How to Stop Night Feeds and Get Your Baby Sleeping Through
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You’re tired and worn out and you’re wondering how to stop night feeds.
How do you get your baby to finally sleep through the night?
You’re not alone in your thoughts, trust me. There are many mamas out there all wondering the same thing.
You may be feeling a little lost and defeated, especially if your baby is creeping up to the 12-month mark.
However, all is not lost. You can teach your baby to sleep through the night and learn how to wean night feedings.
I’ve put together 7 tried and true methods that you can choose from to help your baby drop their night feeds and sleep through the night!
When to Stop Night Feeds
Before we delve into how to stop feeding baby at night, it would be reckless to not address when it is appropriate to stop night feeds and start night weaning.
The reality is, you are going to get a whole lot of different answers to this question depending on who to ask.
First and foremost, address this with your healthcare provider.
Secondly, you need to be comfortable that your child is healthy and thriving enough to do without night feeds.
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Let’s be clear, it is normal and necessary for newborns to feed at night time. This is primarily for their health needs, but also to help establish the breastfeeding mom’s milk supply.
However, you can still work towards dropping those feeds by working on certain skills, which is what we’ll address next.
In summary, when to stop night feeds is a personal decision that you need to make based on the advice of your doctor and parental judgement.
First Work on Independent Sleep Skills
Weaning your baby at night will be a lot easier if they have established independent sleep skills.
This is especially true for older babies.
So much of the time they aren’t actually waking to feed, but waking unable to put themselves back to sleep because they haven’t the skills to do so.
Some would argue that you cannot teach them those skills and that they develop over time.
I would disagree.
Establishing healthy, independent sleep skills with your baby is not a way of expecting them to never wake at night.
We all wake at night, even as adults.
Instead, by teaching them how to go to sleep on their own, they will, in turn, learn how to wake and go back to sleep without your help.
Therefore, before you even attempt to night wean, I strongly suggest that you first work on sleep training and independent sleep skills if you haven’t already done so.
By doing this alone you’ll likely also solve the question of how to stop baby waking at night out of habit.
You may find that by doing that alone, your baby will stop needing feeds at night anyway (because they weren’t actually waking out of true hunger).
How to Stop Night Feeds
Here’s the magic question that many a mama is looking for the answer to.
How do you wean night feedings?
Night weaning a bottle fed baby and how to stop breastfeeding at night aren’t uncommon questions among mamas.
There are several methods of doing this, 7 of which I’m going to address today.
Some of them involve allowing your baby to cry while others do not. The whole point of this post is that you get presented with several options and can choose the one/s that you are comfortable with.
Method #1 Start with the Day
The routine that you create and establish for your baby during the day has a big impact on how they sleep at night.
My first piece of advice would be to get your baby into a solid schedule during the day.
These are the two that I have primarily used for my three children and have had great results with.
Why do you want to establish a schedule for your baby?
Some of the benefits include:
- Making sure they’re getting the appropriate amount of sleep
- Assuring that their nutritional needs are met
- Setting up their circadian rhythm
- Preempting their needs before things reach crisis point
If you can create a schedule during the day that meets all the needs of your baby, then night feeds often diminish all on their own.
This is often because their nutritional needs are taken care of during waking hours and they are no longer hungry overnight.
Method #2 Add a Dream Feed
This is a great method that I have used with all three of my babies.
If you have a young baby or a baby that still requires extra nutrition, then a great alternative to night feeds is a dream feed.
Here is a simple definition of a dream feed if you have never heard of it before:
A dream feed involves feeding your baby when they’re still sleeping. Typically, dream feeds are done around 10 or 11 p.m., before you’ve gone to bed for the night.Today’s Parent
By adding in a dream feed around 10/10:30 PM all three of my babies were able to sleep from then until 6:30/7 AM by about 9 weeks of age.
Do bear in mind that while this method works very well for some babies, it has been known to make no difference at all for others. Especially older babies.
Give it a try for a solid week and if it doesn’t make a difference, try something else.
Method #3 Use the Pacifier
If you are not at all keen on letting your baby cry at all then this is a method that you could definitely try out.
Assuming your baby will take a pacifier I recommend that when they wake in the night that you offer them the paci instead of a feed.
If they take the paci and go back to sleep but then wake again, offer the paci to them once more.
I recommend you do it up to three times and after that feed.
It will help you to know if they are truly hungry or not and it will also help them to extend the time that they can go between feeds.
Method #4 Soothing Rounds
I have gone into detail about soothing rounds in this post but I will still touch on it briefly here.
Soothing rounds for night feedings is a concept found in the book Moms on Call.
It is a method that is similar to the one we just talked about where you use the pacifier to extend night feeds. However, it also suggests allowing your baby to cry for some time.
For really little ones, they suggest up to 5 minutes at a time and to do that 3 times in a row.
As your child gets older and you feel comfortable, you can extend the amount of time that you let them cry before giving them the paci.
This method works. I’ve used it with my children and have found it very effective.
Because they recommend feeding after the third round, I found that it is really great for giving flexibility to cater for growth spurts.
You’re not just ignoring their cries, but responding to them after evaluating the situation.
Method #5 Reduce the Amount of Milk You’re Feeding Baby at Night
If you are looking for another gentle way of weaning your baby from night feeds then a great option is to slowly reduce the amount of milk they receive.
How quickly you do this is totally up to you.
With my youngest, I decided that that was the way I wanted to eliminate her dream feed when she was around 3 months old.
Over the course of about 10 days I gradually reduced her bottle by half an ounce until there was less than 2 ounces left.
By that stage I knew that she didn’t need that feed and I dropped it altogether.
You may find that when you go to drop it completely that you child may cry some, but from experience it is very limited and short-lived.
Method #6 Wait
There are two ways in which I recommend waiting.
First of all is to just wait things out if your baby is really little. I’m talking under 3 months.
Many babies require at least one night feed up until that age and so you may just have to wait until their digestive system has matured enough to handle extended periods without feeding.
Another way in which to wait is at night when you hear your baby wake. Often times babies do wake at night but they are not fully awake.
If you rush in their to feed them right away you may be waking them up all the way. They could very well have just continued sleeping if you had just waited a moment.
So, my recommendation is to wait a full 5 minutes before rushing in and responding.
You know your baby best so if they are crying and sound distressed or different than normal, by all means trust your gut and check on them.
However, for the most part it is very safe to stop, wait, listen and then respond.
You might be surprised that your baby wasn’t truly awake and hungry to begin with.
Method #7 Extinction & Night Weaning Cold Turkey
This is the last method that I’m going to suggest. It isn’t because I disagree with it, but simply because I hate having to use it.
I’ve never had to use it to eliminate night feeds, but we did have to when 2/3 of our babies learnt how to roll onto their bellies and didn’t want to roll back.
This method is geared towards anyone that wishes to do night weaning cold turkey
You do not go in and comfort when they are crying, and you do not feed them.
Like I said, I do not like this at all because it breaks my heart. However, there are times when it is necessary, especially with older babies, because intervening just exacerbates things.
If this method is not for you, then just remember that there are 6 other methods that you can try first, so don’t despair!
Many babies drop night feeds all on their own, but some babies require a bit of assistance to get there.
If you’re wanting to get your baby to sleep through the night then these methods will go a long way towards helping you to achieve that goal.
How to stop
Remember that whatever method you choose to try, it is important to try it for at least a week before stopping and reevaluating the situation.
Rome wasn’t built in a day and healthy sleep habits aren’t usually either.