Overnight feeding: How much is too much?

overnight feeding

"The settling routine at night for Gully began with a bottle of milk while he was being read to. Often, he would then begin to wander around the house but we would keep talking to him encouraging him that it’s sleepy time and time to go to bed. Some nights he needed a lot of coaxing with many visits to the room and offerings of the bottle". His parents knew it was time to change this, but breaking this habit felt impossible! “Between 7.00pm and the morning he would usually wake 2-3 times. Usually wanting a bottle. Sometimes he had wet through his nappy and we would need to change him. We just fed him and put him back to bed and moaned about how tired we were”! I was so glad Gillian got in touch. I could see that the several night wakings were taking a toll on the family, with both parents feeling tired and frustrated about the frequent night waking and broken sleep. I got working on a plan straight away. I knew by slowly reducing the overnight milk volumes and combining it with some sleep teaching that suited Gillian’s parenting style, we would have success. As I worked with Gillian to implement the plan, Gullly’s sleep became rapidly better. Very quickly beginning to reduce his overnight milk intake and he was able to settle back to sleep overnight. As a wonderful consequence as well, Gully’s day time eating increased dramatically and he was much more interested in trying different foods. “Several weeks on we have a happy toddler who sleeps through the night for a good 11-12 hours and eats well during the day. If you’re struggling with sleep stuff, get Emma. Kind, patient, and really after the best outcome for your baby and you”.  

Overnight Feeding: Can it ever be too much?

Well the short answer is definitely yes. In the newborn phase you will hear ‘just demand feed your baby’. By that what is really meant is that we want you to offer them the breast or bottle very regularly and when they seem hungry. This is important because it aids in the establishment of a mother’s milk supply and obviously nourishes the little newborn so they can grow and thrive. The slow creep. I call it the slow creep because it can happen so slowly over time that you can hardly even pinpoint when it started. Your little one is past the newborn stage now and all you know is that your baby is feeding a lot still overnight. This is now the only way you seem to be able to get them back to sleep. Or they wake up crying and instead of trying to settle them without a feed you give them a feed because maybe it is a growth spurt. The months go on, as has your broken sleep. Your baby is now 7-8 months old, solids have well and truly settled in and you were hoping this would mean that your baby will now be sleeping better at night. However sometimes they have days where they don’t eat so much so you are genuinely concerned that they are hungry at night, so you keep on feeding overnight. You just don’t know! Does any of this sound familiar? The truth is that your baby is probably a little hungry at night because you have entrained your baby’s circadian rhythm to wake up at night for food.

Just a little bit more on that circadian rhythm:

Around 3 months your baby’s circadian rhythm is pretty developed. It’s the 24 hour internal clock that runs in the background of our brains and cycles between sleepiness and alertness. This is known as the sleep/ wake cycle. Outside factors like lightness and darkness impact our circadian rhythm (darkness sends a signal to the brain to release melatonin, enabling us to become sleepy at night). Food also has an impact on our circadian rhythm. When we ‘train’ our babies by saying that ‘food is always available overnight’ we are literally training their circadian rhythm to wake up for food at that time. Their bodies do become programmed to wake for this food. Interestingly, when babies have milk overnight, the insulin that they produce in the digestive process can drastically reduce the production of melatonin, the very hormone that we want produced for sleep and to keep them asleep. Put simply: Food is for daytime, sleep is for night-time Finally, soggy wet nappies that you end up having to change overnight are another problem. This also will continue to wake your baby and disturb their restorative overnight sleep. As you can see there are many reasons why it’s important to remove excessive overnight feeding for your little ones. So as long as your baby is out of the newborn phase, it’s a great idea to change this for the benefit of your baby or toddler. More sleep for baby overnight = more sleep for parents!


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