Tips on reducing night feeds
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 the bubba against the world – but it can’t go on forever. Here are some tried and tested tips on how to stop night feeds and hopefully, reclaim your sleep.
How much 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 (we love an understatement at Elvie), so you’ll have to get used to being up in the small hours. This should last for roughly their first year, and this handy guide will give you an idea of what’s normal, but typical patterns may vary for some babies. After all, there’s really no such thing as normal – you do you.
Age of baby:
- 0-3 months: Feeds are "on demand." Feed whenever baby is hungry, basically. Get ready for some weird hours, mama!
- 3-4 months: First 4-5 hours without feeding, then 2-3 feedings.
- 4-6 months: First 5-8 hours without feeding, then 1-2 feedings.
- 6-9 months: First 7-9 hours without feeding, then 0-1 feeding.
- 9+ months: Dealer's choice, parents. However, some parents find that 1 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, and soon you’ll both be sleeping through the night. (Even if that seems unimaginable right now.) So when it feels like you’ll never sleep again, we’re here to assure you, you will.
How to reduce night feeds
Whether your little one has got to that age where they could be sleeping through, or you’re finding the night feeds too much, you’ll need to night wean and phase out night feeding. But it’s not as scary as it sounds.
If your baby usually feeds for 5 minutes or less at night, then cutting feeding out completely will be fine. You can move to other settling techniques such as talking quietly – get learning those lullabies – and cuddling, or putting them on their back and comforting them with ‘ssshhh’ sounds, gentle rhythmic patting, rocking, or stroking.
Sounds easy enough, right? Don’t worry if things don’t fall in to place straight away. Your baby will need time to get used to this new routine. 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 and you’ll have to focus on gradually reducing the time spent feeding.
Tips for reducing time spent night feeding:
- Time the length of your usual night feed and spend a few days and nights collecting data on this. Make a little note of it on your phone.
- Then start cutting down on the time you spend feeding your baby at night by 30 seconds to 2 minutes over time depending on how the little one reacts.
- Re-settle the baby after each shortened feed with the settling techniques we went through above.
- Once the child is feeding for less than 5 minutes a night, you’ll be able to simply stop the feed (hallelujah!) and get back to bed.
- 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 slightly more in the day can help offset calories lost through the reduction of night feeds and keep their little bellies full.
Hang in there, mama
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 are ready to start night weaning or maybe stop breast-feeding altogether, we hope these tips will help you out.