If your baby is over six months old and is still waking for night feeds, the good news is that this situation is relatively easy to change.
Step by step
After following a consistent and familiar bedtime routine, you should feed your baby (breast or bottle) in the bedroom with the light on. Do not allow your baby to fall asleep. After the feed, introduce a picture book to look at. If you use the same one each night it will soon become a new and better sleep association.
Place your baby into the cot while she’s clearly awake and then comfort her there until sleep comes. You do not need to leave your baby alone to cry. Gradually, after a very few nights, your baby will fall asleep quickly and happily in the cot. At this stage you can gradually withdraw from the room a little at a time over a few nights until she is settling alone.
Once your baby is able to settle without feeding to sleep or having you very close by at the start of the night, it will be easier to re settle without help when she wakes up during the night. If your baby does wake in the night, you need to gradually limit her feeds.
If you are breastfeeding, limit the duration of night feeds to five minutes maximum and always place her back into the cot awake after each feed. If you are bottlefeeding, it is safe to increasingly dilute night feeds over the period of a week (provided your baby is healthy, well grown and over the age of six months). Diluting feeds is gentler alternative than suddenly stopping them altogether.
It is most important that, after the reduced feed, your baby should be placed back into the cot while she’s still awake.
After a week you can drop all of the night feeds together, so that your baby is feeding at 7pm and having nothing else until 7am the next morning.
Into a routine
You may need to spend a few more nights comforting your baby in her cot, but by now she will be well on the way to developing the skills needed to resettle to sleep without sucking. Not only this, but she will have overcome the expectation of a feed as part of her night-time ritual.
One little warning – do not undo all the good you have done during the night by giving a mixed message and feeding your baby back to sleep at 5am!