There comes a point in time where your baby no longer needs night feeds. There. I said it. I know I might get attacked by some mom shamers out there, but frankly, I don’t care.
Though this can vary from baby to baby, a good rule of thumb is if your baby is a minimum of 15 pounds or 6 months old, and you want to, dropping the night feeds is okay! I’m not here to parent-shame anyone who is interested in feeding their baby throughout the night, if that’s your thing, go for it! But I believe that nighttime is for sleeping, and once your baby reaches either of those points of reference (15 lbs or 6 months old), they need to be sleeping at night and eating during the day.
If given the opportunity to learn the skill of sleep sooner, you might even have a baby to drops night feeds all on their own earlier than this! My Atlas weaned himself from night feeds by 4 months old, and we never looked back. I’m happy to report that he is now a happy, healthy, and well-rested one-year-old!
So how does one remove night feeds if/when they’re ready?
Here are my best tips:
If you’re at all concerned about night weaning, ask your child’s pediatrician.
Your child’s doctor knows them best. If they say you should continue night feeds, do it. If they say you don’t have to continue feeding through the night, then I’d suggest night weaning, as it’s probably more important that your child is sleeping at night now rather than eating. Sleep is when the magic happens, and if your baby is waking out of habit to eat, then we can help them overcome that!
If your baby is over 12 weeks old only offer one night feed, and only if your baby wakes for it.
Again, your baby should be sleeping at night!!! If your baby is at 12 weeks or beyond and having more than one night feed, you should focus on shifting their caloric intake to occur more during the day than at night. If you’re breastfeeding, you know that your milk supply is based on when the baby demands it. As your baby demands more feedings during the day, they won’t need as many at night, and your supply should adjust accordingly. You can keep in a night pump if you’re worried about your milk supply. As you encourage more full feedings during the day and only one feed at night, you should see your baby start to sleep better and maybe even through the night. Both you and your baby will adjust to eating more during the day and sleeping more at night.
DO NOT offer dream feeds. The whole point of teaching your child to sleep well is to remove the feeding and sleeping association. Offering feeds WHILE THEY ARE SLEEPING totally negates this process and hinders more than helps.
When to pull feeds cold turkey?
Minimums of 15 pounds or 6 months old. Or when your child’s pediatrician says it’s okay. And why cold turkey?? Because it causes less confusion. It’s not fair to your baby to get fed sometimes and not others if you’re focusing on teaching them to sleep at night and eat during the day. Cold turkey is the way to go in my opinion as it sends one clear message – nighttime is for sleeping and daytime is for eating.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t offer feeds at night…again, only if you and your baby are ready and they’ve met these minimum requirements!
What if my baby isn’t 15 pounds or 6 months old or I’m not ready to night wean?
Then feed that baby! Make sure your baby is fully awake for any night feeds you offer. Keep the lights low. Do not stimulate your baby and more than you have to, ensuring a full feeding. Keep it business-like. Lights low, quick and quiet, do what you need to do and get that baby back in bed…awake! Laying your baby down awake after feeds allows them to go back to sleep on their own, and can help ensure that if they’re waking, it’s likely due to hunger and not just because they need your help getting back to sleep.
What are signs it’s time to pull the night feeds?
If you’ve offered a night feed and it’s taking your baby a long time to fall back asleep after you’ve finished feeding them, it might be time to drop the night feeds. If your baby isn’t taking a full feed during the night, they’re likely just looking for you to help them back to sleep…it’s maybe time to drop the night feed. If your baby isn’t taking a full feed upon waking in the morning, it’s time to pull the night feed! If your baby is over 12 weeks of age and is having more than one waking besides the feeding, it’s time to pull the night feed.
Do not revert back to night feeds.
Once you’ve pulled them, do not revert back to offering night feeds during any sort of regression. Remember, your baby likely isn’t hungry if they’ve slept through before, and are only waking out of habit (or in this case a regression). Feeding them back to sleep will only set you back and make the regression last longer. The only time I recommend feeding at night anymore once they’ve been pulled is if your baby is sick.
Worried about when to pull night feeds? Don’t be!
When I work with families during the newborn stage, babies usually end up dropping the feeds all on their own sometime between 10-13 weeks old. When you make sleep a priority, feeding falls into place naturally. Interested in working together to help your baby sleep at night (and eat during the day??) – let’s chat! I’d love to help you.