As your baby grows, they start sleeping for longer stretches at night. At around three to four months old, many babies are able to sleep for six to eight hour stretches. But, is your baby continuing to wake up for nighttime feeds? To help support your baby to sleep through the night, it’s important to shift their feeding schedule. Good daytime feedings equal better nighttime sleep!
Establish The Anchor Feed
The foundation of the Baby Settler routine is the anchor feed in the morning. This helps with the transition into longer nighttime sleep. An anchor feed is the first feed of the day – you can treat all feeds before the anchor feed as nighttime feeds, and all feeds after and including as daytime feeds.
The anchor feed is really important because it’s the starting point of your baby’s routine. After this full feeding they will have a wake window, followed by a nap and then another feeding.
How Can You Tell Your Baby Is Full?
Your baby may be waking up hungry during the night as a result of snacking during the day.
Some signs of a full and satisfied baby include:
- Turning away from the breast or bottle
- A full tummy can cause your baby to get a bit sleepy
- Their body feels relaxed
- A wet burp accompanied by a little bit of milk dribble
Besides frequent nighttime wakings, here are other signs your baby isn’t getting full feedings:
- Every nap is less than 30 minutes
- Low weight gain (discuss this with your pediatric provider)
As babies get older, their eating speeds up – don’t confuse this with snacking. Instead of timing the lengths of feeds, watch for your baby’s cues that they’re full.
How To Encourage Full Feedings During The Day
First of all, full feedings do not mean forcing your baby to eat beyond their capacity. A full feed is when their belly is full.
One of your goals during daytime feedings is to keep your baby awake so that they can nurse or bottle feed effectively.
Help your baby stay awake during a feeding by:
- Switching to the other breast when your baby begins non-nutritive sucking
- Burping your baby in the middle of the feed, before switching breasts
- Rubbing your baby’s clavicle
- Using hands on breast compression
How To Handle Your Baby Waking Up At Night
When your baby continues to wake up during the night even after getting full feedings during the day, it may be due to habit. This can be an opportunity to help your baby self-soothe. Before rushing to your baby and turning on the night light, see if they’ll fall back asleep by themself.
How To Gradually Wean Them Off Nighttime Feeds
If they don’t fall back asleep and they are giving cues that they’re hungry, carry on with a feed as usual. Keep the lights dim though and avoid stimulating cell phones and noises.
To reduce nighttime feeds gradually, you can stretch the time in between each night feeding by around 15 to 30 minutes to encourage your little one to sleep longer.
“You can also try making each feeding shorter by cutting back the amount of time on each breast or putting fewer ounces in your baby’s bottle. Keep trimming things back bit by bit, and over a week or so, your baby will (hopefully) decide that waking up to eat is no longer worth it,” says What To Expect.
This Transition Can Affect Your Breastmilk
If you’re breastfeeding your baby, skipping overnight feedings can lead to mastitis and a reduction in breastmilk.
Remember, your body works on a supply and demand basis when it comes to producing breastmilk, so skipping feeds can signal to your body to not make as much milk.
If you want to continue breastfeed and to make a high amount of milk, you can pump in place of a feed. Download my free pumping log and breastmilk storage guide here.
Don’t just go cold turkey on nighttime feeds. You can gradually wean your baby off of nighttime feedings to promote longer, quality sleep by establishing a morning anchor feed and ensuring your baby gets full feeds that meet their caloric needs during the day.
Are you looking for help in creating a routine for naps, wake windows, and feedings for your baby? My 4-6 Months Made Simple course is for you! Find out more here.