When can babies drop night feedings

How to Wean Night Feedings – Happiest Baby

By Dr. Harvey Karp, MD, FAAP

Weaning Night Feeds

Getting your baby to eat a bit more in the day and a little less at night can start when your baby is as young as 1-month-old. It's essential, of course, to ensure your baby is getting enough nourishment. If you have plenty of milk (discuss with your doctor/lactation consultant before using these tips), and your baby is gaining steadily, you can begin weaning night feeds and help your baby sleep a little longer at night with some swaddling, white noise…or with SNOO.

When Should I Wean My Baby Off Night Feedings?

When babies should be weaned from night feeds depends on whether they’re bottle-fed or breastfed. Babies that are bottle-fed can be weaned from night feedings at around 6 months of age, whereas breastfed babies may take up to a year to be weaned from night feedings.

Do Babies Naturally Drop Night Feeds?

It is natural for babies to drop night feeds on their own. This is because your baby will be able to last longer without food. You can start to prep your baby to drop night weaning by gradually giving him less time on the breast each night. Below you’ll find detailed tips for weaning your baby from night feedings.

How to Wean Night Feedings

For the first month: If your baby sleeps 4 to 5 hours at night, wake him and feed him to make sure he gets enough milk. I also suggest you use the wake and sleep technique for all naps/nights. It's a gentle and gradual way that teaches your baby to self-soothe and builds her confidence over time that she can put herself back to sleep when she wakes. This is essential as you begin to drop night feeds.

For the next two months: Let your little one sleep longer (maybe up to 6 hours or so) before you wake and feed. Pump a few ounces if your breasts feel too full. Consider waking your baby up for a midnight dream feed. I like to think of this as topping off the tank. It should give your baby more "fuel" so they can sleep a longer stretch on their overnight journey.

I highly recommend you use swaddling and strong rumbly white noise—or SNOO—to improve sleep. With each of these, you'll reduce night waking and help your baby tune out disruptions, both external and internal, that might irritate your baby at night. Some parents worry that their baby will sleep too deeply and go hungry, but those concerns are unfounded. Rest assured, if your baby needs to eat, she will definitely wake!

After 4 months: You can boost daytime calories by offering extra feedings and reducing mealtime distractions. And, continue to wake your baby up for a midnight dream feed.

Final Thoughts on How to Wean Night Feedings

Once you’ve successfully figured out how to wean your baby from night feedings, you may find it easier to get the ZZZ’s that you need to feel well-rested, too! For more tips on breastfeeding, check out:

  • What To Do if Breastfeeding Is Hard
  • Breastfeeding Tips for Better Sleep
  • 411 on Breastmilk

About Dr.

Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.

My Sweet Sleeper - How and when to drop a night feed

Some of the most precious and bonding moments we have with our babies are the moments we spend feeding them, but as time goes on, getting up multiple times per night to feed may not seem quite as precious as it did in the newborn stage.

At 3-6 months of age, your baby probably only needs 1-2 feeds per night: one at the beginning of the night (could be a dream feed), and one in the early hours of the morning. Unless there is a concern with their weight, they are unlikely to need more than that.

By 6/7 months, your baby likely is ready to drop the night feeds completely. However, keep in mind that many babies still need a early morning feed (between 3-5am) until 12 months!

For babies that are waking more than that, chances are that they are not actually hungry, but just wanting to be soothed. If this is the case, it is definitely time to teach your baby to self-soothe, but it also may be time to drop a night feed.

If you’re ready to drop a night feed (and so is your baby), here are a few ways to do that...

Adjust daytime calories: Anytime you are getting ready to drop a night feed, you want to ensure that your child is getting adequate nutrition throughout the day. This means that if your child is currently relying on calories overnight to make-up for missing feeds during the day, you want to work on shifting those calories. This may mean waking up your child from a long nap, or timing naps differently so they don't interfere with feeding times. Newborns should have a feed every 2.5-3 hours during the day, and for older babies, that stretches to every 2.5-3.5 hours during the day.

Keep your baby awake for the last feed before bed: If your child is struggling to get full feeds, especially right before bed, you may need to turn on a dim light, take off some of their clothes, or rub their feet to try to keep them stimulated. While we typically recommend night feeds happen in a dark environment, feeds right before bed can be done in a brighter environment since we want to ensure a full feed. If your baby falls asleep during a feed, chances are they did not get the calories that they need for the night. While you don’t want to stuff your baby before bed, you do want to ensure your baby gets a full feed to help them get a good long stretch of sleep.

Gradually decrease ounces or time spent feeding each night: If you are in the process of dropping a feed, commit to decreasing time spent breastfeeding, or if you are bottle feeding, decrease ounces in the child's bottle. Do this gradually over the course of one week, one ounce at a time, rather than making a sudden change in one day. For many breastfeeding moms, they may only offer feeding only on one side or cut down by about 1-3 minutes each night. Your baby will adjust to the change in caloric intake by getting fuller feeds during the day.

Bring in other soothing methods when baby wakes up: If feeding is the only way your child has been put to sleep or back to sleep, then you may be nervous to drop the night feed for that reason alone. But instead of immediately feeding your baby upon their wake-up, try pausing for five minutes to see if they will self-settle. If not, try soothing your baby in other ways, such as using a pacifier, shushing, or rubbing your baby's head/back, and cycle through these methods. Always soothe your baby while keeping them in the crib before picking up (ie. to rock or bounce). Your baby will eventually catch on after consistency with this! For more information, see Five ways to teach your baby to self-soothe.

Up to what age to feed the baby at night and how to replace formula

Baby formula is only a forced measure to replace mother's milk in the absence of sufficient lactation or underweight in the baby. 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. nine0003

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. nine0003

Night formula alternative

Formula feeding formula is extremely nutritious and delicious 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. nine0003

It is better to replace the traditional food at first with a well-diluted mixture, and then with pure 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. And since night meals a priori will cease to be delicious food, the child himself will gradually forget about it, but the wise human body will be rebuilt anyway. nine0003

How to wean your child from night feeding: a step-by-step guide from a pediatrician

It seems that the baby, bravely tasting broccoli, will very soon be able to do without nighttime snacks. But everything has its time: first of all, we deal with the schedule of daily meals, build a regimen. And only after that we begin the process of smoothly weaning the child from night feedings.

Until what age to keep night feedings

Eating at night is a physiological need for children under one year old. It contributes to the harmonious growth of the child and provides his mother with stable lactation, which is important when it comes to breastfeeding. Artificial babies also need to have round-the-clock access to nutrients in order to develop properly. nine0003

The older children get, the less often they wake up at night to satisfy their hunger: for newborns, the norm is up to 3-4 awakenings per night, for one-year-olds, there are usually fewer feedings (1). However, some scientists note that at the age of 3-6 months, many children stop waking up at night, as there are fewer feedings, and the total duration of sleep is reduced to 12-15 hours (2). Of course, this process is different for every baby, so watch your baby carefully and don't hesitate to ask your pediatrician for advice if you're worried about something. nine0003

It is worth it to postpone with the refusal of night feeding if the child:

is poorly gaining weight worried due to teeth teething is sick
experiences strong emotional experiences do not receive the desired volume of "walks" during the day

Night feedings and breastfeeding

The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding children up to two years of age (3). There is no contradiction: reducing nightly attachments by no means means a complete rejection of breastfeeding if the mother does not want it. nine0003

Normalization of sleep - this is what we are talking about in this case - is necessary when chronic fatigue and lack of sleep become a problem for parents.

“The absence of night feedings does not mean that the baby is ready to wean, and vice versa,” says Ekaterina Zayets, lactation consultant, pediatrician, leading courses for pregnant and lactating mothers . - Everything is individual: there are families in which there are several feedings during the day, and there are no night feedings from eight months. nine0003

Night feeds and formula feeding

It is believed that formula-fed babies are much easier to wean from eating at night: they do not have the habit of falling asleep on the chest. But, again, everything is individual. Some children continue to demand a bottle of formula, and their peers easily part with nightly attachments and sleep sweetly until the morning.

What to do to wean a child from night feedings

You need to understand that abrupt cancellation can be a big stress for the baby. At night, it will not be possible to keep him busy with a game, to bring his grandmother to help. Therefore, you need to prepare for the fact that this can be a difficult task that will take time. nine0003

Weaning in stages

Observe your child's behavior before reducing the number of night feeds.

What you should pay attention to:

  • how many times a baby wakes up during the night;
  • which awakenings are related to hunger and which are not;
  • whether the quality of sleep is different when the baby sleeps in his own crib, separate from you;
  • Can the baby fall asleep without formula or breastfeeding.

After analyzing this information - and you will definitely see patterns - smoothly start working on reducing nighttime feedings. nine0003

We go to sleep full

A child who has dinner at six in the evening will definitely wake up hungry closer to midnight. Include a snack half an hour before bedtime in your diet and you will feel the difference. Feed your baby something light and nutritious, such as fermented milk products.

Putting away the first feedings

First, say goodbye to the feedings that fall during the first hours of sleep. At this time, the baby still does not have time to get hungry, so it is enough just to rock him without additional manipulations. nine0003

Less food at night

Try to organize nighttime feedings so that the baby spends less time on the breast. For artificial children, try to reduce the concentration of the portion.

During the day - more calories

Night feedings are removed from children who are familiar with complementary foods. Make sure your child gets enough "adult" food and water throughout the day. It is also important to build a diet.

Sleep and food separate

Breastfeeding is almost always a key part of the sleep ritual. Incredibly comfortable: the baby eats and immediately falls asleep, without motion sickness and persuasion. But this bundle must be separated if you are determined to regain a good rest. Feed the baby so that he calms down, relaxes, and eventually falls asleep without a breast. nine0003

Practicing self-sleep

The easiest way to reduce nighttime feedings is for children who have mastered the skill of self-sleeping: they no longer notice the change in sleep phases and wake up less often.

Connecting dad

Dad, as you know, can do anything. Including rocking a baby who woke up in the middle of the night. Probably, at first the process of laying will be delayed, but gradually the child will get used to it.

Photo: pixabay.com

Trying separate sleep

Feeding non-stop, in a dream, is a common story for mothers who are unable to get up at night. The child comfortably settles down next to him, finds food himself and, having had enough, falls asleep again. Mom may not even know how many times the baby ate at night. This habit may be the hardest to break, but without separate sleep, night feedings cannot be removed. nine0003

One study showed that children who fall asleep on their own in a separate bed sleep better and longer and wake up less often (4).

Water and other tricks

There is an opinion that a child who wakes up at night can be offered water. It will only give a temporary "fake" feeling of satiety and will not replace a baby who really wants to eat, milk or formula. If you see that the child did not wake up from hunger, pour him a drink - water can calm him down (only it should be in a cup, not in a bottle). Do not offer juice or sour milk instead of water - these products contain sugars that can provoke the development of caries, because at night the natural protection of the teeth is reduced (3). nine0003

A few more life hacks to help reduce the number of nighttime feedings are related to the organization of children's sleep. Cool and humid air in the room, late bathing, performing "sleep" rituals help children fall asleep faster and sleep better. If you reduce the duration of daytime sleep, it is likely that the child will also sleep better at night.

Starting to remove night feedings, do not expect an immediate result. This is a leisurely, careful process filled with love and care for the child. Give your baby even more attention during the day than usual. At some point, he will stop waking you up, the feedings will go away, and you will be able to enjoy a full night's rest. nine0003

Popular Questions and Answers

Ekaterina Zayets, Lactation Consultant, Pediatrician will help answer questions:

How do you know if your baby is ready to stop feeding at night?

The readiness of both is important: mother and child. If we talk about timely weaning, then this is due to the ability of the mother to transfer their communication to another format. Much depends on the state of the mother, on the support of others. All stories that can be stopped only, for example, after two to five years, are about fanaticism. There are children who, with a competent approach, attention and sufficient maternal resource, already at 1.3 years old perfectly outgrow the internal need and may not be applied to the breast. nine0003

Mistakes that mothers make when starting to clean up night feeds?

They try to remove them too early, often - they themselves are not mentally prepared for this, without taking into account the peculiarities of the psyche of their child. Sometimes this happens under pressure from others. As a result, we get a neurosis, perhaps in a child.

Everything must be done carefully, with basic knowledge. Ideally, an advanced level is when a mother consults a specialist on her issue (tells how old the child is, how many feedings, etc.). It is optimal to at least read something on this issue, especially if the child is very small - a year and a half. Emotionally, children at this age are not ready for such experiments on the part of the mother. nine0003

Many parents fail to understand an important point: if breastfeeding is completely gone (ie, night feeding is the last), you need to build a daily diet, introduce complementary foods correctly and make sure that the baby gets enough liquid. It is with this that mothers most often get consultations, and in rare cases, children can even end up in a hospital with dehydration - and this is no joke.

Are there any differences in weaning from night feedings in children of different ages?

With older children, of course, there is a fundamental difference, because the situation does not depend on the number of feedings, but relies on an individual approach,

All children are different in temperament, it is laid down initially, at birth, we cannot change it. And each child has its own unique mother, who also has her own temperament. Her condition must also be taken into account. It can be a first-born mother who is exhausted, or a first-born mother, but full of strength. Or maybe a mother of many children, in which there is so much energy that she would still feed and feed.

Each case has its own tactics. Sometimes they choose the path of self-weaning - the child is offered to gradually reduce the proportion of feedings himself. And he outgrows his needs, he has enough of everything, and his mother is not exhausted. With age, night feedings are completed - by the age of 2-2.5 with the right actions. nine0003

Advice for mothers whose children after the age of two continue to wake up at night for a snack?

You need to understand what the family needs. If you are generally comfortable and want to continue breastfeeding, continue. If this process is tiring, it is recommended to take a nap during the day, eat well so that calories come in, leave the house - so as not to get hung up on the situation.

It is also important to receive competent information support. Often mothers are afraid of weaning as a fact, but for starters, you can simply reduce the proportion of feedings, and everyone will be fine. nine0003

Watch your child's daily diet: 4-5 meals, drink (water is a priority). About a liter of food even with continued breastfeeding plus emotional readiness on the part of mother and baby are good indicators to start weaning, or reduce the proportion of feedings, or complete breastfeeding.


  1. The role of nutritional factors in organizing sleep in young children. T. V. Turti, I. A. Belyaeva, E. P. Bombardirova, P. E. Sadchikov, A. Yu. Nagonov // Questions of modern pediatrics. 2021. URL: https://cyberleninka.ru/article/n/rol-faktorov-pitaniya-v-organizatsii-sna-detey-rannego-vozrasta/viewer
  2. Research Strategies: Is there an association between the formation of the gut-brain axis and infant sleep characteristics? I.

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