When can babies go without night feeds
How and when to wean your baby off of night feedings
Wondering when to wean your baby off the bottle or breast at night? Most babies can make it through the night without eating when they're 6 months old. You may be able to start night weaning your baby when they're 4 months old, or you may choose to wait until later. The key is to ensure your baby is getting plenty to eat during the day and right before bedtime. You can then gradually cut back on the amount of breast milk or formula and the number of times you feed your baby at night.
Can you hardly wait for your baby to sleep through the night? Fortunately, that milestone may be closer than you think. Many babies are able to sleep for at least six hours at a stretch when they're 3 months old, or weigh 12 to 13 pounds. However, some babies take longer: Roughly one quarter aren't sleeping six hours overnight by the time they hit their first birthday.
Babies wake during the night for many reasons, but notably because they're hungry. In the early months, babies need to eat every few hours, including through the night. Gradually, however, babies need to eat less and less at night – until by 6 months of age (possibly sooner or later), your baby may quit nighttime feedings and go up to 12 hours without waking to eat.
Sometimes babies self-wean from night feedings with no help from you – they'll just sleep through the night suddenly and never look back. But sometimes you have to nudge them, especially if they're down to one nighttime feeding they just aren't dropping.
Night weaning your baby means ensuring they get enough to eat during the day so they don't need to wake at night to eat. Here's how to get started.
When will my baby be ready for night weaning?
This varies, but somewhere between the ages of 4 and 6 months, most babies get enough calories during the day to sustain them for five or six hours at night.
It's not unusual for younger babies to sleep for much longer stretches without needing to eat – or for older ones to continue waking up to eat. Even if your baby doesn't need to eat in the middle of the night, they may still wake up wanting to. Babies who are used to eating several times a night tend to wake up out of habit, and it can take time to change this routine.
If you've recently gone back to work and are less available during the day, your baby may want to nurse or take a bottle at night as a way of reconnecting with you. And you may notice that your baby wakes up more often when they're teething, if they catch a cold, or when they're mastering a developmental milestone.
For all these reasons, it's helpful to approach the weaning process gradually and gently. Keep in mind that your baby is still young and has a tremendous need for comfort, closeness, and reassurance – particularly from you.
Should I start night weaning my baby?
Many experts recommend night weaning around the time babies are 6 months old, because at that point most babies don't physically need to eat at night. At this age, most babies wake to eat out of habit. And if you do wait to night wean your baby when they're older, know that it can be more challenging to wean a toddler off of night feedings. But the timeline isn't set in stone: You can start trying to get your baby to sleep longer stretches between feedings as early as 4 months of age, or much later than 6 months old.
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Ultimately, it's your choice whether to night wean or not. It's hard to maintain your own health and well-being if you're chronically sleep deprived. The decision to end your baby's night feedings depends in part on how they're affecting you.
If you enjoy nursing or giving a bottle to your baby at night, you can continue until your baby eventually quits on their own. On the other hand, if you find yourself feeling grumpy and exhausted, it may be time.
Keep in mind that your baby's sleep and nutritional needs may vary if they aren't gaining weight as expected or if they were born prematurely. If you're not sure whether your baby's ready for night weaning, talk to your child's doctor. The doctor can help you sort through any issues and help you make your decision based on how your baby's growing.
How to wean your baby off of night feedings
Once your baby is ready to give up night feedings, try the following techniques:
- Make sure your baby gets plenty to eat throughout the day. As your baby grows and becomes more active, they may not want to stop to nurse or take a bottle during the day, and they may try to make up for it at night. To make sure they get enough to eat, take scheduled breaks during the day for a quiet bottle or nursing session in a place with no distractions. (If you're not sure that your child is eating enough, check their growth by having them weighed at the doctor's office.)
- Start the night weaning process slowly and gradually. Nurse your baby for a shorter period of time on each breast or give them a smaller amount of breast milk or formula in their bottle when they wake at night. Try to prolong the intervals between feedings by patting and comforting your baby back to sleep.
- Offer extra feedings in the evening. If your baby goes to bed with a full tummy, they're less likely to wake up hungry in the middle of the night.
- Give a "dream feed." After your baby's already asleep – say at 11 p.m. or so – you may want to wake your baby for a final feeding before you go to bed yourself.
- Avoid night weaning during times of transition. For example, wait if you're just about to return to work or take a family vacation. If you've recently become less available during the day, make sure to give your baby extra cuddle time when you're together, so they'll feel more connected and be less likely to seek comfort in the middle of the night.
- Gradually eliminate feedings, one at a time. Gently soothe and comfort your baby when they wake up, and explain that it's time to sleep, not eat.
- Keep any feedings you do at night short and sweet. That way your baby won't wake to eat just because they've come to expect late-night cuddles.
- Consider sleep training. If your baby seems to eat plenty during the day but still wakes at night, it may not be because they're hungry but because they're used to it. At this point, you may want to consider baby sleep training to help your little one learn to self-soothe back to sleep.
For more help night weaning your baby from a pediatric sleep physician, check out our course, Baby Sleep 101.
Night weaning if you're breastfeeding
Suddenly stopping the frequency of your nighttime nursing sessions can lead to painful engorgement and increased likelihood of developing an infection known as mastitis. That's one more reason it's good to start slow and drop one feeding at a time, so your breasts can get used to your new routine more easily. In the meantime, you may find that you initially need to wake up and pump breast milk during the night to relieve engorgement.
A key to night weaning your baby is making sure they're getting enough to eat during the day. You may find that you need to pump after one or more feedings during the day, then save the additional milk for an extra feeding in the evening. This can help boost your milk supply as well as ensure that your baby fills up before bedtime. As always, you'll know your baby is getting enough to eat if they're gaining weight as expected and having at least six wet diapers during the day.
Once your baby is around 6 months old, they'll start solids. Breast milk will still be your baby's main source of nutrition, although you may find that they need to breastfeed less as they gradually eat more solid foods.
Night weaning if you're formula feeding
If you're bottle-feeding and ready to night wean your baby, make sure they get enough to eat during the day. By 6 months of age, formula-fed babies need to eat between 6 to 8 ounces (or 180 to 240 mL) per bottle, four to five times every 24 hours.
Once your baby starts solids, formula will still be their main source of nutrition. But with time, solid foods will cover more of your baby's nutritional needs – and you'll eventually start giving your baby fewer bottles with slightly more formula in each. The bedtime bottle is usually the last to go, and even once you wean your child off it, you may want to give them a bedtime snack or a cup of milk to help them make it through the night without getting hungry.
- Baby sleep 101 virtual course
Night Weaning 101 - When and How to Night Wean
Remember when being up at 3am meant you were having a good night? No? Everything’s a bit foggy since you had a baby? After those crazy, hazy newborn days, most parents are longing for an uninterrupted night’s sleep (and likely, a regular shower). Take heart, the promised land may be closer than you think; you may be able to start night weaning.
When to Night Wean
Is your baby ready for night weaning? A cutting-edge baby monitor like Nanit can let you know if you’re visiting your baby at night more than you need to. But generally, when does that happen?
Our resident infant sleep expert, Dr. Natalie Barnett, says yes if your baby is 4-6 months old. “Many, though not all, babies are able to make it through the night without food at 4 months. By 6 months, almost all healthy babies are physically and neurologically able to go 12 hours without food.”
Before you start night weaning, it’s important to have two things in place.
First, you need to structure daytime feedings so that your baby is getting all the calories and nutrition they need during the day. If you eliminate nighttime feedings, you need to make up for it during the day, or your baby is going to wake up hungry. Dr. Barnett recommends milk feeding every 2.5-3 hours and 3 solid feedings a day, if your baby has started solids.
Second, you want your baby to fall asleep independently at the beginning of the night. A baby who falls asleep on their own is more likely to settle themselves in the night without your intervention. They’ll find their own way back to sleep rather than looking to food or comfort. If you need some help getting your baby to fall asleep on their own, check out our post on raising an independent sleeper.
How to Night Wean
Once you’ve laid the foundation, what’s the best way to wean your baby off night feeds?
“There are a range of options depending on your baby and your parenting style” says Dr. Barnett. You can cut down on night feeds gradually, take a middle-of-the-road approach, or go cold turkey.
If you choose to wean your baby gradually, Dr. Barnett suggests cutting down the amount of milk they’re getting at each night feeding over a period of a few weeks. Reduce the number of ounces your baby is taking for each night feed every few days until they’re no longer feeding at night.
If you’re breastfeeding, nurse for shorter and shorter periods of time over a few weeks. Dr. Barnett suggests using 10 or 15 minutes as a starting point “by 4 or 5 months your baby should be able to get all the food they need in 10 or 15 minutes, so work down from there. ” You’ll also want to be conscious of how your baby is sucking. As soon as they stop eating and start comfort sucking, unlatch and put them pack in the crib.
If your style falls somewhere in the middle, give your baby a chance to get back to sleep on their own, but set a time limit on crying. If they haven’t settled themselves in that time period, go in, pat them on the back, rock them, or just feed them. Its up to you. Increase the amount of time you let them cry each night, for example, give them 20 minutes on night one, 30 minutes on night two, and 40 minutes on night three. Dr. Barnett recommends this approach for younger babies (closer to 4 months) rather than letting them cry indefinitely.
If you’re a tear-off-the-bandaid type, make sure they are getting all the feeds they need during the day then eliminate the desired night feed, or all feeds, and let your baby cry until they settle themselves.
What to Expect
So, how long will it take?
If you take a gradual approach, it may take a few weeks. A middle-of the-road method can take a little less time, but will likely require a week or more. If you’re eliminating the feeds cold-turkey, it should take around 3 days.
Before you start down your chosen path, make sure your baby is getting enough food during the day. “The process will be more drawn out if your baby is hungry,” says Dr. Barnett. “If everything is in place, your baby really shouldn’t need those night feeds.”
Breaking the association between food and sleep will also help your chances of success. Dr. Barnett recommends feeding upon awakening starting at 4 months. “Prior to 4 months, it’s totally appropriate for your baby to fall asleep however they can, but at around 4 months you’ll want to transition to feeding when they wake during the day rather than feeding to sleep. It’s such a strong sleep association.”
Like any kind of sleep training, night weaning can be challenging. Dr. Barnett offers some reassurance “Transitioning from eating at night is a big change and big changes come with frustration. Your baby’s not angry or feeling abandoned, they want to get back to sleep and they’re learning how to do it without a feed.” When you know what you’re hearing is frustration it can be a bit easier when your baby cries. “It’s okay for your baby to be frustrated,” she says. “I would never want a baby to do something they’re not ready to do, but your 4-6 month old is likely ready to night wean. This is a totally appropriate level of frustration for your baby to experience.”
A good video monitor can also help allay your fears. You can easily check to see if your baby is wedged in the corner of their crib or if their foot’s stuck in the slats, so you know they’re not crying from discomfort.
All this being said, the most important thing you can do is be consistent. “I cannot stress consistency enough,” says Dr. Barnett. “Weaning will take longer than it needs to if you don’t stick to your plan.” It also helps to be confident in your approach. Babies will feed off your mood, so when you’re sure of yourself, they are, too.
Have confidence in your baby and yourself. Set them up for success, trust that they’ll find a way, and chances are, you’ll both get a better night’s sleep.
Looking for more help? Find advice and tips from parents like you in our community.
Should I feed my baby at night?
Restful sleep and nutrition
Each child has his own individual rhythm of sleep and nutrition, as well as individual need for them. Just in newborns in the first weeks of life, the ability to distinguish between day and night has not yet been developed. The child is simply not used to going without food for a long time. Indeed, in the womb, he could satisfy hunger at any time of the day or night. Therefore, at least in the first weeks, he will certainly wake you up at night for feeding. nine0003
If you are formula feeding your baby, unload yourself and take turns with your partner for nightly feedings. It is also possible if you express milk in the evening and store it in the refrigerator (from +4°C to +6°C, closed for no more than 2 days).
After three months, the baby can go without food for longer, so he has a longer nighttime sleep than daytime. Starting at about 6 months old, babies no longer need to feed at night, because at this age the rhythm of hunger and satiety in a healthy child stops at daytime. nine0003
Before going to bed - milk porridge
Milk dessert with biscuits
Milk porridge at night is more satisfying than milk food. HiPP milk porridges are available both in instant form for easy dilution with water, and in ready-made form, for example, our Good Night milk desserts. You can give milk to your baby first from a bottle and later from a cup. It goes without saying that with the introduction of complementary foods, the child should get used to the spoon, and his diet should contain a sufficient amount of solid food. nine0003
Weaning from night feeding
Night feeding can become a habit that your baby will only reluctantly say goodbye to. If your baby keeps waking up during the night, try offering unsweetened tea or boiled water, but don't feed him. Night feeding even interferes with uninterrupted sleep and can damage the first teeth of the child, since after a nightly meal, the child's teeth, as a rule, are no longer cleaned. Of course, it will take some time to wean your baby from night feedings, but in the end you will definitely reach the goal! nine0003
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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 formula at night
Experts differ on this issue, but the average age when you can do without night feedings is nevertheless derived. 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 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.