How Can I Drop my Baby’s Night Feedings?

AndieM.Ed., RD, LDN, CLC, RYT-200

Read time: 5 minutes

What should I know about dropping baby's nighttime feeds?

  • Understand when or if you and your baby may be ready to wean from nighttime feed

  • Recognize other factors that may be causing nighttime waking

  • Learn tips for how to drop night feeds and help your little one sleep through the night

Parents can feel pressure to have a baby that sleeps through the night.1 The truth is that frequent waking in babies is normal and healthy.2,3 In fact, it helps keep them safe.2,4

Swiftly responding to your baby’s cries and meeting their needs in those first few months can lead to less crying overall and help your little one regulate their sleep cycle.5

Once your little one is developmentally ready to sleep longer at night and is also gaining weight well, it may be a good time to consider dropping nighttime feedings, should that be your goal.

When does a baby sleep through the night?

Each child has their own unique sleep pattern needs that can change over time. Babies typically don’t have a regular sleep cycle until around 5 to 6 months.6

Even then, it can be normal for a 6 month old to wake up during the night.7 Studies have shown as many as 25% to 50% of children over the age of 6 months continue to have nighttime wake-ups.8

Before you assume that your baby’s nighttime habits are ‘wrong’, think about what works best for you and your infant. If waking up a few times per night to feed works for you, then continue. If you feel lack-of-sleep is affecting you or your child adversely, you may consider weaning some or all of the nighttime feeds.

Do what works best for you and your little one.

Read more: What are Typical Sleep Patterns for 4 to 12 Month Old Babies?

What is considered sleeping through the night for babies?

This definition can vary greatly. Some define ‘sleeping through the night’ for infants as 6 or 8 hours, while others use 5 hours stretches.910 Regardless of the exact number of hours, each child has their own unique sleep pattern needs that will change over time.6

Read more: How can I Help my Baby (4-12 months) Sleep Well at Night?

Why is my baby waking up at night?

Should you decide that nighttime weaning is your goal, the first thing to ensure is that your baby is gaining weight appropriately. Next, think about why your baby is waking at night.

Reasons your baby may be waking at night include:

  • Hunger, especially during growth spurts5

  • Discomfort / feeling too cold or warm5

  • Teething11

  • Developmental advances12

  • Illness5

  • Sleep regressions13

  • Reflux14

Some of these reasons are short-lived and your baby may begin to drop nighttime wake-ups as they are resolved. Others, such as reflux, may take changes to diet, sleep position, or medication to help correct.15,16,17

If you think your baby has reflux or another medical concern, be sure to talk with their health care provider for support.

Need some help dropping nighttime feedings? Reach out to our team of registered dietitian nutritionists and lactation consultants for free! They’re here to help on our free to live chat from Monday – Friday 8am-6pm (ET). Chat Now!

What can I do to help drop nighttime feedings

Increase daytime calories

Once you eliminate any discomfort that may be waking your baby, you want to ensure that your little one is well-fed before bed. Increasing calories during the day may reduce feedings at night.1

To help increase calories during the day:

  • Minimize distractions and feed in a quiet place to help keep baby feeding longer18

  • Offer the breast or bottle feed more frequently throughout the day, paying close attention to baby’s hunger and fullness cues

  • Feed a few times in the hours before bed to help baby have a full stomach

Read more: Understanding Your Baby’s Hunger and Fullness Cues: Responsive Feeding

Can I put cereal in a bottle?

The idea that feeding infant cereal in a bottle before bed helps baby sleep has been around for quite some time. However, studies have not indicated that cereal in a bottle helps with sleep, and that in fact this practice may be dangerous.20,24

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that cereal in a bottle can be a choking hazard, may lead to over feeding, and if given too early may put your little one at risk for allergies.19,21

Try to wean from one nighttime feeding at a time

Weaning gradually by eliminating one feeding at a time, every few days, may help prevent discomfort and gives your baby and your body time to adjust.22,23

If you feel uncomfortable, try expressing a bit of milk to relieve the pressure.23 Aim to hand express or pump just enough to relieve the pressure, but not so much that it stimulates more milk production. The engorgement will go down as your body realizes that milk at this time is no longer needed.

Stopping the one feed should not affect milk production at other feeding times.

Read more: How and When to Hand Express

Try shortening breastfeeding sessions gradually

If baby’s breastfeeding times at night are fairly long, try reducing the length of time you breastfeed at each session by 2 to 3 minutes every few days.

This is another way to help you and your little one slowly adjust to a new schedule.

What do I do when my baby wakes up at night?

If baby wakes up at night and you are try to avoid that nighttime feed, there are several things you can try depending on your comfort level.

Let baby self soothe. If baby is gently fussing, you can plan to wait a specific amount of time before going in to help. This gives baby a chance to fall back asleep on their own.25 You may decide to go in every 5 minutes, or gradually increase the time from 5 minutes to 10 minutes (or more) over a few days to help baby learn to fall back asleep on their own.25

Soothe baby. If baby doesn’t settle, you may choose to check on your little one. You can rub their tummy, back, or head until baby is calmed. Try to keep the lights off and avoid playing, picking up, and talking to baby.6

Investigate. If baby is frantic, check to see if baby is hungry, needs a diaper change, or maybe is not feeling well. If you must pick up your little one, try to put baby back in the crib still awake so they can learn to fall asleep independently.6,26

Read more:

What are Sleep Regressions

How Can I Help My Toddler Sleep Well at Night?

Have someone else go in to check on baby

If there are certain times when you do not want to breastfeed or bottle feed during the nighttime weaning process, try to have someone else go in to soothe your little one if possible.22 This way your baby will be less likely to expect the breast or bottle.

Read more: How to Share Nighttime Feeding Duties with your Partner

Let's Chat!

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Our Happy Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitian nutritionists certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too! They’re here to offer personalized support on our free, one-on-one, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET) No appointment needed, no email or sign-up required. Chat Now!

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For more on this topic, check out the following articles:

How do I Create a Bedtime Routine for my Infant and Toddler?

Setting Up a Safe Sleep Environment

What are Typical Sleep Patterns for Newborns (0-12 weeks old)?

How do I Teach My Baby to Sleep in a Crib?