Confused about when your baby should be ready to drop a night feed? It’s a subject many mums are unclear about – is it too soon or is your baby waking habitually rather than needing a feed at night?
The reality is there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to dropping a night feed and often it comes down to when you think your baby is ready. While this usually happens when they’re around four to six months, all babies are different: talk to your GP if you’re unsure.
Going to sleep is a learnt behavior and sometimes little ones develop unhelpful sleep associations such as needing to suck on a bottle or breast, being held, rocked or needing mum or dad close by.
A baby or child will quite naturally increase their food intake in the day to compensate for dropping a night feed. As milk is a food if it is given a night the body becomes conditioned to expecting it and the child will wake for it as long as it is offered. Frequently children quite naturally drop a night time feed when the time is right.
In some night feeds can become a habit that can disrupt the child’s sleep and cause havoc in the household. In these instances help is often needed to help wean them off this nocturnal feed as children need to learn to eat in the day and sleep at night.
You can do this in three ways:
1. Stop giving her milk and offer water only (water is a lot less interesting than milk and they are less likely to wake up for this).
2. Offer less feed each time, give 1 oz less the first night and give them two to three nights to adjust before you reduce it by another oz and so on until you can just stop giving it. If you’re breastfeeding, reduce the feed by a minute and then two to three nights later, reduce by another minute and so on.
3. For babies over one years old you can give one scoop less in their usual feed, as the nights go on dilute the feed a bit more and reduce the volume as well so you gradually reduce the strength and the amount they are taking until it is virtually water. You can also do this with expressed breast milk.
If your baby is having more than one feed you can do the options two and three with each of these feeds or just drop one, the one they take less at or the one you think it will be easier to manage.
It’s important to stay firm and calm, once you have dropped a night feed do not reintroduce one or offer anything else other than water. Water will not harm their teeth and children will drink it if they are thirsty. It is important not to reward night time waking with drinks of juice, milk, snacks or lots of attention.