Having a baby is exhausting in many ways. Parents find themselves daydreaming about sleeping through the night pretty much starting the day their baby enters into the world.
Regardless of if you are bottle feeding or breastfeeding, you are waking up through the night to feed your little one. Every parent wonders, “When will my baby drop nighttime feedings and start sleeping through the night?”
UNDERSTANDING NIGHT FEEDINGS
When babies enter the world, they have not established the difference between day and night time. They may have gotten used to sleeping while you moved around from the soothing motion. Then being awake and active while you are resting. It takes time for babies to develop a circadian rhythm like their parents.
After babies are born, they drop weight. It is important to feed them regularly, around the clock, to make sure that they gain enough calories to grow at a healthy pace. Babies mostly wake on their own when they are hungry but if they are sleeping for more than 4 consecutive hours, it is important to wake them to feed them during these early stages. Your aim is to get your baby back to birth weight at around 2 weeks old.
Parents should learn their baby’s cues as to when they are hungry. Strict feeding schedules can cause more harm than good. Missing a feeding opportunity is something that should be avoided. Learning when your baby is ready to eat will ensure that they are getting what they need to grow properly.
You should speak to your child’s pediatrician about when they advise no longer waking the baby up for feedings. This is usually supported after the child is back to and slightly above their birth weight. It usually takes 2-3 weeks for this to happen. You can expect to still do 1-2 night feedings during this stage and into the next stage.
Every baby is different. Some grow out of night feedings on their own and others need a little help through sleep training. Here are some ways to guide your baby towards sleeping through the night.
STUDY YOUR BABY
Learning your baby’s cues, cries, and movements will help you greatly in this process.
Take the time to observe your baby sleep.
Many babies move and make sounds in their sleep. It is important to learn the difference between when your baby is truly awake and when they are just stirring in their sleep. The best way to be sure is to wait and see. Base their need for assistance on if they quickly settle back down or not.
Learn your baby’s hunger cues. Once a baby reaches 12-15 pounds, they are most likely not waking out of hunger. Try not to assume that they are hungry. They might need a minute to settle down on their own or something as simple as a couple pats on the back. As long as a baby is getting enough milk during the day at this stage, there is no need for a night feeding.
MILK FIRST DURING BEDTIME ROUTINES
Parents often think that the best order for a bedtime routine is something similar to bathtime, story, feeding and bed. Ideally, we would suggest moving the feeding to the beginning of the routine. It is in everyone’s best interest if you avoid your baby from associating milk with sleep. You might be tempted to “top them off” but they should be fine without it.
STICK TO THE EAT, WAKE, SLEEP ROUTINE
Your baby will greatly benefit from you feeding them when they wake up. Then move onto the fun part of the day where they are awake and active. Once they are tuckered out, get them down for a nap. If you start to transition them to feed just before they go down, they most likely won’t be hungry when they wake and you will shift to a wake, eat, sleep routine. This can turn into your baby needing to eat themselves to sleep. It is more common for babies who
feed-to-sleep to wake for night feedings.
ARE DREAM FEEDINGS A GOOD IDEA?
It might seem like a good idea to try to sneak in one more feeding before you go to sleep for the night. This actually can disturb a baby’s sleep cycle and can cause them to wake sooner for the next feeding.
Instead of waking your little one, this is a great opportunity for you to pump. This can help keep mom’s milk supply up while also increasing your freezer supply of milk.
THERE IS A LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
When you feel extremely exhausted and like you may never sleep through the night again, remind yourself that this is just a stage. Babies go through many stages, each challenging in their own way.
While every baby is unique and is on their own development path, they all start with night feedings. They eventually grow out of them and into longer stretches of sleeping. When there is regression, which there almost always is, know that it is also just a stage.
We are here to help you through each of these stages. There is almost always something you can do to help your situation. We are here to guide you towards healthier practices.