When do babies start dropping night feeds
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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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.
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.
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.