This is one of the biggest questions I get asked. How do I know when my baby is ready to drop night feeding? As we all know, every baby is different. The age at which a baby is able to sleep all night without a feed will vary quite a lot. That said, you don’t want to get into a pattern of feeding an older baby (over 6 months) numerous times a night as a way of settling them back to sleep. This can become a really strong sleep association and the night waking can get worse as the baby gets older if you are using feeding as a settling technique.
So, as a rule of thumb I usually ask three questions when someone asks me if their baby should be night feeding:
- Are they over six months of age?
- Do they weigh 8kgs or more?
- Are the eating solids at least twice a day?
If you can answer yes to all three of these questions, then theoretically your baby should be able to sleep all night. There is a caveat though! Some babies just can’t go more than about 10 hours without a feed until they are closer to 12 months. In this case I always say that a baby may need an early morning feed, between 4am and 6am, just to get them past those early hours. You don’t want to be starting your day at 4.30am!
To drop night feeds, I find it is best to do it gradually and gently. Start settling your baby to sleep by patting and stroking them instead of feeding them. It can take a while the first night and your baby won’t be happy about it but soon you will be able to get them back to sleep without that feed and things will improve quickly.
It’s also important to note that during this phase don’t leave your baby. Stay with them the whole time and soothe them, just try not to feed them. Use this process gradually until your baby no longer needs to be fed to be put down.
Once a baby is crawling and walking it is important that they have a good night’s sleep. Waking a lot during the night to feed is not great for your little one as they will be more tired the next day. Grumpy toddlers no thanks! When toddlers are tired the wheels can fall off quicker than usual! So dropping those early feeds during the night are important and if they still need one, then move that feed to the early hours of the morning. Having a feed here can help a lot with those wakeful hours and help prevent the early morning wake up!
Article by Wattle Health resident expert, Paediatric Nurse, Jo Ryan.