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A Guide to Dropping Night Feeds with Ease

There comes a point in parenthood that you start to wonder “is my baby ready to drop night feeds and if so how do I do it”. You may be a sleep wreaked parent reading this, broken from waking up to 10 times a night and finding yourself feeding baby back to sleep because it is the only way your baby will go back to sleep, you may be that parent who has an 18 month old waking in the night demanding milk and you are wondering does she really need it? But if I don’t give it to her she IS going to scream the house down…what can I do?

Well, in this week’s bog I am going to explain exactly when night feeds can be dropped and how to do it so you can all get a full night's rest and know you are not starving your baby off something that they seemingly need.

First Things First - Is Your Baby Ready To Drop Night Feeds?

Typically I have seen babies between 8-10 months drop their night feeds. These families I have supported have naturally dropped those feeds and we have not had to push in any way. That said a handful of babies I have seen drop feeds as young as 6 months. It is not uncommon but it is not something I push at all. Why? Because it is very normal and expected for a baby to wake for a need up to 12 months. After this age, assuming your baby is having 3 great meals in the day, appropriate milk intake and potentially a snack or 2 nutritionally speaking babies 12m + do not need a night feed let alone multiple night feeds.

The next question you need to ask yourself is “are YOU ready to drop night feeds”?

Many parents like to continue to night feed for their own reasons and off course if they are happy, baby is happy and everyone is thriving there is no need to stop. You do what feels right for your baby and family. It is a significant transition for parents to make especially if this is their last baby!


The Science behind Waking For A Feed 

Your baby is used to getting milk through the night, so of course it may naturally wake for that food. It is like an alarm clock going of saying “milk time”. It is a chemical called Ghrelin that is produced in the stomach that indicates “it’s time to eat”. This will happen even if your baby is not hungry or needing those calories. It is a habit thing because the feeds have been regularly happening, so that habit, like any, has to be broken to stop those waking’s.

After a feed the ghrelin levels drop and signals to the brain baby is satisfied.

Now to counteract that we have a chemical called Leptin. This chemical is produced by fat cells and tells the brain baby has had enough to eat, it helps regulate appetite and energy balances.

If your baby has had enough sleep and not over tired they will have low Ghrelin. A normal appetite and high leptin therefore feel satisfied after eating.

If your baby is very tired, perhaps they are short on total sleep, they will have high Ghrelin therefore feel more hungry and a low leptin level and feel unsatisfied, even after eating.

So you can see if a baby wakes multiple times in the night and does feed, the ghrelin is saying yes I need food, I am hungry, but often they are not hungry, they just ate perhaps 2 hours ago and it is the chemical imbalances here fooling with you!

Establish a Solid Daytime Feeding Routine:

Before you tackle dropping night feeds it is important to ensure your baby is getting enough nourishment during the day (and sleep!) A well-fed baby is more likely to sleep longer stretches at night. Stick to a consistent feeding schedule during daylight hours to meet your baby's nutritional needs, making it easier for them to go longer without waking up for a feed at night. If you are feeding your baby more times in the night than the day, this is known as reverse cycling, then there is a confusion here and it needs to be turned around. Having a consistent schedule in the day where feeds are offered and baby does not nap longer than needed and through a feed time will help this confusion and you will not have this reverse cycling occurring.

Equally if your baby is on solid food it is worth noting that milk does not sustain hunger like solid food does, so if your baby is taking a lot of feeds in the day they are too full for solids and that milk will not sustain hunger like solids do therefore you may find baby is awake in the night looking for those missed nutrients.

Of course it goes without saying that adding an extra feeding session or increasing the amount during each daytime feed can help satisfy your baby's hunger and encourage longer stretches of sleep at night as long as it does not interfere with appetite for solids or your baby starts snacking on milk, those snack feeds again will not fill their hunger boots and the cycle continues.


The How To...

There are a few ways to do this. You must do what feels right and of course the best way for the temperament of your baby.


Gradual Feed Reduction

A gradual reduction approach is often preferred as it is a gentle transition. Be prepared it will take time and there still may be some tears involved. If your baby is used to multiple night feeds this is a great way to move forward. Cut down one feeding at a time. Pick a time frame that your baby tends to often wake at and eliminate that feed. This slow transition allows your baby to adapt to the changes without feeling deprived.


Gradual Fluid Reduction

This is often an approach used by parents who again want something gradual and want to take a gentle approach. Often used f there is only 3 or less feeds in the night.


If you are breastfeeding monitor how long the feed is. If said feed is 15 minutes reduce to 12 minutes for 3 nights then reduce to 10 minutes for 3 nights and so on. Every 3 nights you will reduce 2 minutes.

If you are breastfeeding you would reduce the amount in the bottle by 2oz every 3 nights.

Do not replace with water. This still signals to the body/brain they are getting something and filling up on that something.


Cold Turkey

Some parents feel the gradual approach is putting of the inevitable so they prefer to go cold turkey. It is often the fastest approach but more tears will be prevalent. You would usually see progress in 3-7 nights.

Encourage Self-Soothing

Then what happens….you may find there will be tears so you need to support your baby through this.

Teaching your baby to self-soothe is a crucial step in dropping night feeds. Establish a calming bedtime routine that signals it's time for sleep. This might include a warm bath, a stories, or gentle rocking. By creating a soothing environment, you encourage your baby to fall asleep on their own without relying on a night time feeding for comfort.

You may need to decide on a sleep training method to implement.


Ensure Comfort

Check if your baby is comfortable in their sleeping environment. A cosy, quiet, and dark room can promote better sleep. Make sure your baby's nappy is dry and they are dressed appropriately for the room temperature.


Seek Support and Have a Plan

Dropping night feeds can be challenging, and it's essential to have a support system in place. You can ask for help from your partner, family members, or even friends to share night time duties. Having someone to lean on during this transition can make the process smoother and less overwhelming.

Have a plan you stick to. Being inconsistent will not help anyone least of all your baby. They become confused and you will find yourself back at square one very quickly.

I have supported many families though this transition and helped them work out which is the best way forward for their child. We looked at the child’s whole 24 hours, their temperament and the signs they have shown to say right…this is the way forward to drop night feeds.

You can get my support through this in my 30 minute "Save My Sleep" call! You can tell me what is exactly going on and ask any questions you have about dropping night feeds and we can come up with a plan on how to do!


So to conclude…

Remember, every baby is different, and what works for one might not work for another. Be patient, stay consistent, and celebrate the small victories along the way. Dropping night feeds is a gradual process that requires understanding, flexibility, and a lot of love. With time, you and your baby will be enjoying peaceful, uninterrupted nights of sleep.

Peaceful nights to you,


Your Paediatric Sleep Consultant




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