Written by Sarah Mansell Published on 4th March 2021

This blog was updated on 08/30/2023

Becoming a mother makes you realize you can do a lot of things. We’re talking about going through life one-handed, existing without showering, and surviving with almost no sleep. And the no sleep part is largely down to night feeds. Don’t get us wrong, they can be some of the loveliest times as a new parent — just you and your baby against the world — but it can’t go on forever

At some point, you’ll surely want to reclaim your nights and start clawing back some of that precious shuteye you’ve lost. If that’s you, read on for some tried-and-tested tips on how to stop night feeds and get your routine back.

How often should you be feeding at night?

The age of your little one will impact how many night feeds they need. Between birth and their first birthday they’re going to be pretty reliant on you, but this will gradually decrease over the first 12 months.

This handy (yet rough) guide will give you an idea of what’s “normal”, but it’s important to remember that typical patterns will vary for some babies. After all, there’s really no such thing as normal — you do you. 

  • 0-3 months: Feeds are “on demand”. Feed whenever the baby is hungry, so get ready for some weird and unsociable hours!

  • 3-4 months: Your baby will generally sleep through the first 4-5 hours without feeding, then require 2-3 feedings after that. 

  • 4-6 months: You can usually get through the first 5-8 hours without feeding, followed by 1-2 feedings. 

  • 6-9 months: You may be able to go 7-9 hours without having to feed, and your baby may only require one feed after that. 

  • 9+ months: This one will be largely up to you, but some parents find that one early morning feeding may be helpful for extended breastfeeding. 

It’s worth noting that whatever you’re going through with night feeds is only temporary. Your baby’s needs will change and adapt as they grow, meaning they’ll be less reliant on night feeds. Not only will this help your little one have a good night’s sleep, but it’ll give you a chance to get more uninterrupted hours, too.

When to stop night feeds

Your baby will have very different needs from the newborn stage through their first few months. Feeding multiple times a night when they’re first born is very normal (and to be expected) but as they reach around 4 to 6 months of age, babies are able to sleep for longer stretches, making it a good time to start weaning night feeds. 

Of course, as with many things concerning parenthood, there’s no definitive right or wrong answer when it comes to the ideal time to wean your baby off night feeds, and you should continue to do what feels right for you and your little one. In any case, weaning night feedings should be a gradual process where you introduce a new routine that works for you both.

How to stop night feeds

Whether your little one has got to that age where they could be sleeping through, or you’re simply finding the night feeds too much, you’ll need to night wean and phase out night feeding. That might sound like a big deal, but it’s not nearly as scary as it sounds. 

If your baby usually feeds for 5 minutes or less at night, cutting feeding out completely should be a relative breeze. You can then move to other settling techniques such as:

  • Talking quietly. 

  • Cuddling.

  • Putting them on their back and comforting them with ‘ssshhh’ sound.

  • Gentle rhythmic patting, rocking, or stroking.

  • Listening to lullabies or soothing music.

Sounds easy enough, right? Well, don’t worry if things don’t fall into place straight away. Your baby will need time to get used to this new routine — as with countless other aspects of motherhood, patience is key to putting a stop to breastfeeding at night. 

If you’re feeding for longer than 5 minutes at night, then going cold turkey might not work. In this case, you’ll likely have to focus on gradually reducing the time spent feeding. 

How to reduce night feeds

  • Figure out your usual feeding duration. Time the length of your usual night feed and spend a few days and nights collecting info on this. Make a little note of it on your phone. Once your baby is feeding for less than 5 minutes a night, you’ll be able to simply stop the feed (hallelujah!) and get back to bed.

  • Gradually reduce your feeding times. Start cutting down on the time you spend feeding your baby at night, starting by reducing each feed by 30 seconds, then decreasing your feeding times by at least 2 minutes every other night. 

  • Re-settle your baby. After each shortened feed, try different settling techniques to relax them into a settled sleep, such as gently rocking them back and forth, quietly talking or singing to them, or just giving them a soothing cuddle. 

  • Let your baby tell you when they’re ready. When night weaning, it’s important to follow your little one’s lead. If they’re not yet ready to reduce their night feeds, you’ll know about it — if they become distressed, you may have to pause weaning and try again when you think they’re ready. 

Increasing the number of calories your baby has throughout the day can also be a way of keeping night time feeds to a minimum. It could be that your baby isn’t getting enough calories during the day time, so is hungry in the evenings. Feeding them slightly more in the day can help offset calories lost through the reduction of night feeds and keep their little bellies full. 

Signs your baby is ready for night weaning

As we said, there’s not necessarily a perfect time to start night weaning, but your paediatrician can help to ensure your baby’s weight and health is optimal before you start dropping night feeds. Having said that, there are often a few clear signs that your baby is ready for night weaning.

They’re at a healthy weight

In the first few months of a baby’s life, they need extra nighttime calories through night feeds to ensure they’re gaining sufficient weight, whereas from around 5 months onwards (coincidentally the time when food weaning often starts) they’re usually at a healthy weight and may be at the right stage to lower nighttime feedings.

They’re not actively suckling during feeds

Generally, you’ll know your baby is truly hungry for night feeds when they’re awake and actively sucking through the whole feed. If they’re only sucking a little and quickly drowsing off just a few minutes into the feed, they’re probably only feeding to fall back to sleep, not because they’re hungry. In this case, you can try settling them in other ways.

They’re using night feeds to self-soothe

Determining whether your baby is actually gaining calorific benefits from their night time feed or whether they’re simply using it to self-soothe can help you know when to start weaning night feeds. Feeding (whether that’s breastfeeding or bottle feeding) will relax your little one, so if they continue to wake for feeds even when they’re not hungry, it could be time to cut down on night feeding.

They’re only feeding during ‘sleepy’ times

If you’re having trouble getting into a good feeding routine throughout the day, it might be because your baby associates feeding with sleep — which often means they’re getting the majority of their calories in during night feeds. This could be a sign that you need to readjust your routine and reduce night time feeding sessions.

Night feeding is tough. There’s no escaping that fact. But it’s always worth reminding yourself that you’re doing a great job. And when you’re ready to start weaning night feedings, or possibly stop breastfeeding altogether, know that Elvie is by your side. Night weaning? You got this.