A very common question we 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 for breastfeeding and formula-fed babies. Breastfed babies can be night-weaned around 6-9 months old, on average, while formula-fed babies can night-wean around 4-6 months old.
Night Weaning: What do the doctors say?
In my experience, pediatricians seem to disagree frequently to the answer to the question when a baby can go all night without a feeding. Clients report various answers all the time. If you have read any of the sleep books, there is Dr. 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.
Night Weaning: In My Professional Experience
I have been a baby sleep consultant for over 10 years now since 2008. Although I do really like Dr. Ferber’s book and learned A LOT from it, I can not, in good conscience, regularly 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.
When I work with families personally, I am not 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. In addition, if you are breastfeeding, we have seen mom’s milk supply decrease rapidly and irrecoverably if she goes too long without feeding too soon.
Night Feedings By Age
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:
Breastfeeding Babies, Combination Breastfed and Formula Fed Babies and/or Babies with Reflux
- 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
- Newborns to 3 months old: Feedings every 2-3 hours, on demand
- 3-4 Months: 1-2 feedings per night or every 3-6 hours, on demand
- 5-6 Months: 0-1 feedings
- 7+ 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.
When to Night Wean
Now, I know that it can be difficult to tell when exactly your unique baby is ready for night weaning. That’s why I created a night weaning quiz, Is Your Baby Ready For Night Weaning? It’s very short – just 5 questions – and easy to take, so if you’re struggling with whether or not your baby is ready for night weaning, I suggest you take this quiz. The response you get will help you determine whether not you should move forward with night weaning, or whether or not you need to wait a bit and try night-weaning later.
In general, a baby needs to be able to consume all of their calories in the daytime in order to be night-weaned. This typically happens around 4-6 months old for formula-fed babies and around 6-10 months for breastfed babies.
I typically recommend at least an attempt at night-weaning by 8-9 months old (or sooner if you feel your baby is ready), because at some point, sometimes it is a chicken and egg problem. A baby needs a certain number of calories 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 help him do this.
My Night-Weaning Story
I was a breastfeeding mom for the first year. 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 weaning from breastfeeding, though). They did, however, sleep better after I nudged them in the right direction, so I was glad I at least tried. When I attempted night-weaning my first son, he went from randomly waking at different times a night to waking around 5 AM just 4 times a week, which was a great improvement!
Already Tried Night-Weaning and It’s Not Working?
If you’ve already tried night-weaning and it’s not working, there are several reasons this might be the case. Be sure to review 7 Reasons Night-Weaning Isn’t Working.
More Help With Night-Weaning
For more guidance on night-weaning, check out our special members-only resources in our VIP Members Area:
- Example Night-Weaning Plans
- Mini Action Plan for Night-Weaning (your MAP™)
- The Members-Only Day-By-Day Co-Sleeping Transition Plan
- How Fixed and Fluid Feeding Schedules Can Help You Night Wean
- The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep e-book
- Chat live with a sleep consultant