I’m anxious for my four-month-old daughter to sleep through the night. She still nurses three times a night, the first feeding around midnight and then every three hours or so—sometimes as often as two hours, though. She’s healthy and gaining weight, she naps well, and she’s a happy baby. I’m just really, really tired. I don’t want to let her cry-it-out, but is there anything else I can do to encourage her to sleep more and eat less at night?
I can’t offer a cold-turkey plan to eliminate your daughter’s nighttime feedings; It’s normal and expected for a four-month-old to eat at night. If you’re supporting your child’s sleep needs with the “light touch” I describe in my ebook Ready, Set, Sleep, night feedings will naturally fade away as your child outgrows them and she’ll sleep through the night as soon as she’s ready. Until then, you can’t ignore your baby’s valid needs for nighttime nourishment.
But I can help. A healthy four-month-old baby probably does not need to eat three to four times a night. So yes, there are way to gently encourage a baby—yes, even a breastfed baby—to get more of her nourishment during the day, and sleep more at night.
- Please keep in mind: Your baby may not need to eat each and every time she wakes at night. If she wakes two hours after her last feeding, she probably doesn’t need to eat again. It’s important for parents of young babies to recognize this; frequent nighttime feedings can quickly become habitual if you mistake your child’s every nighttime whimper for hunger.
- Try to make your baby’s first nighttime feeding a big one. Encourage her to finish the feeding by gently rousing her if she begins to fall asleep at the breast or bottle. This may help her sleep more soundly afterward, without the need to feed again in two hours. More importantly, it will help you be confident that she’s full and don’t really need to eat again two hours later.
- If your child wakes an hour or two after a night feeding, reswaddle her, offer her a pacifier, and put her back down to sleep without feeding. Use a pacifier or another strong sleep association, like bouncing or rocking, to help her settle without nursing. As soon as she’s drowsy and settled, place her back in her bed.
- Night feedings will be less disruptive to your sleep if they take place as close to your sleeping space as possible. Don’t take your child to another room to feed and, most importantly, do not expose her to light. (So flipping on the television during nighttime feedings—major no-no.)
Of course, helping your child sleep through the night begins with things you do in the daytime—great nighttime sleep is something you support all day long. I think you’d find my ebook extremely helpful, because I go into detail about gentle, effective ways to help encourage sounder sleep (no cry-it-out required). Good luck!