Night Feeds

Your child may genuinely get hungry overnight. It is very normal and natural to keep night feeds throughout the first year.

There are a few possible reasons for hunger overnight:

  1. Your child’s tummy cannot hold enough milk/food to last through the night (this is likely before 6 months of age).
  2. Feeding is inefficient. Even if feeding seems fine, you are changing 6 or more wet nappies a day, and seeing adequate growth, feeding could still be inefficient, and therefore leading to disrupted sleep. See a lactation consultant just to be sure.
  3. Your child has got into the habit of drinking milk at night and therefore doesn’t drink and eat enough during the day.

I haven’t found much solid evidence on when babies no longer need food at night – probably because it is very hard to measure. Even if there was an average, it would not account for babies with feeding difficulties, or going through growth spurts, or other individual or developmental differences.

Your pediatrician may be able to advise you on whether your child is ready to go without milk at night. If your pediatrician agrees, you could try to exclude milk from about 2am to 7am (or whenever your preferred morning feed is) to increase your child’s appetite at the start of the day, try to ensure adequate nutrition during the day, and begin increasing the time between feeds at night.

To  make night-feedings easier on you, you could also try going to sleep when your child does at night, giving a dream-feed just before you go to sleep  yourself, or co-sleeping or feeding in bed to minimise the disruption to your sleep.

Stretching Night Feeds

If there are no concerns about your child’s weight gain and health, you could try stretching out night feeds.

To do this you could take note of the longest stretch your child naturally goes without milk or solid food during the day and night. This length of time is your no-feed period during the night. If your child wakes up within the no-feed period at night, try to resettle without feeding. If your child wakes up after this period you can feed as usual, but take note of whether your child is drinking hungrily (lots of big swallows). If your child isn’t feeding very hungrily, or for very long, the next night, make the no-feed period longer by about an hour.

Repeat this process, and continue to monitor how hungry your child seems. If your child is very hard to settle in the last hour or two of the no-feed period, and feeds hungrily, you may decide to shorten the period again for a while. Children do go through growth-spurts where they need more food than usual, so you may need to lengthen and shorten the no-feed period multiple times.

Lengthening the no-feed period at night is likely to increase your child’s milk intake during the day.

Reducing Night Feeds and Breastfeeding

Some argue that cutting out night feeds reduces your milk supply (e.g. This is something to keep an eye on, and if you are concerned, consult a lactation specialist.

Please add your experiences with this approach in the comments below. Please provide the age of your child when you tried it, and how long you tried it for. If it helped, please share the effects you saw. If it didn’t help, why do you think it didn’t work in your case?

1 Comment

  1. Nicole Weeks

    “I started delaying her feeds at night (cuddling her for 15 minutes before feeding when she woke in the night) and always putting her back in her cot. (I was previously feeding straight away and co-sleeping from about 3am). She has been gradually sleeping for longer stretches at night. Or more accurately, going straight back to sleep when she wakes up.

    This approach where I know I will always feed her when she wakes (after a delay) really works for me. I feel like a success for being able to hold off and comfort her for 15 minutes before feeding, rather than feeling like a failure for feeding her in the end. After the first 3 nights she no longer protested about not feeding straight away, and we just have quiet cuddles, which I really enjoy. For this approach I think you need to trust that you baby wants to sleep at night and so will choose to sleep over having to wait ages for a feed.

    Illness and teething led her to wake up more and I did not want to delay feeding when she was ill and needed sleep. It is also an exhausting technique to implement as I need to been awake for longer in the night, vs feeding to sleep each time. So I usually wait for periods where I am well and not especially exhausted (and have my partner around to help me during the day, e.g. the weekend) to do it.

    I have done it 2 or 3 times with my second child (can’t remember exact number due to very poor memory at present). Also did it with my first child and it worked quickly and permanently and he went to sleeping 12 hours straight. No such luck with second child so far.”

    (Mother of 10 month old girl tried and found it helped in less than a week)


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