How to reduce night-time feeding
While some 12 week olds are perfectly capable of sleeping through the night (meaning five or six hour stretches), most will still need to wake up once in the middle of night - especially breastfed ones. But when you’re pulling out your breast or warming up a bottle for the third or fourth time in one night, it’s more likely that your baby is eating for comfort rather than hunger.
To cut down on the number of feedings and prepare him or her for sleeping through the night:
- Feed more throughout the day. Breastfeed more frequently or increase the amount of formula to make sure your baby isn’t making up for needed kilojoules at night.
- Gradually stretch the time between feedings if your baby is still crying every two hours - which technically isn’t a nutritional necessity at this age. You might be surprised - your baby might fall back asleep. If not, try other soothing methods (shushing, patting, singing, rocking) before automatically offering food. Breastfeeding mums might want to nudge dad for this one because the smell of your breast milk could be counterproductive. If baby still cries to eat after all other options have been exhausted, at least the interval between feedings will have been extended, even if only for 20 minutes.
- Wake your baby for a night cap. Some mothers like to gently wake their baby to eat before heading to bed, this way they might get a couple extra hours of uninterrupted sleep before the next feeding. However, some babies end up waking more often if their sleep is interrupted, so follow your baby’s lead.
- Make sure your baby is full before bed. If you don’t want to wake your baby in the middle of his slumber (as previously suggested), make sure your baby doesn’t nod off mid-feeding without fully satiating his hunger. If you see those little eyes start to flutter closed, pick him up to burp or play. Try undressing your baby and keeping the lights on until he has a satisfying feeding session.
- Decide which night-time feeding you’d like to keep, and then reduce the amount of formula or breastfeeding at the other feeding times.
This article was written by Linda Drummond for Kidspot, New Zealand's leading pregnancy and parenting resource.