Once they’re six months old, babies need to feed less at night.
We look at how to begin cutting down to make the transition a happy one for you both.
At a glance
- When babies get to around six months, they don’t really need to be fed at night
- If you’re breastfeeding, give your baby a shorter time on the breast each night over a week or two
- Ask your health visitor for advice if you’re finding it hard going
Babies often drop night feeds on their own as they slowly become able to last longer without food. This usually happens gradually between two and six months.
Some continue to wake up for food at night after six months – perhaps through habit or maybe from hunger if they aren’t getting enough calories during the day.
You may be quite happy with this, but many mums are pretty exhausted by this point and would really welcome a good night’s sleep. It’s also better for babies’ developing brains and bodies to get a decent stretch of sleep at night – so it’s not you being selfish wanting them to sleep through!
When babies get to around six months, they don’t really need to be fed at night as long as they’re getting plenty of food in the day – exclusively milk in the first six months and a mix of solid food and milk after six months.
So if your baby is feeding once or twice at night after the age of six months and you’d like to cut back, here’s how:
- Take it gradually and gently... If you’re breastfeeding, give your baby a shorter time on the breast each night over a week or two until it is cut down to almost none; they may then feel there is no point waking up at night
- You could also try giving a drink of water instead of a feed, but not if this upsets your baby
- It’s time for Dad to step up. If you’re breastfeeding, your baby will associate you with food and will smell your milk when you try to settle them down. Try sending your partner in when your baby wakes as he may have more joy settling them
- If you’re bottle-feeding, try putting the milk in a smaller bottle and gradually cut it down until it’s not really worth waking up for. You could also dilute the milk with water to reduce the incentive even further
- Give loads of reassurance and gentle ‘shushing’ when you or your partner go in to settle your baby, but don’t chat as it will wake them further. You may have to go in several times the first night or two, but after that they will probably adapt quite quickly and the third night is often the game-changer
- If your baby is a bit older, you or your partner can repeat quietly, ‘shhh, it’s time for sleep now’, and gently pat and comfort them. They may not understand your words, but your presence will reassure them
- Ask your health visitor for advice if you’re finding it hard going – they may have some further ideas
- As with changing any part of your baby’s routine, consistency is the key. Try not to go back to old habits as this will confuse your baby and the whole process will take longer. But if they get a cold or are ill during the process, you may have to go back to night-feeding for a while, as they may not be able to feed enough during the day
- If you’ve just gone back to work or there are other changes happening in your baby’s life, take it extra gently: you may want to postpone the process until everything else has settled down
- If you’ve tried everything and your baby is crying inconsolably for four or five nights in a row, get advice from your health visitor. She may advise you to go back to one night-feed and try the process again in a few weeks’ time