How to Stop Middle of the Night Feedings

Stressed Mother

If your baby is waking up to eat in the middle of the night, the drain on you and your energy resources can be substantial. Getting up multiple times to fix a bottle or nurse a hungry baby can make even the most upbeat mum tired and grumpy, and the same is true for that hungry baby. Many mums begin to wonder when and how to cut out the night feedings so that everyone can get a better night’s sleep.

Is It the Right Time?

If your child is less than nine months old, it is still considered normal for him to wake once or twice for a quick bite. The goal of these feedings should be to fill up his little stomach and put him right back to bed. If he’s waking and staying awake after eating, there is something else going on.

If your child is over nine months and eats but falls back asleep directly after the meal, there may be no need to discontinue the feedings. Some children, especially those with high metabolisms or light day eating might actually be hungry at night. So long as the feeding is for nutrition, not comfort, you can continue it a bit longer.

You should also not work on giving up feedings when your child is sick or uncomfortable for any reason. There are times, such as teething or after a move, when your child will feed for comfort in the middle of the night. If possible, you should wait until the tooth breaks through and the newness of the move settles before working on the feeding habit.

Assess the Pattern

Before giving up a feeding, you should look to see the pattern of the feedings. If your child is feeding every two hours, he’s might be in a habit of waking every sleep cycle or needs feeding to help him fall back asleep after a little night waking. Children sleep in patterns with heavy and light sleep. During light sleep, babies wake up for a mument and fall back asleep – unless they can’t fall asleep on their own. If your older baby wakes every two hours, the feedings might be a crutch to fall back asleep.

If your child wake up once at the same time every night, its likely a habit as much as a hunger waking him. If he wakes up only sporadically and at different times when he does, hunger might be a legitimate concern.

Stop the Feeding

There are many ways to stop the feeding. Some are more dramatic than others, so be sure to choose one that makes the most sense for your and your baby.

Stop Going to Him. If your baby cries at two in the morning for a bottle, just don’t go. Or don’t go right away. He might cry or fuss for fifteen minutes, but then fall back asleep. Some babies cry for an hour before falling asleep, but after that the habit will be broken and so long as you don’t rush in the next night to feed him, he’ll have a chance to go back to sleep every night.

Give Him Water. Rather than showing up with a yummy bottle of formula or milk, give him water, or heavily dilute the milk with water. Water won’t fill him up like milk and most babies soon realize that it’s not worth the bother of waking and crying for water. If he does continue waking for the water, try putting a bottle or cup of water in his bed so that you don’t have to be around for a midnight drink.

Comfort Him Without Food. Rather than feeding him or letting him cry, simply comfort your baby without food. Rock, pat, walk, or hum quietly until he falls back asleep without a feeding. Soon, unless he just enjoys the company, he’ll be falling back asleep on his own at night.

Increase Food during the Day. Legitimately hungry babies might not be getting enough to eat during the day. Increase bottles and portion sizes or offer more healthy snacks throughout the day to fill him up. Have a good dinner and then a bedtime snack to be sure he’s falling asleep on a full stomach. After all, how many adults can go from 6pm to 7am without a little snack?

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