Don’t we all (most especially moms) love a good, uninterrupted night sleep? Lucky for those who do, but for most mothers with a newborn between 0-6 months, night feedings are essential to the babies growth and development. It also matter if your baby is breastfed or bottle fed, as for me I do both (mixed feeding) so I get the best (and the worst) of both worlds.
As soon as you introduce solid foods to your baby, you can start to think about night weaning. Ideally, by this time, your baby is getting the nutrition that they need during the day feedings and should not wake up twice or three times during the night. Weaning your baby’s night feeds should establish the right amount of nutrition intake during the day and longer sleep at night which are both important for their growth and development.
Formula-fed babies usually night-wean sooner than breastfed babies since breastmilk is easier to digest and formula milk is more concentrated so babies tend to get more volume of milk during the day and don’t wake up at the middle of the night starving.
But, of course all babies are different and it would be best to assess what’s best for you and your baby. If night feedings doesn’t bother you and your baby that much, there is no rush to stop at a certain age. Below are some ways which you can try if you decide that it’s time to wean your baby.
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How to stop night feedings?
There are simple and effective ways to wean your baby from night feedings, the key to success is to know your baby and his sleeping habits. The most important step before you try and change your baby’s routine is to talk to his pediatrician and make sure that you are not weaning your baby too early or depriving him of any essential needs. If you get a go signal then here are some helpful ways on how you can stop night feedings.
How to wean breastfeeding babies at night?
- Make sure your baby is eating enough during the day – Once your baby is getting the nutrition that they need throughout the day, the chances of them waking up at the middle of the night hungry will be less. They might still wake once or twice throughout the night but the reason could be something else and not because they are hungry.
- Go gradually – Measure the time your baby feeds at night, if he latches for 3-5 minutes it is more likely that they are soothing and is not hungry. If they are feeding for more than 10 minutes, try reducing the time of feeding by 2 minutes each night until they get used to short to none. For example: if your baby usually feeds for 15 minutes, you’d feed for 13 minutes for two nights, then 11 minutes for the next two nights, then 9 minutes for the next two nights, and so on.
- Get Dad involve to the nighttime routine – It is understandable how a breastfeeding mom will respond to her baby waking up at night, same goes with your baby expecting his mother to be at arms reach when he wakes up at the middle of the night. Try to let dad sleep beside your baby if you are co-sleeping or let them soothe them so they won’t expect to be fed (a.k.a. mom’s breast) when they wake up at the middle of the night.
How to wean bottle-fed babies at night?
- Give baby a dream feed – Just before your baby settles in to sleep for the night, give him a bottle of milk (amount depends on baby’s age), this should increase the length of time before he goes hungry and wake up at the middle of the night.
- Don’t rush in to feed – just like anyone, babies wake up for many reasons and not just because they are hungry. Don’t be so quick and offer him a bottle of milk the moment he open his eyes. Give your baby a chance to self soothe and get back to sleep on his own.
- Reduce gradually – If your baby drinks 180 ml, try reducing it by 20-30 ml every other night. For example: you would give 150 ml for two nights, then 120 ml for the next two nights, and so on.
- Offer water – Instead of milk, try giving him some water. It will soothe your baby and eventually eliminate the need to drink milk eventually. Make sure to keep his water intake as suggested by your pediatrician.
- Be consistent – Out of all the steps, this could possibly be the key to make it truly work. Babies, learn from routine, the more you follow the routine the easier for your baby to adjust to a longer sleep at night.
Reasons why baby wakes up at night
There are number of other causes why your baby wakes up at the middle of the night besides being hungry, here are some common reasons that you might want to look out for if you are planning to start weaning your baby of night feedings.
- Teething – Between 4-6 months, your baby will start to grow their 1st tooth. As adorable as they might look, these pearly whites are quite uncomfortable for your baby and could interrupt their sleep. Teething might continue to wake your baby up all the way through their toddler years.
- Developmental Milestone – These change and shifts your baby’s sleep. By the age of 4 months, most babies have a longer duration of sleep and would wake up every couple of hours because of sleeping cycle changes. Like rolling over, for example, they would wake up, roll over then cry because the moved into a new position, this milestone could cause your baby to wake up mid sleep. By the age of 6 months, most babies are learning to sit, this could also wake them up at night. By 9 months, they are now learning to push themselves up and stand-up, it should not surprise you to see them waking up in the middle of the night wanting to explore their new ability.
- Behavioral Changes – Most babies between the age of 6-9 months are developing more sense of dependence and self-awareness which could lead to more frequent awakenings at night. When your baby reached the age of 6 months, they are now starting to mix one syllable to the other, they may also start to mimic different sounds by this stage. You might even catch your baby’s sleep talking, just let them get back to sleep if they are not fussing. By the age of 9 months, they are starting to develop separation anxiety, their sleep patterns will change, and often during those times of behavior change they will wake up and cry if they see that you are not beside them.
- Sick or Infection – As your baby reach the age of 6 months, their exposure to germs increases dramatically mainly because they can now reach lots of different objects and put it in their mouth, those tiny hands being on the top of the list. Babies catch colds, cough, diarrhea and it would wake them up simply because they are not feeling well and rested. Give your baby extra care and comfort during these times, a good sleep routine will also make it a lot easier for you and most importantly your baby.
- Hungry – On the first few weeks and months of a newborn they go hungry every 2 hours until their stomach size develops and so as the gap between each feeding. Ideally, when your baby starts to eat solid foods they would decrease and eventually stop night feedings since by then they should be getting the number of nutrients that they need throughout the day. Some babies would still be hungry once or twice in the middle of the night and wake up to feed.
Night Feedings by Age
While there is no fixed measurement for a baby’s milk intake during the night, you can stick with your baby’s milk demands but here are some general guidelines that work for most babies.
- 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 night feedings
- 7-9 Months: 1, maybe 2, night feedings
- 10-12 Months: Sometimes 1 night feeding
- 12+ Months: Generally no feedings
The most important rule in making the decision to start weaning your baby at night should always start with the question: “what will be best for my baby?”. Remember that all these guidelines would only work if you and your baby are comfortable doing it together, all babies are different and so your observation with your baby and his responses to these changes are vital for your weaning success.
I hope this article helped you decide and cleared some confusions about when and how to stop you could stop feeding your baby at night. If you are having an extra difficult time consult your pediatrician to get their professional advise, but if this worked for you and your baby let us know your thoughts and leave a comment to share your personal experience.