready to stop feeding at night, talk to your doctor. The specialist will help you understand and make the right decision based on the physical indicators of your child.

If the baby is healthy and has a good weight, somewhere between 4 and 6 months old, he will begin to get enough calories during the day so that he does not need to feed at night. In breastfed children, this process may be a little slower - up to 6–10 months [2].

It is also important to take into account that the refusal of nighttime "snacking" occurs gradually: there are very few cases when a child stops eating at night and immediately starts sleeping 5-6 hours in a row. Usually, babies who are used to eating several times a night wake up out of habit, and it will take time to change this routine. First, the baby will ask for food half an hour later than usual, then an hour, a little later - two, and so on. Step by step, over several weeks, night sleep reaches 6-7 hours in a row. This joyful moment can come at 4 months or closer to 12 months: all babies are unique, and it's not scary or unusual for an infant to sleep much longer without food, while an older child keeps waking up to eat.


Dentists recommend abolishing nighttime feedings for children older than one year, as food leftovers in the mouth can damage baby teeth. This risk is minimal when breastfeeding.

Also, remember that your child has many other important needs. Perhaps he wakes up and calls you, not so much for food, but for comfort and closeness. What could be more reassuring and safer than the caring hands of parents who feed and cradle? feedings.

How to wean a child from night feeding: expert advice

Many parents are interested in how to properly wean a baby from eating at night so that it does not become a lot of stress for him. Especially if the baby stubbornly refuses to give up night feeding.

  • Start the weaning process slowly and gradually. Slowly reduce your nightly breastfeeding time or give your baby less milk (mixture if formula-fed) from a sippy cup. Try to extend the intervals between


Under no circumstances should the issue of night feedings be turned into a battlefield. The “cry - stop - wean” method loosens the baby’s nervous system and can provoke severe stress.

  • Make sure your child eats well during the day. Babies become more active as they get older, and if they get carried away playing or walking, they may skip meals or not eat enough and then try to make up for it at night. Therefore, take scheduled breaks during the day for "silent feeding" in a place where nothing will distract the crumbs from eating.


If you're not sure if your child is eating enough, check their height by weighing them at the doctor's office.

  • Try feeding your baby before bed. If a child goes to bed with a full tummy, they are less likely to wake up hungry in the middle of the night.
  • Ask dad to get up at night with the baby. If an awakened baby hears your smell or the aroma of breast milk, this can provoke his appetite, even if the baby did not wake up because of hunger. If you sleep in the same room, it's best to move the crib to dad's side.
  • Phase out feedings one at a time. When the baby wakes up to eat at night, go to him and reassure him, gently but firmly explain that now is the time to sleep, not eat. At the same time, pat and stroke the child on the back or tummy, but do not pick him up. Even if the baby does not yet understand your words, he gradually catches the meaning, and your presence and attention will be soothing to him.
  • Try giving your baby water to drink. Babies may wake up at night not from hunger, but from thirst, especially in hot weather or in a room with dry air. If after half an hour the baby wakes up again, feed him, and if not, then he is full and satisfied.
  • If the baby has been crying inconsolably when stopping night feeds for several days in a row, stop the attempt and return to your normal routine for a while. Let the baby calm down and start weaning him again in a week or two.
  • Do not stop night feedings during the transition period. For example, when you are going to return to work or go on vacation without a baby. If your baby sees less of you during the day, try to hug and interact with him more in your free time. It is necessary that he clearly feels your connection and care, then the baby is less likely to seek solace in the middle of the night.
  • If the baby continues to require nighttime feeding, try to create conditions in which he does not want to eat. An excellent opportunity appears at 8-9 months, when the baby is already confidently eating complementary foods. To do this, move the usual bowl of porridge to the evening: this way the child stays full longer and may not ask for an extra portion of food at night.

See also: Introduction of complementary foods to an infant


Do not give your baby new foods at night, introduce them only in the morning. Otherwise, you run the risk of observing the reaction to unfamiliar complementary foods instead of sleep. Also, do not give your child meat at night, it is hard to digest, can cause discomfort in the stomach and restless sleep.

Also keep in mind that the decision to not feed at night depends in part on how it affects you. If you enjoy breastfeeding or drinking from a cup at night, there is no reason to stop: at a certain point, the baby will stop asking for food on its own. But if you feel that lack of sleep prevents you from living and enjoying motherhood, and the baby is already physically ready for change, it's time to try switching to a daily routine. In any case, you should do what is best for you and your family.


1. How often should a newborn be fed?

A newborn needs to be fed every 2-3 hours, i.e. 10-12 times a day. Further, the intervals between feedings gradually increase to 3-6 hours, and the child gets the opportunity to sleep all night.

2. How much should a child eat per day?

The daily "portion" of food for the baby depends on his age and weight. From 10 days to 1.5 months, the baby needs such an amount of food, the weight of which is approximately 1/5 of the child's body weight. From 1.5 to 4 months - 1/6 of the baby's weight, from 4 to 6 months - 1/7, from 6 to 8 months - 1/8, from 8 to 12 months - 1/9.

3. What happens if you don't stop night feedings?

Most likely, the child will eventually refuse them himself. But some pediatricians, notably Richard Ferber [1], warn that unnecessary nighttime feedings can cause sleep problems. Also, food leftovers after late “snacks” can provoke the development of caries in milk teeth.


    • Baby sleep training: Night weaning. By Darienne Hosley Stewart | Medically reviewed by Lisa Dana, M.D.
    • Night Feedings by Age – When Do You Try Night Weaning? By Nicole Johnson, Founder and Lead Sleep Consultant in Sleep Training.

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Up to what age to feed a child at night and how to replace formula

Infant formula is only a forced replacement for mother's milk in the absence of sufficient lactation or underweight in the infant. In all other respects, the infant formula feeding algorithm remains the same as with breastfeeding. The baby also needs nightly feedings about every 3-4 hours. This is due to scientifically proven facts. Babies up to a year old have an accelerated metabolism, food is digested faster, and naturally, they experience hunger at night. Also, any anxiety of the baby at night forces him to demand his mother's participation, and of course - food as a sedative. There is even a theory that children are genetically woken up to eat to avoid "Sudden Infant Death Syndrome" in their sleep.

But also can't it continue indefinitely? The child grows, develops actively, from the age of 6 months receives a variety of complementary foods, and over time should form a normal daily routine. And for this you need to figure out: how to wean a child at night to eat the mixture in the most gentle ways.

Up to what age to give the mixture at night

Experts differ on this issue, but the average age when you can do without night feedings is nevertheless deduced. Infants with normal development can sleep peacefully at night without formula 10-12 hours from 9-12 months. Of course, if parents do not consider it necessary to restrict their child in nutrition, they can safely continue to feed their child at night and beyond. But they must be aware that, firstly, over time, these periods of eating become just a habit for the baby. And secondly, mothers should also think about their own well-being after sleepless nights. So, the approximate age of weaning a child from night feedings has been determined, it remains to find out how to replace the mixture for the night after a year for the first time of the transition to a new regimen.

Night formula alternative

Formula feeding formula is extremely nutritious and tasty food for your baby. Therefore, the nightly replacement should be unequal, so that the baby subsequently feels that he does not need to wake up for such food. For these reasons, many mothers, thinking about how to replace the mixture for the night, use not the best products. It is strongly not recommended to use compotes or juices, because the ultimate goal is a complete and painless rejection of night food. In addition, fruit drinking can cause flatulence and abdominal pain - not the most favorable factors for restful sleep.

It is better to replace the traditional food at first with a well-diluted mixture, and then with clean water. At the same time, you need to try to slightly shift the period of falling asleep and provide the child with peace and a hearty dinner before going to bed. During the gradual transition to a new way of life, it is not necessary to immediately offer a diluted mixture to the awakened baby at night, it is better to try to calm him down in a different way - caress, rock him.

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