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Baby Night Feedings by Age - When To Night Wean
Home / Sleep Training / Night Feedings by Age –When Do You Try Night Weaning?
by Nicole Johnson, Founder and Lead Sleep Consultant in Sleep Training —
A very common question we get is when a baby can go all night without a feeding. This article will outline general guidelines about how many night-feedings you can expect at each age for breastfeeding and formula-fed babies.
Night Weaning: What do the doctors say?
In my experience, pediatricians seem to disagree frequently with the answer to the question of when a baby can go all night without a feeding. Clients report various answers all the time. If you have read any of the sleep books, there is Dr. Ferber who claims babies don’t need to eat at night after 3 months old. And, then there is Weissbluth who says that babies need 1-2 feedings up through 9 months old. Who’s right? They are both pediatricians with a lot of experience. Talk to your pediatrician and the answer will likely be even something different.
Night Weaning: In My Professional Experience
I have been a baby sleep consultant since 2008. Although I do really like Dr. Ferber’s book and learned A LOT from it, I can not, in good conscience, regularly recommend night-weaning at 3 months old. I think that is extreme to think that all babies can do that, particularly breastfed babies. Some parents are lucky enough that their baby does it on his own that young or younger, but many parents simply aren’t that lucky.
When I work with families personally, I am not an extremist and when it comes to hunger at night; I err on the side of caution. I know that it would be sooo much easier, for US, to not feed at night, but there are adults who can’t go 12 hours without eating, so I am not sure why we expect our babies to. I am all for breaking sleep associations and promoting healthy sleep for our babies, but I don’t recommend night-weaning until your baby is showing signs she is ready and that age varies by child. In addition, if you are breastfeeding, we have seen mom’s milk supply decrease rapidly and irrecoverably if she goes too long without feeding too soon.
Night Feedings By Age
Below are the number of feedings at night, at various ages, that are within “normal” range (in my experience) and don’t throw up a red flag that there is more going on than just a feeding:
Breastfeeding Babies, Combination Breastfed and Formula Fed Babies and/or Babies with Reflux
- Newborns to 3 months old: Feedings every 2-3 hours, on-demand
- 3-4 Months: 2-3 feedings per night or every 3-6 hours, on-demand
- 5-6 Months: 1-2 feedings
- 7-9 Months: 1, maybe 2, feedings
- 10-12 Months: Sometimes 1 feeding
- 12+ Months: Generally no feedings
- Newborns to 3 months old: Feedings every 2-3 hours, on demand
- 3-4 Months: 1-2 feedings per night or every 3-6 hours, on demand
- 5-6 Months: 0-1 feedings
- 7+ Months: Generally no feedings
Obviously, growth spurts are an exception and you should feed as needed during those. Growth spurts are generally over within a week.
When to Night Wean
Now, I know that it can be difficult to tell when exactly your unique baby is ready for night weaning. That’s why I created a night weaning quiz, Is Your Baby Ready For Night Weaning? It’s very short – just 5 questions – and easy to take, so if you’re struggling with whether or not your baby is ready for night weaning, I suggest you take this quiz. The response you get will help you determine whether not you should move forward with night weaning, or whether or not you need to wait a bit and try night-weaning later.
In general, a baby needs to be able to consume all of their calories in the daytime in order to be night-weaned. This typically happens around 4-6 months old for formula-fed babies and around 6-10 months for breastfed babies. And, there are ways to know when night feedings are necessary.
I typically recommend at least an attempt at night-weaning by 8-9 months old (or sooner if you feel your baby is ready), because at some point, sometimes it is a chicken and egg problem. A baby needs a certain number of calories during the day and if he gets some at night, he won’t eat more during the day and if he doesn’t eat more during the day, he needs it at night. So, sometimes, a baby really does feel hungry at night, but it doesn’t mean he can’t go all night without a feeding. It simply means he needs to adjust how much he’s eating during the day. The idea is to help him do this.
My Night-Weaning Story
I was a breastfeeding mom for the first year. I personally tried to night-wean around 9 months, but with both my boys, they did continue to eat at night up through a year and I weaned to cow’s milk (not sure if it was age or weaning from breastfeeding, though). They did, however, sleep better after I nudged them in the right direction, so I was glad I at least tried. When I attempted night-weaning my first son, he went from randomly waking at different times a night to waking around 5 AM just 4 times a week, which was a GREAT improvement!
Already Tried Night-Weaning and It’s Not Working?
If you’ve already tried night-weaning and it’s not working, there are several reasons this might be the case. Be sure to review 7 Reasons Night-Weaning Isn’t Working.
More Help With Night-Weaning
For more guidance on night-weaning, check out our special members-only resources in our VIP Members Area:
- Example Night-Weaning Plans
- Mini Action Plan for Night-Weaning (your MAP™)
- The Members-Only Day-By-Day Co-Sleeping Transition Plan
- How Fixed and Fluid Feeding Schedules Can Help You Night Wean
- The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep e-book
- Chat live with a sleep consultant
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For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
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Sleep and feeding schedule for your four- or five-month-old baby
Wondering what a baby schedule is supposed to look like after the big four-month milestone and sleep regression? Here are a few sample sleep and feeding schedules for your four- or five-month-old.
Well, you’ve made it through the “fourth trimester” and all the ups and downs that come with it—welcome to months four and five! When your baby is around five months old, you will probably see more of a schedule with dedicated naptimes—usually two naps a day. Many parents also find that on-the-go napping comes to an end around five months, as your kiddo needs their own quiet, dark space to settle down to snooze. Sleeping for 12 hours a night is becoming a possibility, even if you’re not there yet. “A four-month-old or five-month-old often needs a feeding at night, but around six months, if they’re growing on their curve and everything is fine healthwise, then there absolutely is that ability to sleep 12 hours,” says Erin Neri, a certified paediatric sleep consultant in Sherwood Park, Alta.
You might want to consider sleep training your baby at about four months of age, especially if you’re hitting the dreaded four-month sleep regression. Neri adds that the six-month mark is also the stage when babies who use pacifiers start relying on them to sleep, and you might have to stagger over at 4 a.m. to stick the soother back in and repeat. In other words, it might be a good idea to discontinue the soother, depending on what’s working for your family. Between four to six months old is also the time to transition from a swaddle to a sleep sack if that’s what your baby is used to.
Your baby: 5 months oldAround this time your baby may hit a growth spurt, with all the extra eating and sleeping (or not sleeping) that goes with it. This is the age to start gradually introducing solid foods, such as infant cereals and puréed meats, veggies and fruits (talk about a photo op). You’ll know that your baby is ready for solids when they can sit up on their own and control their head and neck and are deeply interested in that yummy food that you’re eating.
4 to 5 months sleep schedule
Wake time length: About 2 to 3 hours
Sleep time length: 2 to 3 daytime naps of 20 minutes to 3 hours, may sleep up to 12 hours overnight or wake once or twice
Total sleep time: 12 to 16 hours a day
4 to 5 months sample schedule (with 3 naps)
7 to 7:30 a. m. – Wake up (2.5 to 3 hours)
10 a.m. – 1st nap (1 hour)
11 a.m. – Wake time (2.5 hours)
1:30 p.m. – 2nd nap (2 hours)
3:30 p.m. – Wake time (1.5 hours)
5 p.m. – 3rd nap (30 minutes)
5:30 p.m. – Wake time (2 to 2.5 hours)
7:30 to 8 p.m. – Sleep (11+ hours, with or without nightly waking)
Total sleep time: 14.5 to 15.5 hours
4 to 5 months sample schedule (with 2 naps)
7 to 7:30 a.m. – Wake up (2.5 to 3 hours)
10 a.m. – 1st nap (1.5 hours)
11:30 a.m. – Wake time (2.5 hours)
2 p.m. – 2nd nap (2 hours)
4 p.m. – Wake time (3 to 3.5 hours)
7 to 7:30 p.m. – Sleep (12 hours, with or without nightly waking)
Total sleep time: 15.5 hours
4 to 5 months feeding schedule
Breastfeeding: On demand, every 2 to 4 hours, or 7 to 12 times a day
Exclusive pumping: 15 to 20 minutes per breast, every 3 hours or at least 7 times a day
Formula: 120 to 230 mL (4 to 8 oz) per feeding, about 5 to 6 times a day
Solids: Slowly introduce them, starting with iron-fortified cereals and single-ingredient puréed vegetables, fruits or meat; watch for allergies; no honey until they’re at least 12 months old
Liquids: Continue breastmilk or formula; introduce water with solids around 6 months
5 dos and don’ts for introducing solids to baby
Your baby: 6 months old
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FILED UNDER: Baby 3-6 months baby development Baby schedule baby sleep Bottle-feeding Breastfeeding Starting solids
How to wean a child from night feeding, wean a child to eat at night
Should the child be fed at night How many nightly feedings does the baby need
- For breastfed infants, combined breastfeeding and infants with reflux
How to know if your baby is ready to give up nighttime meals0003
Should I feed my baby at night
Feeding a newborn at night is something that is so difficult for many new parents: it is difficult to maintain your own health, feel good and at the same time take care of your 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 eating habits, 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.
Read also Establishing breastfeeding is one of the priority tasks in the first days after childbirth
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 breastfeeding, combination breastfeeding, and infants with reflux:
Number of nightly feedings
Breastfeeding on demand approximately every 2-3 hours
3-3 4 months
2-3 times on demand or every 3-6 hours
1, possibly 2 times
sometimes 1 feeding
usually no night feedings
1-2 times a night or every 3-6 hours on demand
possible, 1 feeding
usually no night feedings
See also: Healthy eating: how much should a child eat before the age of one?
During growth spurts, your baby should be fed as needed. Such bursts occur at about 5, 8, 14, 19, 26, 37 and 46 weeks of age 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 .
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 avoiding nighttime feedings for children older than one year, as food leftovers in the mouth can damage milk teeth. This risk is minimal when breastfeeding.
Also, remember that a 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?
Read also: Stages of development of the child's psyche up to a year. Conditions for adequate development. Mother's role
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 feedings.
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 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 wake up at night. 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.
See also: How to calm the baby?
- 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 after stopping night feedings 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 feedings, try to create conditions in which he does not want to feed himself. A great opportunity appears at 8-9months, 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: Introducing complementary foods to a baby
Do not give your baby new complementary 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 , 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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Everyone knows that frequent nighttime awakenings of a newborn need to be fed or need to be sedated , is a natural part of motherhood. How pleasant it is to hug a child in the silence of the night and attach it to your chest! But one day there comes a moment when the uninterrupted sleep of the baby and mother becomes more important than nightly breastfeeding.
Child crisis calendar
Night feeds: until what age?
Many parents are interested in night feedings: until what age should they be kept? When should a child be weaned from night feeding? In this article, we present the opinion of our American colleagues on breastfeeding. Their recommendations may need tweaking, but it's certainly an interesting take on the issue.
BabySleep considers it necessary to emphasize that reducing nighttime feedings at any age does not in any way mean a complete rejection of breastfeeding, unless the mother has such an intention. This is just a reduction in the number of attachments to the chest during a night's sleep. The mother can still continue breastfeeding even if the number of nightly feedings is reduced.
It is also important to remember that breastfeeding is not only a process of satiating the child, but also a time of physical and emotional closeness between mother and baby. In some situations, this factor is of paramount importance and it is not worth reducing the number of feedings.
What do doctors say?
Many children continue to wake up for night feedings from one to several times a night, although, due to their age, they are already able to sleep for a long period of time without awakening. The reason is that they are used to getting calories at night. Very often, nighttime awakenings and the need to breastfeed in order to fall asleep again are caused by an association with falling asleep. This means that when you wake up at the end of your sleep cycle (every 40–90 minutes), the baby simply cannot fall asleep again without sucking, even if at that moment he is not hungry. Some children only need to take a few sips to calm down, and someone eats, consuming calories that the body does not need at that moment.
When the baby wakes up to satisfy his hunger, he actively sucks and swallows for at least 5 minutes or drinks more than 60 ml. milk from a bottle. If there is an association to fall asleep, or if the baby needs to breastfeed to calm down, the baby sucks out only a little milk. If the baby is really hungry at night, it is not recommended to drastically reduce the number of nightly feedings. If the child is hungry, he must be fed!
How many night feeds does a baby need?
Before starting to reduce the baby's night feedings, the mother should make sure that he is ready for this and that her expectations are realistic. If there are no problems with lactation, the baby is healthy, calm, eats well during the day and is gaining weight, you can simply use the table as a guide, which indicates the number of nightly feedings recommended by American baby sleep experts.
Talk to your doctor before starting to cut down on nightly breastfeeding. It is also important to consider the age of the child depending on the EDD (estimated date of birth). If the baby eats at night more often than indicated in the table, but sleeps well, and it suits you, there is no problem. If your baby is eating less often, but your pediatrician is happy with how he is growing and gaining weight, you are doing great too!
The recommendations in this article are for those mothers who are worried about the fragmented sleep of the child due to the fact that the baby often eats at night.
Until what age to continue night feeding?
Children's nutritional needs differ, but you can focus on the average data from the table:
When should a child be weaned from night feedings?
A child's readiness to reduce nighttime feedings can be tested by answering the following questions:
- Is your baby 6 months old or older and eating solid foods well?
- Was the baby born at term with a normal weight?
- Does the baby need night feedings, rather to calm down than to satisfy the feeling of hunger (applications are very short)?
- Feeding for a baby is an association for falling asleep, does he not know how to calm down and fall asleep himself during daytime and nighttime dreams, does he often wake up at night?
- Is co-sleeping a forced measure for you because of the association for the baby to fall asleep (see paragraph 4)?
- Do all family members lack sleep and feel constantly tired (as a result of points 4 and 5)?
- Are night feedings erratic (time and number of awakenings vary each night)?
- Does your child eat more at night than during the day?
- In the past, has the baby been able to sleep for three or more days in a row for long periods of time without feeding, or with one feeding between 22:00 and 24:00 (not during illness, etc. )?
- Does the baby eat once a night - at 3-4 in the morning - and constantly refuses morning feeding?
If the majority of answers are yes, this shows the child's readiness to reduce the number of nightly attachments.
Reduced night feedings. Where to begin?
If you can't tell exactly what time and how long your child eats at night, watch him for 2-3 nights. When you see patterns in nightly breastfeeding, you can draw up a work plan and gradually wean the baby from breastfeeding.
- Start with feedings in the first hours of sleep, when the baby has not yet had time to get hungry.
- If nighttime breastfeeding is associated with falling asleep for your baby, separate breastfeeding from the process of falling asleep—feeding before bed to soothe and relax, and then falling asleep without suckling.
- Reduce the time your baby spends at the breast at night, or reduce the amount of milk in the bottle.