Starting from around six months onwards, some babies may need to feed less at night
We look at how to begin cutting down to make the transition a happy one for you both if you're baby has reached this stage
Babies often drop night feeds on their own as they slowly become able to last longer without food. This can happen gradually at around six months, but it's very common for many that this happens a lot later.
Some babies continue to wake up for food at night after six months – perhaps through habit or maybe from hunger if they aren’t getting enough calories during the day but often, they wake due to growth spurts and teething too.
You may be quite happy with this, but many mums are pretty exhausted by this point and would really welcome a good night’s sleep. It’s also important for babies’ developing brains and bodies to get a decent stretch of sleep at night – so it’s not you being selfish wanting them to sleep through but it helps to be realistic and understand that there are a variety of reasons why a baby wakes in the night and for many, these don't just stop at the six month milestone.
If you feel your baby still needs feeding once or twice at night you might try these things to see if they're ready for less at night. Here’s how:
- Take it gradually and gently... If you’re breastfeeding, give your baby a slightly shorter time on the breast each night over a week or two, they may begin to feel there is no point waking up at night
- You could also try giving a drink of water instead of a feed, but not if this upsets your baby
- Your partner can step in. If you’re breastfeeding, your baby will associate you with food and will smell your milk when you try to settle them down. If your partner goes in when your baby wakes they may have more joy settling them
- If you’re bottle-feeding, try putting the milk in a smaller bottle and gradually cut it down until it’s not really worth waking up for.
- Give loads of reassurance and gentle ‘shushing’ when you or your partner go in to settle your baby, but don’t chat as it will wake them further. You may have to go in several times the first night or two, but after that some babiues can adapt to settling quite quickly
- If your baby is a bit older, you or your partner can repeat quietly, ‘shhh, it’s time for sleep now’, and gently pat and comfort them. They may not understand your words, but your presence will reassure them
- Ask your health visitor for advice if you’re finding it hard going – they may have some further ideas
- Consistency is the key. Try not to go back to old habits as this will confuse your baby and the whole process will take longer. But if they get a cold or are ill during the process, you may have to go back to night-feeding for a while, as they may not be able to feed enough during the day
- If you’ve just gone back to work or there are other changes happening in your baby’s life, take it extra gently: you may want to postpone the process until everything else has settled down.