How to Balance Feeding and Sleeping Through the Night

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We want to make sure you and your child are getting the good sleep you deserve, so we spoke with a lactation consultant to help parse out how much your baby truly needs to be eating, and when it’s okay to start night weaning.

 

Your Rockin’ Blinks Crib Sheet:
  • Don’t stress about a feeding or sleeping schedule in those early newborn weeks. Your feeding habits will not impact their long-term sleep at this stage.
  • After about 3 months, most babies do not need to be awakened to feed overnight and will wake up on their own when and if they’re hungry.
  • Some babies begin to drop their night feedings by 3 months but others may need night feedings until 6 months or beyond. Your pediatrician can help you determine if it’s safe to night-wean.
  • If your baby feeds to fall asleep and this is a problem for you, try re-arranging their bedtime routine to reduce the association of feeding and sleep.

 

 

For parents of tiny babies, getting an eight-hour stretch of sleep at night is #goals. It might feel like that day may never come, but with the right expert tips, you’ll be able to feed your baby what they need and work towards longer, more restful stretches of sleep.

For the first few months, we all understand that waking up to feed your baby is part of the job. Their bellies are tiny and need to be filled frequently. But at a certain point…. we all need sleep!

You should always talk to your baby’s pediatrician to make sure it’s safe for you to begin night weaning, but sleep experts say between the 6 and12-months, your child should be able to make it through the night without waking to eat, thanks to the development of their circadian rhythm, their consolidation of night sleep, and the reduction of hunger hormones

In the meantime, we asked lactation counselor and doula Jada Shapiro for some sleeping and feeding tips and tricks you need to make it through the night. Jada is the founder of boober, a platform where parents can find classes and care providers like lactation consultants and postpartum doulas. Here’s her expert tips on how parents and baby can best survive the long nights of feedings at every stage.

 

 

Newborn:

In this stage, your baby will need to eat around the clock. Your baby should be eating every one to three hours; as many as 8-15 times a day! For these first few months, babies have not developed their regular sleeping patterns yet, so you shouldn’t be concerned that their feeding schedule will impact their amount of sleep overall. You can’t nurse too frequently in the fourth trimester.

 

  • During the first few weeks, your breastfed baby will need to feed every 1-3 hours, which means you should be prepared to feed every time your baby wakes. You can expect more frequent feedings at night. If your newborn baby is sleeping for more than 3-hour stretches, talk with your pediatrician to see if you should be waking your baby.. Lactating people make the most milk overnight in these milk-building days, so following the baby’s lead will ensure a good milk supply in most people.
  • Bottle feeding parents should also feed every 1-3 hours or whenever baby is hungry. Be sure to follow your baby’s lead and pause feeding whenever they seem like they need a break (pulling away, fussing, trying to turn to the side), or if you see milk or formula flowing out of the side of their mouth.

PRO TIP: Whether breastfeeding or bottlefeeding, you’ll want to feed your baby at the earliest sign of hunger to stave off the disruptiveness of an angry hunger cry. We know you’ll likely be asleep, but if your parent-senses kick in and you wake up just before baby, look for signs of hunger like stirring, mouth motions, your baby sticking their tongue out, rooting, or putting their hands to their mouth. 

 

 

3-6 months:

Some babies are able to drop their night feeds at this age. If your baby is able to do this: congratulations! If not, don’t worry. It’s totally normal to still need to feed overnight right now.

 

  • After the first 3 months, the amount of times between feedings can increase dramatically and the length of feeds can shorten significantly as babies get more efficient. The breastfed baby at this age will tend to feed every 3-4 hours, even overnight, and the formula fed baby tends to take 4-6 ounces about 4-6 times per day. 
  • Whether breast or bottle feeding, you may notice that your baby starts to pull off the breast or pull away from the bottle to look around more or stops feeding at every loud sound. Babies begin to get way more curious about their environment and this is exciting and normal. If your baby is so distracted that feeding has become frustrating, try turning toward a quiet corner when you feed so there’s less to look at or go into a calm, quiet, darkened room. Some parents even turn to using a shawl to cover their baby so they are not distracted by the sights of the room.

PRO TIP: In the 3-6 month range, parents do not need to wake their baby to feed and should trust that the baby will wake when hungry, provided your baby is gaining weight well according to your pediatrician and making sufficient diapers. But you can consider adding in a dream feed to tide them over a little longer. Dream feeding is when you gently wake your sleeping baby for a quick drowsy last feed of the day, giving your baby more calories right before you go to sleep. Babies that are gently roused and nursed without fully waking up, often sleep a bit longer at night. 

 

 

6-12 months:

At this age, most night wakings are no longer necessarily driven by hunger, though a baby who is regularly fed at night will continue to expect to be fed.

 

  • Six months is often when parents consider introducing solid foods. When your baby begins eating solid foods, this will slowly begin to reduce the amount of nursing or bottle feeding your baby needs .
  • Breastfed babies tend to feed every 3-4 hours, even after introducing solid foods.
  • Bottle Fed babies tend to consume 6 to 8 ounces 4-5 times per 24 hours, and should not drink more than 32 ounces per 24 hours. 
  • If you’re trying to get your baby to sleep longer at night, try feeding your baby more frequently during the day. Add in a little extra nursing or bottle sessions here and there to be sure they’re getting maximal caloric intake during the waking hours. Babies this age can sleep in longer stretches.

PRO TIP: If your baby has been feeding until they fall asleep, consider rearranging your bedtime routine and separate feeding from sleeping by putting the feed at the beginning of your routine.

 

 

12 months and beyond: 

After 12 months, if your little one is still feeding overnight, but you would prefer that they didn’t, you can begin to slowly wean them off night feeds by nursing more frequently during the day with an extra session before bedtime. This way you can ensure your baby is still getting what they need calorically.

 

  • If your baby is still waking during the night, you can offer other comfort measures besides feeding like patting, speaking in a soothing voice, or offering a sip of water. You can also calmly and lovingly tell them no, not now.
  • Now is a good time to switch your last nighttime feeding to earlier in your bedtime routine, which will help reduce your child’s feeding to sleep association.
  • If you are breastfeeding, remember that night weaning is a transition. Giving yourself time to go through this process will allow both your body and your baby to adjust.

PRO TIP: If you’re breastfeeding and still sleeping with your baby right next to your bed, make your breasts less accessible by wearing something different to sleep in or try sleeping a bit further away (for example, switch sides of the bed with your partner). Or even take a few nights sleeping in another room.

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