Your Guide To Night Feeds and Weaning

By Expert Contributor Katie Kovaleski

 Image via: Sheknows.com

Image via: Sheknows.com

A big piece of the confusion pie when it comes to sleep training is the question of what happens with the night feedings? Do we keep them? Do we feed on some wakings and not others? Do we wait a certain amount of time before responding to them for the feed? Do we cut them all out? Do we dream feed? And on and on it goes. We want your baby to absolutely be well fed as well as being well rested and are here to help you figure out how to do that.

We advocate formal sleep training as early as 4 months of age and we also recommend and help with sleep shaping and healthy sleep hygiene for newborns but do not recommend sleep training or formally consulting on a sleep training method until your baby is at least 4 months old, Adjusted age.

During the sleep consulting process part of the plan is deciding how many night feedings will be taking place and when. The first thing we ask is that the client speak to their pediatrician and get the green light if they want to drop all night feedings. If the baby is around 4 months, we typically keep 1-2 feedings and also ask the pediatrician for their recommendation on how many they believe the baby needs according to their growth percentiles.

Once we have established via the pediatrician how many should take place, we then implement a plan for when they should occur. If your child is sleeping well (5 plus hour stretches at a time) and is over 4 months of age, I rarely recommend doing a dream feed. That first stretch of sleep from bedtime (and the last feed) until midnight is especially restorative and we do not want to impede on that by dream feeding.

My rule of thumb for night feeding is typically (can vary depending on each baby’s unique needs, sleep issues, and feeding issues) feed immediately for the first waking after 12am.  Don’t wait or use a sleep training method, right when the baby has a natural night waking after 12am, go feed. If there is a second feeding on the menu, it should occur for the first waking after 3am and before 5am. If you continually feed after 5am, you are getting into morning territory and can create a long lasting waking habit.

As with all things sleep training, consistency is key. Teaching your baby night after night what to expect is the quickest way to sleep success. Once you have formed a plan, stick with it. All other night wakings should be treated as such and should be responded to with your sleep training method.