How and when to wean your baby off night feeds

After months of night feeding, not every parent looks as cheery as this. But is your baby ready to drop his night feed? Mandy Gurney of the Millpond Sleep Clinic advises.

In the early months of your baby’s life sleeping and eating will go hand in hand. They have tiny tummies that need to be frequently replenished both day and night. I remember those nights with my children when they were babies; I felt no one had warned me how tough it would be being constantly woken to latch my baby on for yet another night feed. The good news is that, as your baby’s sleep patterns settle and they sleep for longer stretches at a time, night feeds will become less frequent. When this pattern starts to emerge you can begin to manage night feeds so that you have more opportunity to sleep yourself.

When and how to drop a night feed for your child can be a very confusing question for mums. Is my baby waking out of hunger or is this a habit? Babies and toddlers who fall asleep while feeding on the breast or bottle at bedtime often associate sucking with sleep and will then need milk in the night as a prerequisite to going back to sleep. This does not necessarily mean they are hungry, but that they have simply learned sucking gets them back to sleep.

There are no hard or fast rules about when to reduce or stop night feeds

Generally most babies will still be waking for at least one feed in the night up until 6 months old and beyond 6 months many will still be having one feed a night.

There are no hard or fast rules about when to reduce or stop night feeds. What we know is that, scientifically, babies have the ability to sleep through the night by 6 months and with the introduction of solids at this time, many are.

My advice for dropping night feeds is that it should be based on your decision about when is the right time for you and your baby. If you are at all unsure please talk to your Health Visitor or call us at Millpond.

Ready to start reducing night feeds?

When you feel ready to reduce or stop night feeding, you don’t have to wean your little one completely. You just need to change the association with feeding and sleeping.

Start your child’s bedtime routine with a feed first and then take them for a quiet winding down bedtime routine that includes a short warm bath and a dimly lit bedroom. Once they are ready for bed, for the first week let them have a very small top up feed. This way they will have some sucking and milk just before bed, but not enough to fall asleep with, enabling a greater awareness of learning to sleep without sucking.

The second week offer a feed before the bedtime routine but now settle your child to sleep without a feed.

In the night it is important to gradually reduce feeds so your little one is not awake or hungry for long periods. Start with the feed that takes the longest time or uses the largest volume of milk and offer a maximum feed for that night. If your little one takes less than the maximum that night, that’s fine, just keep reducing the maximum feed slowly as below. If your child has more than one feed in the night you can gradually reduce and stop each individual feed in the same way. Before long, your little one should be sleeping through the night.

Example for reducing night feeds by timing.

Currently breastfeeding for 15 minutes/feed. 

DAY 1-7  Reduce by one minute per night until you get to 8 minutes

DAY 8-10 Reduce by one minute to 7 minutes

DAY 11-13 Reduce by one minute to 6 minutes

DAY 14-16 Reduce by one minute to 5 minutes

DAY 17-19 Reduce by one minute to 4 minutes

DAY 20-22 Reduce by one minute to 3 minutes

DAY 23-25 Reduce by one minute to 2 minutes

DAY 26 Drop feed

Example for reducing night feed by milk volume

Currently having 8oz/240ml per feed.

Reduce by 1oz/30ml every 3 nights as per above.

Please contact Millpond Sleep Clinic – 020 8444 0040, if you would like more information or support with night feeds. www.millpondsleepclinic.com sleep@millpondsleepclinic.com

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