How long do I let baby go without a feed at night?


If you ask people how long to let a newborn go without a feed at night you are bound to get lots of different answers, especially if you are breastfeeding. You'll hear anything between 1.5 hours to "as long as she'll give you!" Even different pediatricians will give
very different answers. You will need to talk to yours to see what is right for your baby. Things like weight, weight gain, jaundice and prematurity need to be taken into account.

Keep in mind that the times below are the max times suggested. They are not the averages so don't start to freak out because your baby isn't sleeping 8 hours at 6 weeks. I know half of you are still worried! :)  You can see some averages on the post Sleeping through the night- when will it start?

Here's what some "experts" say. I'll add what I did with my boys and why at the bottom.

  • Feed every 3 hours for at least the first 3-4 weeks for a singleton. 
  • Feed every 3 hours for at least the first 5-6 weeks for twins (she suggests every 3 hour feeds longer since twins are usually born weighing less than singletons)
  • At birth - Don't allow baby to go more than 5 hours for the first four weeks
  • 9 weeks - If breastfeeding, baby can go 9-10 hours. If bottle-feeding, baby can 11 hours without a feed.
  • She doesn't talk tons about how long a baby should be allowed to go at night if you are bottle or breastfeeding. She focusses more on how often to do daytime feeds (feeds are more often with smaller babies) and gives some averages for night sleep.  From what I gather, outside of the first several days, she says that babies can sleep as long as they want to at night (assuming they are healthy, growing well and eating well).
Common Advice
  • If you are breastfeeding, feed baby very often at least until your milk comes in. Always monitor your milk supply, especially as baby begins to sleep longer at night.
  • It's pretty common advice to hear that you shouldn't let your baby sleep through the night (5 hours is what these people are referring to) the first two weeks of life. I have yet to hear any medical research to back this up. I believe this advice is given to prevent any malnutrition, low blood sugar and dehydration with the general population of babies (as well as keep up a mom's milk supply if she is breastfeeding). It is decent advice but I don't personally think it applies to all babies. Well, I know it doesn't because I know MANY babies who have slept longer and been 100% ok. Once again, check with your pediatrician about what plan to take. Always monitor your baby's health and growth as well as your milk supply if breastfeeding (most moms seem to do fine if baby sleeps longer but some don't).

What I did
I was much more paranoid about things with my first child. I know I'm not alone with this one!

I fed Joshua every 2-3 hours day and night the first couple weeks. My office has a 3-5 day check up and my doctor didn't really say anything about sleep and feeding times then so I kept up what I was doing even though I was waking Joshua up every 3 hours for all night feeds. The breastfeeding class I went to said to feed at least every 3 hours so that is what I was going to do dangit!

At two weeks my pediatrician said I could let him go 5 hours if he wanted to. So, being the attentive mom I was I set an alarm exactly 5 hours from the time he woke up at night. Unfortunately he didn't give me more than a few hours at this point and I can't help but wonder if it was due to me getting him into the habit of waking for a feed every three hours at night up to this point.  I dont' remember what my pediatrician said regarding sleep after that (I know it wasn't much if anything at all) but I started to read some parenting and sleeping books at this point and decided at 6 weeks of age that I was fine letting him go as long as he'd go. He was healthy and growing like a weed. If he was hungry he would wake up for a feed. Why force feed the chap? When he started going 12 hours around 4/5 months, I pumped before I went to bed for a few months.

With my second child, Jacob, I did things a bit differently. I fed him at least every 3 hours at night until I went to my 6 day visit. By this time he had reached and surpassed his birth weight and was almost 9 lbs. Before he was born I had planned to feed him every 3 hours at night until 2 weeks to avoid horrible engorgement and blocked duct issues I'd had with the last baby, but I was totally fine engorgement wise this time. Plus, my pediatrician suggested I let him go as long as he wanted to. Note: this was a new pediatrician who is big on teaching children to sleep. He said that Jacob was healthy, alert and growing extremely well and if he was hungry at night he'd let me know. He also asked about my milk supply and told me to always monitor it as well as Jacob's input and output. BTW, I LOVE this pediatrician! 

SO... with baby number two I let him sleep as long as he wanted to at night from 6 days on. When he started sleeping 12 hours 100% of the time he was 8 months old. I watched my supply and never had any issues during this gradual and smooth transition so I never pumped at night before bed (that I can remember, I'll update if I find otherwise).

Please remember that this is what worked for me, it may not be the case for you. I didn't have any milk supply issues, my children are big babies who grow extremely well, are very alert and my pediatrician believes that many babies can go long periods without food at night at a young age and remain extremely healthy. In fact, he believes the continuity of sleep adds to their health.

Photo courtesy

11 comments :

  1. chantalmshelstad @ My Baby Sleep Guide - Says...

    My 9 month old still wakes at least once, and up to three times, a night to eat. And when she's nursing, she's nursing A LOT, so I don't think it's just a comfort thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. RachelStella @ My Baby Sleep Guide - Says...

      You are right chantalmshelstad, she probably does feel hungry then. But being in the habit of eating and feeling hungry (like say, an adult feeling hungry before bed and having a bedtime snack) doesn't necessarily mean she isn't capable of not having food then. Not an issue if you are both happy with it though.

      Delete
  2. Ruth @ My Baby Sleep Guide - Says...

    My experience: My first, whom I fed at night when he made the smallest peep, slept 12 hours straight by 7 ish months. This took training (gradually feeding for less time as I was breast feeding, making him fuss a bit), since I fed him whenever he naturally aroused and he just got into the habit of eating at night. More at night, less during the day at each feeding. Previously working night shifts, I know we can eventually shift our hunger times with training. My second slept 8 hours at 7.5 weeks and 12 hours by 3 months. Once my milk came in I never woke her at night. I made sure she was awake and hungry at night from the beginning before feeding her and fed her every 3 hours during the day for the first 3 months, and then gradually went to 4 hours a day around 4 months following her hunger signs (not just sucking signs, as most little babies like to suckle all the time). Both kids were in the 90th percentile as babies. The second was just a lot easier to handle because I slept more. I dont sleep well sleeping with my babies so i have to get up to feed them during the night. She was a better sleeper in general though, but I wonder if I allowed her to sleep better as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My Baby Sleep Guide @ My Baby Sleep Guide - Says...

      Thanks for sharing your experience Ruth!

      Rachel

      Delete
  3. emily @ My Baby Sleep Guide - Says...

    your story is so similar to what I'm dealing with. My first born had jaundice and I needed to wake her frequently to feed, and we struggled with a bevy of sleep problems until I followed Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (life saver!!). I now have a 2 week old who is healthy, a good eater, pooper, and very alert. I still set an alarm at night, but often snooze it based on how i'm feeling or if my baby is stirring, and i have MUCH less anxiety than I had the first time around. Thanks for the encouragement - not all babies need to be awakened every 2-3 hrs around the clock!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. RachelStella @ My Baby Sleep Guide - Says...

      Thanks for sharing your experience Emily!

      Rachel

      Delete
  4. sarah @ My Baby Sleep Guide - Says...

    My 5 month old sleeps from 7pm to 3,4,5, am and then wakes for a feed of 7 or 8 oz, how can I let him sleep longer ? We are trying to increase the afternoon sleep ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Rachel Stella @ My Baby Sleep Guide - Says...

      Sarah, take a look at the night time post in the index(under night sleep). You can try to extend feeds out slowly, decrease how much you feed at a feed, dilute feeds(per dr advice). Once you've dropped the feeds, if sleep doesn't improve, work on decreasing sleep props and consider a sleep training method(found under sleep training in index).

      Best of luck, Rachel

      Delete
  5. Rivka @ My Baby Sleep Guide -Says...

    Hey Rachel,
    Wow, I haven't looked at your blog in a while and now I am re-hooked. You are incredible for spending so much time helping people on here!
    My baby is four months old, and until very recently was waking up to nurse every 1-2.5 hours to nurse. I was starting to get used to the major sleep deprivation, but then I went back to work where I have to do a few hours of work late at night, and anyway, it came down to me taking some pretty drastic measures to get my baby to sleep. Basically, for the last four or five nights I spent the night somewhere else while his dad went in often to reassure him, but not feed him. Basically the plan is he goes down around 6.30 or 7, I dream feed him a big bottle with rice cereal in it (not sure if it does anything, but just so I didn't feel QUITE as guilty) a few hours later, and then feed him again around 6.30 in the morning. (he's about 17lbs, growing well, etc.) Anyway, he now makes it to about 4.30 before waking up and crying, and it's pretty hard to get him down after that one. So far, we've just been persistent, and he usually does fall back asleep eventually for a while and I try to make it to 6.30 before feeding him. SO, my questions are....do you think if he keeps waking up at 4.30 and won't go back down easily, he's just hungry in way that's more than "habitual hunger" and I should just feed him, or do you think, I could get him used to not eating then, just like he has stopped getting up to eat so many times throughout the night? Also, during that stretch in the morning, I have been helping him a lot with patting until very much asleep, and/or pacifier (which I really have to hold in there, he can't really keep it in). Do you think this will backfire b/c of sleep prop issues, or now, it's okay to do just to try to get him used to sleeping through those hours instead of eating?
    Also, about a pre-sleep routine, I feel like almost everything I do just stimulates him more. He's extremely active and alert and he does not get calm by being held (unless I hold him until he stops fighting it, but then actually falls asleep), or by being in the carrier. The pacifier, he can't keep in his mouth, and he doesn't ever stay still at all. I feel like most of your routine suggestions are either for really little babies (swaddling, etc), or bigger ones (talking about the day, etc.). Do you have any other suggestions?
    Thank you so much!

    ReplyDelete
  6. what a wealth of information on this blog, love it! I've been trying to get my 8 month old into a routine as a month ago she stopped napping. the day currently goes: wake 6/7am, BF and solids,nap 8.30/9am (1-2hrs),BF and solids, nap 12.30/1pm (.5-1 hr although often struggle to get her to sleep), I try for a third nap around 3 but have not been successful,BF and solids 4pm, by time I start bedtime routine of bath n book and BF at 5.30pm she is super tired and often falls asleep while BF. she has been waking at around 3am n won't go to sleep, I have tried to let her CIO for up to 1.5hrs but she won't settle so have been doing a BF after which I put her down to sleep awakr and she sleeps. she has a big feed at that night feed and also when she wakes.my questions. 1/should I keep trying to make her take a third nap even though she refuses (which may be because she didn't nap as well on her 2nd nap). 2/how do I know when to stop giving her the night feed, how can you tell if it's a habitual feed or whether they still need it? 3/ what is the best way to stop this night feed, when I have left her to try settle herself back she won't (in the 1.5hrs I gave her). thanks so much. Lian

    ReplyDelete
  7. Hi Rachel,
    Our little girl is 16 weeks and I have been soo looking forward to her STTN with no nighttime feedings. She is EBF and currently wakes once or twice to nurse. However, reading your posts on monitoring supply when babes night feeds end has me concerned. I hope to BF for 1 year or more. How will I ensure my supply isn't compromised when my baby STTN and other then contentment post feed how do you recommend monitoring supply?

    Thanks, love your blog! It might be my sleep prop :).

    ReplyDelete