**I want to start this post with a DISCLAIMER: You should always talk to your pediatrician regarding your child's night feedings. If you are unsure if your child still needs a night feeding, always discuss this concern with your pediatrician. None of the following information should be taken as medical advice. **
Most parents survive the newborn phase fairly easily, with all its sleeplessness and on-demand feedings, but after 4 months of interrupted sleep it can really start to wear on you!
This is the time that I hear from a lot of parents because they don't feel like they can continue functioning at their current level of sleep deprivation much longer. One of the most common questions that comes my way is:
How do I know if my baby still needs a feeding overnight?
First, let's talk about generalities. By around 6 months of age, most babies will be able to go 11-12 hours without a feed.
This is true for a couple of different reasons (introduction of solids during the day and increased efficiency during feeds) but what it comes down to is that your baby is now capable of consuming all his necessary calories during his waking hours.
Of course, if we are making generalizations, your baby may not fall within this 'normal' range and that's OK. I am not advising every parent of a 6 month old to stop feeding them overnight regardless of their unique situation.
That is a very personal decision, and it needs to be one that Mom, Dad, and their pediatrician make, not me. However, if you are wondering if your 7 month old is capable of going 11-12 hours without a night feed, the answer is most likely yes.
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So if my 7 month old is capable of getting all his calories in during the day, why is he still waking every 3 hours at night to feed?
Great question! The answer: It is a habit or a comfort. Here are 2 different scenarios:
A. Your baby is only able to fall asleep with the help of a feeding and therefore if he wakes briefly overnight (which all babies do), he needs another feeding to fall back asleep.
B. Maybe your baby already knows how to fall asleep independently. If so, this means this feeding is probably a habit. Your baby may wake at almost the same exact time each night because his body is now programmed to expect that feeding. His body does not need it, but he still feels hungry.
Still unsure whether your baby is nursing out of COMFORT or HUNGER?
Your baby may be feeding out of COMFORT if:
-He continues to cry or needs more comforting after a feeding
-He wants to feed every couple of hours
-He has to be asleep (from feeding) when laid back down
-He only feeds* a little and then falls right to sleep
Your baby may be feeding out of HUNGER if:
-He falls back asleep on his own after feeding
-He wants to feed after a long stretch of sleep
-He feeds* a large amount while nursing
*When I talk about feeding for a little or large amount, I am talking about truly feeding. This means you may need to pay attention to your baby's sucks and swallows.
True feeding should include frequent swallows and if you notice those swallows stop soon after starting, this may mean your baby is simply pacifying rather than feeding.
If you notice your baby's sucks become quick and fluttery, this is another sign that your baby is simply pacifying rather than feeding.