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.
Night Weaning: What do the doctors say?
In my experience, pediatricians seem to disagree frequently with the answer to the question of when a baby can go all night without a feeding. 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 since 2008. Although I do really like Dr. Ferber’s book and learned A LOT from it, I cannot, 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 parents 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. However, I don’t recommend night weaning until your baby is showing signs that she is ready. DO keep in mind that this age varies from child to child. In addition, if you are breastfeeding, we have seen mom’s milk supply decrease rapidly and irrecoverably if she goes too long between feedings 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. 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 you should move forward with night weaning, or if you might 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. And, there are ways to know when night feedings are necessary.
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 often, it can be 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. With both my boys, they did continue to eat at night up through a year. They did sleep better after I nudged them in the right direction, so I was glad I at least tried at 9 months. When I attempted night-weaning my first son, he went from randomly waking at different times of night to waking around 5 AM just 4 times a week. This 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.
112 thoughts on “Night Feedings by Age –<br />When Do You Try Night Weaning?”
Thank you for all the helpful info! When you tried weaning your children how did you know they weren’t ready to fully wean. We’re in the same process with our daughter. She was waking once then went through a sleep regression around 7.5 mos. I nursed her because I thought it might have been a growth spurt, but after 8+ weeks, she was waking 3-4 times a night. We’ve tried weaning for several days now and she’ll wake once 2:00-5:00 am and is very difficult to get back down. I’m not sure if I should nurse her because she’s hungry or it’s still part of her adjusting. We can rock her back to sleep at that time and she doesn’t show hunger cues but cries as soon as we try to out her back in the crib.
Hi @Kelly –
Good question!! I hope that other parents can share their story with you! As for us, we have a great quiz on our blog that can help! Here’s the link:
I hope this helps Kelly! Please contact us if you need any help at any time!
My daughter turns 5 months old tomorrow and I’ve worked very diligently with her on her sleep habits to try and get us on the right foot from the beginning. She sleeps in her crib, can go down awake, doesn’t need her pacifier to sleep, we have a good night time routine to get her in the night time mindset, etc. So I’m baffled as to why she is still waking frequently at night. She has shown that she can go as long as 7 hours without waking, but then the next night she wakes 4 times in one night. I always feed her because it’s honestly faster to give her a 5 minute feed than to let her cry for longer than that. She feeds quickly and goes back to sleep (still goes down awake, though, not nursed to sleep), But I was kind of hoping that since she has the ability to put herself to sleep, that it would translate to her sleeping through the night (or at least for 6hours minimum!). Does this still sound like a crutch/habit? Or do I need to work on getting her to eat more during the day? Let her cry at night just seems hard because I don’t want to wake up our toddler. Thank you for your help!
Thank you so much for visiting The Baby Sleep Site! Congratulations on all of the progress you’ve made on your sleep work so far 🙂 I’m sorry to hear you’re still struggling with night feedings. Many babies are still inconsistent feeders at this age, and that can be normal; there are a lot of growth spurts, sleep regressions, and other reasons a baby might need to eat more one night than the next. It can also be normal to see the same baby sleep 7 hours in a stretch one night and only 3-4 the next. None of us are sleep robots! 😀 If your baby is going back to sleep easily after being fed, and is not waking again within the same hour, it is likely she is just hungry and will need to eat at night for a while more. I hope this helps!
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