It can be a bitter sweet time when your baby drops their night feeds; sweet because you manage a more restful night (hopefully) and bitter because in hindsight your little one has reached a new milestone and they are growing up way too quickly! Even if your baby is taking a feed in the night and they appear to be holding onto it, you can still help them to sleep through. What you need to learn is whether the waking is a habitual waking or a hungry waking.If your child is between 4 and 6 months and is still having a night feed this is normal! Obviously, you need to look at how much milk intake they are having and make sure this is correct for their age. If you have just started weaning, then again look at the daily milk intake and seek help from a healthcare provider on the recommended milk intake per day – check out my other article ‘Will weaning help my baby sleep through’ for some useful links. As your baby begins to grow and take solids the chances are they won’t need a night feed so, the main thing you need to be wary of is whether you are feeding your baby during the night because they have woken up and can’t get back to sleep or whether you are feeding your baby because they are actually hungry. For example, they fall asleep having their milk at bedtime and wake in the night and you do the same again. If this is so, then you need to consider putting your baby down drowsy but awake so you are sure they are able to fall asleep on their own and they are not reliant upon sucking the milk to soothe them to sleep. Otherwise, you are in danger of being the tool that puts them to sleep by feeding them and this could indicate why they are waking and not able to self settle back to sleep. So, it is not necessarily that they need the milk; they want the milk because it is the only way they know to fall back asleep.
To work out if your baby is capable of self settling make sure you firstly establish a good bedtime routine. This should be the same every night so you begin to teach your baby what comes next and they are reassured. Make sure that the environment that you are in for the last feed is quiet with no distractions so that the mood is calm and relaxed (usually where baby is going to sleep is best.) Aim to give your baby the last feed and then a story or song afterwards to help make sure they have not become fully reliant upon the milk and your close contact to aid them to sleep. Of course, it is the end of the day and naturally, your baby will be tired and will reach a sleepy state, however it is important that you work upon keeping your baby awake on the last feed. If you can then place your baby in their sleep environment awake and drowsy they will begin to learn to settle themselves to sleep which can then help you make a decision on whether or not the waking is for a feed or because they can’t settle back to sleep.
When your baby is ready to drop the night feed you will notice that they may sleep through one night and then wake the next and you feed them and then they don’t have a feed the following night. This is normal. What I would say is hold them to their best, if they have slept through at least a couple of nights without a feed then you know that it is not needed. Dropping the night feeds is a scary process but if you follow professional advice on food and milk intake from your local healthcare provider and you know your baby can self settle or you offer a dream feed, eventually the night feed will go you can be reassured what the waking is for and in time the night feed will fade out.
Laura, Babbaboo Sleep.
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