Exhausted and ready to know when and how to drop the middle of the night feed? As a new parent, it’s natural to be sleep-deprived, especially when you have to wake up multiple times at night to feed your baby. I remember it vividly, with a baby nicknamed “the tank” due to his desire to feed every 45 minutes day and night! However, as your baby grows and develops, it’s important to start thinking about transitioning away from those nighttime feedings. By the time your baby reaches six months old, they should be able to sleep through the night without needing to eat, as long as they are developing properly, their weight is following the growth scale, and your doctor gives you the ok. Dropping the night feed can be a tricky process, but it’s important to do it in a way that works for both you and your baby. Today, we’ll explore some tips and tricks for dropping the night feed at six months old, including understanding your baby’s hunger vs comfort nursing cues, gradually reducing the amount of milk, and establishing a consistent bedtime routine. With these tips, you’ll be saying goodbye to those sleepless nights in no time.
Understanding the Importance of Dropping the Night Feed at Six Months Old
While it’s perfectly normal for infants to wake up for feeds during the night prior to 6 months old, it’s important to start thinking about dropping the night feed around six months old. At this age, most babies have the ability to sleep for longer stretches and don’t need to eat during the night. In fact, continuing to feed your baby during the night can reinforce the habit of waking up, which can make it harder for them to learn how to sleep through the night. You may be finding that the feeds in the night are less about taking in calories and more of a comfort feed at this stage.
Dropping the night feed at six months old can also have benefits for you as a parent. Getting a full night’s sleep can help you feel more rested and alert during the day, which can make it easier to care for your baby. It can also help you establish a more predictable routine and give you more time to take care of yourself.
Signs That Your Baby is Ready to Drop the Night Feed
Before you start dropping the night feed, it’s important to make sure that your baby is ready. Look for signs that your baby is getting enough milk during the day and doesn’t need to eat during the night. Some signs that your baby is ready to drop the night feed include:
- Your baby is eating well during the day and gaining weight appropriately.
- Your baby is waking up at night out of habit rather than hunger. (There is that comfort feeding again!) You will want to watch the way that they are eating, are they actually taking in milk, or just doing a light comfort feed?
- Your baby is able to settle themselves back to sleep without needing to be fed.
- Your baby is sleeping for longer stretches during the night.
If you’re not sure whether your baby is ready to drop the night feed, talk to your family doctor or pediatrician for guidance.
Gradually Reducing the Amount of Milk During the Night Feed
Once you’ve determined that your baby is ready to drop the night feed, it’s a great idea for both Mom and baby to do it gradually. Suddenly stopping the night feed can be uncomfortable for your baby and yourself.
Step One :
- Work on reducing the amount of night feeds that are happening and strategically doing them between certain time frames. So, if you are currently doing 3 night feeds, you will first drop down to 2 for 3 nights and place them between 10 pm and 5 am. Then, you will drop down to 1 feed for 3 nights between 12 am and 4 am. This is when you can begin to implement the next strategy of limiting the intake of milk each night.
Next, try reducing the amount of milk you give them during the night feed over the course of a few days by either timing the length of time that they feed (breastfeeding) or measuring the amount that they drink (bottle feeding).
- For breastfeeding, you can begin by timing their average feed in the middle of the night. Now every few nights, reduce that amount of time by a few minutes. Once you have reached approximately 3 minutes, you can drop the feed the next night.
- For bottle feeding, start by reducing the amount of milk by a small amount each night. For example, if your baby typically drinks 6 ounces of milk during the night feed, try reducing it to 5.5 ounces for a few nights, then 5 ounces, and so on.
Eventually, your baby will learn to eat more during the day and won’t need to eat during the night. This is what we call “shifting their calories”.
It’s important to note that if your baby is still waking up during the night after you’ve reduced the amount of milk and dropped the feed, they may be waking up for reasons other than hunger. Typically this is a when “sleep props” come into play, and so teaching them independent sleep skills becomes so important. If you encounter this, which is completely normal, I encourage you to take a look at my my private sleep coaching packages. We can work together to get your little one sleeping soundly in as little as 2 weeks.
Establishing a Consistent Bedtime Routine
Establishing a consistent bedtime routine is an important part of helping your baby learn how to sleep through the night as well. A bedtime routine can help signal to your baby’s brain and body that it’s time to go to sleep and can help them feel more relaxed and comfortable.
Your bedtime routine can include activities such as a warm bath, reading a book, singing a lullaby, or cuddling with your baby. It is important to move the bedtime feed to the early part of the bedtime routine, so that they do not continue or establish a feed to sleep association. The key is to make the routine consistent and predictable, so your baby knows what to expect and can start to associate the routine with sleep.
Understanding Hunger Cues and Finding Alternative Ways to Soothe Your Baby
While it’s important to drop the night feed, it’s also important to make sure your baby is getting enough milk during the day. Following a WAKE- EAT -PLAY -SLEEP routine during the day is a fantastic and predictable way to make sure that your little one is getting the milk intake that they need and helps them get into a predictable routine.
If your baby is still waking up during the night after you’ve dropped the night feed, then most likely there is another external “sleep prop” that is causing the nighttime disruptions.
Tips for Ensuring a Smooth Transition for Both You and Your Baby
Dropping the night feed can be a big change for both you and your baby, but there are some things you can do to make the transition smoother. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Be patient and flexible. Dropping the night feed can take time and may require you to adjust your approach.
- Establish a consistent bedtime routine to help your baby associate the routine with sleep.
- Find alternative ways to soothe your baby if they wake up during the night.
- Communicate with your partner or other caregivers to ensure you’re both on the same page.
- Take care of yourself by getting enough rest and support from others. You may also have to pump during the night and/or before bed, if you were breastfeeding, to remain comfortable.
The Benefits of Dropping the Night Feed for Both You and Your Baby
Dropping the night feed can have numerous benefits for both you and your baby. Some of the most important for your baby are, it can help them learn how to sleep through the night and establish a more predictable routine. For you, it can help you get a full night’s sleep and feel more rested and alert during the day.
Common Mistakes to Avoid When Dropping the Night Feed
While dropping the night feed can be a beneficial process, there are also some common mistakes to avoid. These include:
- Suddenly stopping the night feed without gradually reducing the amount of milk and the number of night feeds.
- Assuming that your baby is waking up out of hunger when they may be waking up for other reasons.
- Failing to establish a consistent bedtime routine.
- Not taking care of yourself and getting enough rest and support.
Celebrating a Good Night’s Sleep for Both You and Your Baby
Dropping the night feed can take a bit of time and patience, but it’s an important step in helping your baby learn how to sleep through the night. By understanding your baby’s hunger cues, gradually reducing the amount of milk and number of feeds, and establishing a consistent bedtime routine, you can help make the transition smoother for both you and your baby. Remember to be patient and take care of yourself along the way. With these tips, you’ll be saying goodbye to those sleepless nights in no time. Have more questions? Book a Free Sleep Strategy Session with me and let’s chat about how I can help make this transition an easier one for you and your baby.