On the whole, new babies will need to feed as much during the night as they do during the day time. It is neither safe nor sensible to restrict night feeding in newborns.
By about eight weeks old, most babies fall into a pattern of feeding just once or twice during the night and having a regular feeding routine in the day. Babies vary in when they are ready to drop night feeds and it is always good to follow your own child’s lead. When a baby reaches a body weight of around 6kg (13lb), as long as he is healthy and is feeding well, this can be a sign of readiness to drop night feeds.
By the time your baby is six months, it is extremely unlikely that he’ll need to be fed during the night and yet for lots of babies, feeding during the night becomes a habit and a sleep trigger rather than a nutritional need.
It’s not at all uncommon for an older baby to refuse daytime food because of feeding so much during the night. Naturally, parents will want to keep going with night feeds if baby has hardly fed during the day and so night feeding and picky daytime feeding can become a frustrating cycle.
Preventing night feeding problems
First of all, it is important to know that at somewhere between three and six months, babies begin to develop a natural night and day rhythm. At this time, the sleep cycles start to establish. This means that it is perfectly normal for babies to wake in the night several times. Problems only emerge when babies are not able to settle back to sleep without a feed, regardless of whether they are hungry or not.
The best way to avoid this problem is to make sure that after the age of three months, your baby does not routinely fall asleep over these key feeds:
- Dream feed (if you are giving this)
- Any other night feed
- Dawn feed.
By putting your baby down to sleep while he’s still awake you will avoid the development of a milk/sleep association, which might cause later sleep problems. If babies are able to fall asleep without a strong milk association, they will naturally stop waking for night feeds when they no longer need them.