Saying Goodnight to Night Feeds

When my babies were new, the night feeds were real.

And I’m sure it’s the same for you! Tiny tummies need filling often - and that’s how it should be! But eventually, babies get bigger and more capable of going longer stretches in between feeds. But I know there are a lot of questions that swirl around night feeds because there is definite anxiety that goes with it. Naturally, the thought of not responding to your baby in the night when they could be hungry goes against all of our parenting instincts. 

Which is why we learn the difference between hunger and habit.

Just to be clear: I would never tell you not to feed your hungry baby.

But, I would encourage you to learn the difference between hunger and habit so you are able to discern what type of response they need to go back to sleep. 

As a mom of 3 who had a hard time with the “just because” night wakings, while my mental health took a dive, I know the struggle - especially with my first. It wasn’t until I became a sleep coach that I learned to understand the difference in my daughter’s actions and how she wasn’t actually hungry, she just thought that this is what she was supposed to do in the night because it had always been that way.

Can you relate?

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Before you begin…

When I work with my clients, some are surprised to learn that I often incorporate night feeds into their custom sleep plan. Depending on your baby’s age, weight, or development, night feeds are still important. But for the babies in the room that don’t actually care about the feeding part and just think that they need it to go back to sleep, there’s a way to reroute their sleep skills.

  1. Always, always, always check with your child’s pediatrician before attempting to cut night feeds from their routine. This is only effective if your baby is okay to do it, right?

You should also know that “sleeping through the night” has a different meaning depending on your child’s age. It doesn’t always mean that you won’t hear from them for a 10+ hour stretch - and that’s certainly not the case the younger they are. 

I should also remind you that we’re also not looking to drop the amount of calories your little one is getting in a 24 hour span. Instead, we’re just looking to include more of those during waking hours, and require fewer of them overnight. I also find this can help ease the parental anxiety about your child being hungry or losing a bit of weight. 

Getting started

Doing things inconsistently is where you run into hiccups. How can your little one know what to expect when the responses change all the time? If we’re not consistent in how we react, how are they supposed to know why they get fed for comfort at certain wakings, but not others? In just about every aspect of sleep training, inconsistency in how we respond (however you choose that to look) is the quickest way to derail any sleep progress.

Since I know this question is going to come up, here is a rough guideline when it comes to dropping the night feeds. Remember, it’s vital that you speak with your child’s pediatrician first. With all that in mind, you can expect that around 4-6 months old you’ll probably be doing 2 feeds a night, around 6-9 months old it would be 1 feed a night, and then about zero going forward. This is a general rule of thumb, and only applies if your babe is gaining good weight and thriving (and Doc says it’s okay!). And yes, sometimes there will be sickness, growth spurts, or other things that require some extra feeds.

When you’re weaning the night feeds, don’t rush in when they wake. Give them a few minutes to practice settling themselves before you get involved. If a few minutes go by and baby still isn’t happy, then go to them. Now is probably a good time to choose a sleep training method to get started on if they’re waking but don’t need a feed. Try picking a certain number of hours you’re comfortable with baby going without a feed, and if your little one wakes up within that time, use your sleep training method. 

 When you’re doing night feeds, keep things boring. Less stimulation = your little one can go back to sleep more easily. 

When you’re ready to drop a night feed, pick a sleep training method and stick to it. There are multiple ways to achieve the same goal, so choose one that aligns with your values and be consistent! I have a comprehensive guide that breaks down each of the effective sleep training methods, so you can choose the best fit.

Prefer more support? I’ll get you to all your goals of being well rested, enjoying more freedom in your schedule, and being confident in how to handle any sleep crises that may arise. Contact me directly, or check out how I can help you to start crushing those dreams!

Prefer more support? I’ll get you to all your goals of being well rested, enjoying more freedom in your schedule, and being confident in how to handle any sleep crises that may arise. Contact me directly, or check out how I can help you to start crushing those dreams!