Putting Night Feeds to Bed
I’ll be super honest when I say that night
feeds can be a touchy topic. And you know what? If you’re not ready to drop them yet, don’t. I’ll be the first to say that if you like how things are going with your baby’s sleep, and night feeds are equally important to you and your babe, then power to you!
But the thing I’ve noticed is that after a good handful of months, those 3 AM feeds that were once a beautiful bonding experience becomes the thing that keeps your household tired, and possibly even some feelings of low key resentment when you’re the one always up in the night. So if you find yourself on team “No need for night feeds”, and think you’re ready to start making changes to make that happen, then strap yourself in!
Most importantly, I have to make a couple of things crystal clear.
1. This is NOT for the newborn stage. Little babies under 16 weeks need night feeds because they have tiny tummies that need filling frequently. If you have a newborn, now is not the time to be cutting feeds. If you find yourself in the newborn stage, check out my newborn sleep essentials instead, to help you with the stage you’re currently at! 2. Always, always, always consult your child’s pediatrician before cutting night feeds. It’s imperative that their health care provider is aware of this and doesn’t have any concerns. 3. There’s a difference between wanting to feed because of habit, and wanting to feed because of hunger. I’m talking about transitioning from feeding out of habit here. If your baby is actually hungry, feed them of course! I would never tell you otherwise.
Okay, got it? Great!
The other important distinction I’ll make here is that cutting night feeds works best when your little babe already has the sleep basics down pat. This means having an effective sleep environment like white noise, total darkness, age appropriate sleep schedule, and their own safe sleeping space. But it also means that they should already know how to sleep independently. If you don’t have these foundations down yet, don’t sweat! I’m just a click away and we can discuss how I can help you get your little one putting themselves to sleep.
Building The Foundations
While your health care provider should definitely weigh in on this, usually once baby has hit 13 lbs or so, they’re typically heavy enough that they don’t need those night feeds anymore. My recommendation to my clients is to start making the transition when baby is around 6 months old if they’ve gained that good weight, their doctor is supportive, and the caregivers are looking to cut the night feed. If you’re still enjoying that middle of the night bonding, then I say keep at it!
It’s also important to know that if your little one is sleeping through the night on their own, you don’t need to stress about it! Some parents get nervous that their child is sleeping too long in the night. Parenting is funny, hey? All you want is sleep, and when you start to get it, you can get worried! As long as your little one has good weight gain and is otherwise healthy, let your little one get their sleep! It’s a gift! Better not waste it.
So... How Do We Make It Happen?
Remember that any change to your baby’s usual sleep routine is an adjustment for them, so it’s going to take a little time for them to get it. And if you’re breastfeeding, you’ll also need some time for your supply to adjust, or you’ll be feeling some serious engorgement!
If you’re still doing 2+ feeds in the night, my expert recommendation is to start by pushing through the first night feed using that Leave & Check Method. So when they call out for their usual night feed (out of habit, not hunger, right?), you’ll give them 10+ minutes to put themselves to sleep. If they’re still upset, check on them for 30-60 seconds without feeding them. Then leave and increase the amount of time in between. Continue doing this until baby falls asleep without that feed.
Repeat this process for a couple of nights, and then do it again for the second night feed (and so on) so you’re gradually cutting down on those habitual night feeds. Baby will learn pretty quickly that you’re not doing night feeds anymore, and put themselves back to sleep. They won’t be getting what they were expecting, but they’re also not left to their own devices. Do what works for your comfort zone.
Like any change, it can require time, patience, and trial and error to see what makes sense for your little one. There’s no need to feel guilty for wanting to make this change if it’s not serving both of you anymore. Sometimes babies wake out of habit, and because we’ve responded to them with a feed, that becomes the expectation - even if it’s not a need.
If you’re really feeling stuck with your baby’s sleep, please reach out! You deserve to feel rested and confident in how to respond to your baby’s sleep needs. I want your baby to feel rested, and I want you to be able to show up as your best self for all the roles that you play on a daily basis. And frankly, it’s downright impossible to do that when you’re exhausted.
Ready to be the next one I help get their ZZZs? Book your free call here for how I can help get your little one sleeping in a way that fits your lifestyle, household, and comfort zone - because that matters too!