How Often Should a Baby Feed at Night?

Gauge Feeding Needs by Observing Age, Amount Consumed, and Wet Diapers

A baby boy sleeps naked with his bottle. Getty Images

If you have a young baby, you might wonder: When can my sleep get back to normal?! As part of this, you may want to learn how often your baby should be feeding at night. Learn about weaning in the first 6 months of life, how you can minimize awakenings to eat in the night, and at what age those feedings should go away entirely.

First, each baby is different. Don’t try to force something to happen that may not be right for your child.

You are no doubt a loving parent and you want to continue to provide for and nurture your baby. Listen to your intuition and get extra support from your family or pediatrician as needed. You know what is best, and use this advice as a general guideline for making decisions that are appropriate in your situation.

Young infants may stop regular nighttime feedings by the age of 3 months. Older children who nurse or require a bottle at bedtime or during the night, especially if this occurs multiple times, may have disrupted sleeping and insomnia. How do you know if these feedings are still needed?

Observe how long your child feeds on these nighttime occasions. If he or she loses interest after a minute and takes only a few sips, the feeding is not likely required for nutrition. Rather, the baby wakes and wants to be helped and comforted by a parent. Infants can become conditioned to falling asleep while being comforted, and when they wake up alone, they may cry out in the night.

If a breast or bottle is provided, and interest is quickly lost, it may not be needed any longer. If more than 8 ounces of fluid are consumed overnight, it may be necessary to redistribute this intake to the daytime. This should occur gradually. 

Another way to assess whether the feedings are needed is to pay attention to the number of diaper changes that occur.

Most babies who are older than 3 months do not need to be changed at night. If the diapers are frequently soaked at night, this can be a sign of excessive fluid intake. A well-hydrated baby will urinate the extra fluid. Older children with bedwetting may experience this due to other reasons.

It is possible to gradually reduce the frequency and volume of feedings at night. Your child will learn to consume the needed fluid during the daytime and sleep soundly through the night. Adults don’t typically drink or eat during the night. Similarly, most babies beyond the age of 3 months shouldn’t either. 

If you are concerned about your child’s need for feedings at night, or if you have difficulty weaning these nighttime feedings, speak with your pediatrician to obtain further guidance.

Source:

Ferber, R. "Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems." Simon & Schuster, The Fireside Edition, 2006.

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