As a sleep coach I get a lot of questions about feeding at night time. As a Certified Lactation Counselor I help both nursing and non nursing moms figure out what their nighttime feeding goals are and together we work towards them.
Babies under 6 months NEED to eat at night.
Many babies will naturally sleep through the night on their own terms when they are ready, but many other babies will still wake 1-3 times a night to feed until 6 months. I am not a sleep coach that supports cutting out night time feedings if baby is not doing so on their own before 6 months. I support healthy and developmentally appropriate growth and sleep.
However, there are ways to help stretch the night feeds for babies 4-6 months called Dream Feeds .
After 6 months old there are two schools of thought
If a pediatrician says baby is gaining well and staying on their curve and you want to night wean you can.
Nurslings commonly wake up until 12 months old to feed in the middle of the night and it's biologically normal.
I kind of merge the two and believe that if the doctor says baby is gaining well and there are no health/feeding concerns AND parents want to reduce or cut out night feeds then we go for it.
But as someone that nursed all of my children in the middle of the night well beyond 12 months, I totally get that pull and philosophical decision. So if parents want to keep 1-2 feedings then that's great! There is no reason to stop!
If you want to wean your baby from nighttime feeds and you believe they are ready to do so then here are some helpful ways to make that happen:
Cut down formula ounces by 2 oz every 2 nights and then use other gentle ways to get your baby to fall asleep.
Reduce milk intake by 2 oz every 2 nights and/or add water to thin it down so it's less appealing. Then use gentle ways to get your baby to fall back asleep.
Reduce the amount of time you nurse over a period of nights. So if you are feeding for 10 minutes in the middle of the night, set a time and reduce by 2 minutes every two nights.
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to stopping nighttime feedings. As long as your pediatrician agrees that it is okay to cut the nighttime feedings, then it is up to you as a parent to decide when you BOTH are ready!