Night feeding: what to expect
It’s common for babies to wake at night during the first year of life. They wake to feed, and they also wake for comfort.
As babies get older, they usually wake less often at night to feed.
A positive bedtime routine helps soothe and calm your child so your child is ready for sleep. Bedtime routines sometimes include a feed – but they don’t need to. In fact, if you feed your baby earlier at night so feeding isn’t part of the routine, it can help to reduce the frequency of overnight feeding.
Thinking about night weaning and phasing out night feeds?
If you’re comfortable with feeding your child during the night, there’s no hurry to phase out night feeds. You can choose what works best for you and your child.
Before you decide to night wean or phase out night feeds, it’s a good idea to talk with your child and family health nurse or GP to get advice that suits your individual situation.
When you stop night feeding, you might notice that your child seems hungrier or wants to feed more during the day. This is natural and OK.
Night weaning breastfed children
It’s OK to think about night weaning for healthy breastfed children from 12 months of age.
At this age, most children are getting enough food during the day for their growth and development. But before 12 months, night weaning breastfed babies can reduce your milk supply.
Here’s how to get started with night weaning for breastfed children.
Short night feed
If your child’s night feed is short (less than 5 minutes), you can phase out night feeds by stopping the feed altogether and re-settling your child using sleep and settling techniques that work best for you and your baby. Note that it might take several nights for you and your child to get used to the new routine.
Longer night-time feed
If your child’s night feed is usually longer than 5 minutes, you can gradually cut down the time you spend feeding over 5-7 nights. This will help your child get used to the change. Here’s how:
- Reduce the time your child feeds by 2-5 minutes every second night. For example, if your child usually feeds for 10 minutes, feed for 8 minutes for 2 nights, then 6 minutes for the next 2 nights, and so on.
- Re-settle your child after each shortened feed with the settling techniques of your choice.
- Follow your child’s lead. If your child becomes very distressed, you might stop weaning for a while.
Things to keep in mind
- If you decide to try night weaning, your child still gets all the benefits of breastmilk if you keep breastfeeding during the day.
- Your child might want to feed more for comfort when big changes are happening. For example, they might need more comfort if they’re starting child care.
- If your child needs night-time comfort but not night feeds, your partner (if you have one) could settle your child at night.
It’s recommended that you breastfeed exclusively until your baby starts eating solid foods, usually around 6 months. Once you introduce solids, it’s best for your baby if you keep breastfeeding until your baby is at least 12 months old. After that, it’s up to you and your child how long you keep going. For more information, check out our breastfeeding articles and our breastfeeding videos.
Phasing out night feeds for formula-fed babies
For formula-fed babies, you can think about phasing out night feeds from 6 months of age.
If your baby is formula fed and aged over 6 months, they’re unlikely to be waking at night because they’re hungry. This is because infant formula is digested more slowly than breastmilk.
Night-time feed of 60 ml of milk or less
If you decide to try phasing out night feeds and your baby is having 60 ml of milk or less during a night feed, you can stop the feed altogether and re-settle your baby with the settling techniques that work best for you and your baby.
Night-time feed of more than 60 ml of milk
If your baby’s feed is more than 60 ml each night, you can gradually cut down the amount your baby drinks over 5-7 nights.
- Reduce the volume of milk by 20-30 ml every second night. For example, if your baby usually drinks 180 ml, you would give 150 ml for 2 nights, then 120 ml for the next 2 nights, and so on.
- Re-settle your baby after each smaller feed with the settling techniques of your choice.
- Once you get down to 60 ml or less in the bottle, stop the feed altogether.