Dropping The Night Feed

dropping the night time feedI had an excellent conversation with a friend the other day regarding the different methods of dropping the night feed. As she is a mother of three she has some invaluable experience and a few top tips that I will share with you below.

Firstly we both agreed that it is best to wait until your baby sleeps through the night by itself before attempting this technique as the main reason they wake up is because of hunger.

When they are little their tummies can only hold enough food to last them for a few hours which is why we feed them so often.

If they can sleep more than that without waking up then you can be pretty sure that their tummy is now large enough to hold enough food to sustain them for that period.

Don’t let your baby guilt you into thinking that they are starving and need food. If you let the longest amount of sleep they have had in one block guide you then that should be a pretty good indication of how long they can last between the last night feed and the first morning one.

The first time our bub slept all the way through (I think she was 4.5 months old) my wife and I awoke around 6am with a start. We had put her to bed after her last feed at 10pm which meant that she had slept almost eight whole hours. Holy smoke! We both rushed into her room in a panic only to find her sleeping, well, like a baby.

There was no warning or gradual lengthening of sleep periods. She went from five hours the night before straight to eight that first time. When she finally did wake up she fed well and was straight back into her four hour routine as per normal.

Excellent we thought. She can last for eight hours. From now on no more night time feeds.

Our strategy was to give her a late feed (10 or 11pm) and then not another one till 6 or 7am. When she woke in the night we would go in to her and place a comforting hand on her for reassurance but we would not pick her up and definitely would not feed her.

At first she took a while to settle and we had to keep going in and repeat the same actions. After a few nights she realized that there was no point in waking up as there is no food going so she didn’t bother after that.

Sometimes we felt it was necessary to let her cry a little before going into her room to comfort her.  We would wait until her cries had died down and then go in. We definitely did not want to pick her up and we didn’t want her to think that we were coming in to her because she was crying so we would wait for a break in the cries and then go in.

In this way we were able to let her know that we are around and that she is safe without appearing to be at her beck and call (which of course we are).

Our friend would do exactly the same thing except instead of no feeding in the night they would give their bub a bottle filled with warm water.  After a few days her kids didn’t bother either. A bottle of warm water is not worth waking up for.

I’ll be first to admit that we are extremely fortunate in the sleep department. Our bub has always seemed to like her sleep and so far we haven’t had to struggle with getting her to bed. She knows the routine and she likes it that way.

Admittedly we were slightly militaristic in our approach to bed time and she has always slept in her own cot in her own room so whether it was the strict routine or our baby’s natural tendency to sleep well, I guess we will never know.

The fact of the matter is that we now all enjoy a full night’s sleep most nights which is good for the sanity of everyone in our household.

Thank you and good night…

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3 Responses to Dropping The Night Feed

  1. Bettina says:

    This has been on my mind lately. Our almost 4 month old has slept from 10 til 4,so I know he can do it, but some nights he wakes at midnight. Feeding is the fastest way to get him straight back to sleep. (short term gain, I know) He has been sick and I feel he wants to eat to clear the gunk. I tried just resettling andhe would wake an hour later. So I was getting less sleep. How long did it take your daughter and do you think wait until he has slept right through before attempting?

    • james says:

      There are so many variables that it is hard to give you a recommendation. Are you breast, bottle, on demand or routine feeding? Is bub in your bed, your room or their own room? All these things make a big difference as to how you tackle it.
      Our daughter was routine fed in her own room and it probably took a month of trying before she was regularly sleeping the whole night through. With a routine it was easier for us to plan the last big feed before the big sleep at about 10 or 11pm. Some nights we had to go in over and over to get her to settle and others there was no fuss at all. I think the important thing was that once the decision was made we didn’t feed her until 6am. After a while she didn’t expect it and so went back to sleep. Most nights we would lie there waiting for her to call anyway so less sleep was a big factor in the beginning.
      We always find it hard to implement any changes when our bub is sick. One can’t help but give them whatever they want when this is the case.
      We waited until she had slept the 8 hours before trying the full night as it gave us the much needed confidence that she could handle that time frame without a feed and confidence is what you need most when your resolve starts to waver at 3am! Thanks Bettina and good luck. Just remember that nobody knows your baby like you do.

    • Kate says:

      I’m in the same boat… its hard to quit the night feed when you know its the quickest route to getting everyone back to sleep! Good luck- I hope you get it sorted quicker than I did (I’m still working on it and darling bub is nearly 10 months!) Thanks for sharing your experiences James.

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