A very common question I get is when a baby can go all night without a feeding. This article will outline general guidelines about how many night-feedings you can expect at each age.
Pediatricians all seem to disagree to the answer to the question when a baby can go all night without a feeding. There is Ferber who claims babies don’t need to eat at night after 3 months old and then there is Weissbluth who says that babies need 1-2 feedings up through 9 months old. Who’s right? They are both pediatricians with a lot of experience. Talk to your pediatrician and the answer will likely be even something different.
Although I do really like Ferber’s book and have learned A LOT from it, I can not, in good conscience, ever recommend night-weaning at 3 months old. I think that is extreme to think that all babies can do that, particularly breastfed babies. Some parents are lucky enough that their baby does it on his own that young or younger, but many parents simply aren’t that lucky.
I am not, in general, an extremist and when it comes to hunger at night, I err on the side of caution. I know that it would be sooo much easier, for US, to not feed at night, but there are adults who can’t go 12 hours without eating, so I am not sure why we expect our babies to. I am all for breaking sleep associations and promoting healthy sleep for our babies, but I don’t recommend night-weaning until your baby is showing signs she is ready and that age varies by child.
Below are the number of feedings at night, at various ages, that are within “normal” range (in my experience) and don’t throw up a red flag that there is more going on than just a feeding:
• Newborns to 3 months old: Feedings every 2-3 hours, on demand
• 3-4 Months: 2-3 feedings per night or every 3-6 hours, on demand
• 5-6 Months: 1-2 feedings
• 7-9 Months: 1, maybe 2, feedings
• 10-12 Months: Sometimes 1 feeding
• 12+ Months: Generally no feedings
Obviously, growth spurts are an exception and you should feed as needed during those. Growth spurts are generally over within a week.
I typically recommend at least an attempt at night-weaning by 8-9 months old, because at some point, sometimes it is a chicken and egg problem. A baby needs a certain amount of sustenance during the day and if he gets some at night, he won’t eat more during the day and if he doesn’t eat more during the day, he needs it at night. So, sometimes, a baby really does feel hungry at night, but it doesn’t mean he can’t go all night without a feeding, it simply means he needs to adjust how much he’s eating during the day. The idea is to gently help him do this.
I personally tried to night-wean around 9 months, but with both my boys, they did continue to eat at night up through a year and I weaned to cow’s milk (not sure if it was age or the weaning, though). They did, however, sleep better after I at least nudged them in the right direction, so I was glad I at least tried.