Many of you are probably DREAMING of the day (no pun intended lol) that you can finally drop those night feeds and stay asleep until morning. The good news is that this magical day might come sooner than you think! In this episode, I’m talking about how to know when your baby is ready to drop night feeds and sleep straight through the night until morning.

More specifically, I talk about:
– The medical consensus on when babies are ready to sleep through the night without milk
– The ONE caveat you need to know about regarding your baby sleeping through the night before 8 months-old
– How you know if your little one is ready to drop that last night feed
– The 2 mains reasons why your older baby is still waking up at night to eat- and what you can do to fix it.

Have a listen!


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Eva (00:04):

Hey there, you’re listening to the My Sleeping Baby podcast, which is all about baby and child sleep. I’m so excited to teach you how you can get your little one sleeping so that you can sleep too and enjoy a parenthood to its fullest. I’m Eva Klein, your resident sleep expert, mom of three, founder of the Sleep Bible Online Coaching Program, and lover of all things Sleep and Mother Home. If you’re looking for tangible solutions for your little ones sleep woes, or you simply wanna learn more, this podcast is for you. For more information, check out my sleeping and you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook at my sleeping baby.

All right, friends, welcome back to the show. Today, I wanna address, I’d say a really common question that I get from moms of babies especially, and the question is, Eva, when is my baby gonna be ready to go straight through the night without eating? And the answer to that question obviously is going to depend on the baby themselves, but here’s what I can do. I can give you guys some general guidelines so that you have a rough idea as to when you know that your little one is actually developmentally ready for this. And if your little one is way past that age range, and you’re thinking to yourself, why is my little one still waking up and eating so much at night? I can give you the top reasons for that. Okay, so let’s first address the easier question of the two, which is one is your little one legitimately ready to be going straight through the night without eating.

And the consensus within the medical community is by about the six month range, assuming the baby is healthy, and we’re talking about a six month old corrected baby in the context of um, baby’s born premature baby is gaining weight beautifully and there’s no other concerns, that’s when from a sheer nutritive standpoint, we can typically expect a baby to be able to take down all the calories that they need during daytime hours so that they don’t need to be eating at night anymore. Now, I will just emphasize something very, very strongly here that there are many six month olds with wickedly awesome sleep habits who still need to eat once a night. And my son, JJ, was one of those babies. I find that developmentally a lot of these babies cannot go through the night without eating until they get to that eight month mark. And let me explain why you see, for a baby to be able to go straight through the night, 11 to 12 hours uninterrupted.

Yes, they need to be able to take down all the calories that they need during daytime hours, but there is also a developmental milestone that they need to reach that has nothing to do with the calories that they’re eating at night. And this developmental milestone has everything to do with the ability to keep themselves asleep in those very early morning hours when external sleep pressure is so weak. See, during these very early morning hours, we are transitioning into lighter and lighter sleep where by the time we get to that 3, 4, 5 am timeframe, we are all in very light sleep. Your little ones included. And it takes a certain level of what I like to call sleep maturity to be able to stay asleep soundly in those, those early morning hours without waking up unnecessarily. And what a feed in those early morning hours does is it actually ends up helping that little one go back to sleep a lot more easily and stay asleep until morning because a lot of these babies under the age of eight months need that reset of their sleep cycles to be able to stay asleep and not wake up.

And so the problem with assuming that your five or six month old is unequivocally able to go straight through the night until the morning without needing to eat, is that that might not actually be the case just yet. What might end up happening if you try and remove that last feed, despite the fact that you know they don’t need it nutri, is that your little one might continue to wake up in those early morning hours, day in and day out and really struggle to fall back asleep. And then the end result is that you could have this really yicky situation on your hands where your little one is up around 4:00 AM back asleep at 4 45, up again at five after five, back asleep at five 30, and is basically in and out of sleep until morning. Or they might just be up for the day at five and not know what to do with themselves and not be able to put themselves back to sleep because it’s so close to morning as it is.

And so in these situations, the last thing that you would want to do is take away that last night feed before they are ready to keep themselves asleep until morning, because that can end up creating a perpetual early rising problem. Now, this is not the case across the board. There are many babies in the seven month, six month, five month, even four month range that I have seen on their own, drop all their night feeds and be able to go 11 to 12 hours uninterrupted, not even needing to eat once. And that is amazing. In fact, I can tell you anecdotally that I distinctly remember when JJ was in that age range, having clients with babies the exact same age as jj four months, five months, six months, literally out sleeping him. And he was a great sleeper. I mean, of course he was a great sleeper.

He has me as a mom, he has no choice <laugh>, but he needed that 4:00 AM night feed until literally the day that he turned eight months. And so I was happy to tell my clients, Hey, listen, your little one is actually out sleeping, my baby, that is flipping awesome. It happens, but it could just as easily not happen for your little one. And I get how frustrating it is. In fact, I distinctly remember when JJ was seven months and he was eating full bowls of spaghetti and meatballs, literally out eating his two older sisters who were years older than him and still waking up and needing that three ounce bottle at 4:00 AM because trust me, I had tried through trial and error unsuccessfully to get that bottle weaned completely so that I could finally get a full uninterrupted night’s sleep. That date just did not happen until the day that he turned eight months.

But either way, I do want to assure you that by that eight month mark corrected, as long as everything else is good to go in terms of your little one’s overall health and wellbeing, that is the point when your little one can begin to drop that last night feed and learn to go at least 11 hours uninterrupted until morning. Now, a very important point I wanna make about the younger babies under the age of eight months who still might need to eat at night. This doesn’t mean that eating three, four times a night is something that is necessary. Nutri, developmentally, biologically a healthy 4, 5, 6, 7 month old baby really does not need to be eating more than once. That is the age where you can be getting yourself at least a consistent eight hour stretch of sleep before they wake up around 3, 4, 4 30 in the morning, eat that one time and then go right back to sleep until the morning.

Now, the million dollar question that some of you might be thinking when listening to this episode is, Eva, that sounds great, but my nine month old is still waking up and eating three times a night. Or my four month old is nursing five or six times a night, sometimes every hour, and I can’t get her to stop. What do I do? And why is this happening? So some of you might be listening to this episode and going, okay, Eva, that sounds great, but real life here for a second. My nine month old is still waking up and drinking three bottles every night, or my four month old, sometimes nurses every hour during the nighttime, and I can’t get her to stop. Why is this happening and what do I do? So these sorts of situations when you have a baby who is objectively eating more at night than necessary is usually caused by one of two factors, if not both.

Number one, reverse cycling. And number two, not knowing how to sleep independently. Let’s talk about the first factor. So this is when a lot of people will say to me, but Eva, I can’t just let my baby starve. I mean, he wakes up and he drinks eight ounces at a time or six ounces at a time, or he wakes up and he nurses guzzles for five or 10 minutes straight. He’s clearly hungry. I can’t just get rid of that feed cold Turkey. And the answer is a hundred percent. I agree with you. If your baby is waking up and chowing down, then what that means is that his body got used to eating more at night than necessary, and then as a result is not eating as much as he can be during the day. And then as a result, he eats more at night to compensate and the cycle continues.

This my friends, is called reverse cycling. Reverse cycling is when you have a literal reverse eating cycle to some degree where you have a baby that is eating even a little bit more at night than he needs to be, and then not eating as much as he can be eating during the day. So this baby is getting all the calories that he needs. You take him to the doctor, doctor weighs him and says, oh, beautiful. He gained two pounds. Fantastic. But the problem is that he is not eating all the calories during the day that he could be eating and then needing to compensate at night. And so this is then when a lot of people try to increase their baby’s daytime feeds, hoping that their little ones will just suddenly begin eating more during the day only to then not be as hungry at night.

That’s not gonna happen because remember, your little one just chow down the night before to some degree. And so they’re not gonna suddenly just begin eating more during the day. They’re getting all the calories that they need. And so the solution here needs to involve gradually decreasing the amount of nighttime calories so that we can shift them from the nighttime to the daytime. A lot of people think that the process of night weaning involves just removing those calories completely, letting them disappear into thin air when the reality is that we’re almost always going to be transferring them to those daytime hours instead. And I seen reverse cycling to various different degrees. I have seen 11 month old babies literally drinking 20 ounces of formula at night, and as a result, barely eating whatsoever during the day. That’s a lot of reverse cycling. That baby is getting way more than 50% of his caloric intake during daytime hours.

And then on the flip side, I’ve seen reverse cycling. That definitely exists, but not to the same degree. Whereas maybe there is an 11, another 11 month old baby who isn’t waking up and drinking 20 ounces, but maybe he’s waking up and drinking six, and as a result of his body used to waking up and drinking a six ounce bottle at 4:00 AM he’s in that cycle waking up out of ha out of habit, but also out of hunger because his body just got used to eating then. And then as a result is just not sleeping through the night. But then it’s probably also eating a little bit less during the day as well. And so that is what the solution needs to be, is transferring those calories from the nighttime to the daytime. And so this brings me to culprit number two of why your baby is eating more at night than necessary, because this is when people will then often say to me, oh, but Eva, when I try to offer my baby less, he just freaks out even more.

And then he struggles to fall back asleep and he refuses to go back to sleep until he is completely done eating and then eventually falls asleep while eating or gets very, very drowsy while eating. This, to me exhibits very clearly that one of the other reasons why this baby is waking up and eating more than necessary is because for him, there is a food sleep association. This baby associates to some degree a bottle or a breast with falling asleep or at least getting sleepy. And as a result, it means that when he wakes up at night, at the end of a sleep cycle, he needs that food to not just fill up his tummy, but also help him go back to sleep. And so if that sounds like you, then the solution here is going to be to teach your little one how to sleep completely 100% on their own and no longer be associating milk with sleep in the name of actually falling asleep.

Because remember what happens at bedtime and how your little one falls asleep at bedtime is specifically what sets the tone for the rest of the night. And so for your little one to learn how to sleep through the night without milk, it means that not only do we gotta transfer those calories to the day, but he’s gotta learn how to fall asleep and how to fall back to sleep without any crutches in the mix, the milk included. Now, let’s talk about one of those situations where there are actual real concerns with weight gain and eating. Maybe your little one has sensory issues and is not able to swallow solid food so well, and you’re working with an ot, or maybe your little one is exclusively breastfed, but your milk supply is very low and you’re working with a lactation consultant and you’re concerned about weight gain, and there really truly are extenuating circumstances that you’re working through.

So obviously it goes without saying that your number one thing that you need to be doing here is taking guidance from your little one’s pediatrician because that is the doctor that knows you, knows your little one, and can give you proper customized medical advice. What I can tell you just anecdotally is that a lot of the time in these situations, even if there is lower milk supply, even if there is some concern with weight gain, it does not mean that your little one needs to be chowing down all night long, because I can tell you that in my experience, sometimes that can actually end up backfiring because what it means is that your little one is not eating nearly as well as they could be during the day because they’re so bloody exhausted from waking up so frequently throughout the nights that they just don’t have the energy, the focus, the wherewithal to sit in that highchair and actually explore the world’s of solid food and even stand a small chance of putting that piece of chicken in their mouth.

And so I have found that with one-year-olds who are really struggling to eat solid food and who are still really heavily reliant on milk for their main source of nutrition until their solid food intake increases, that that pediatrician will still tell the mom, you know what? This baby really doesn’t need more than one bottle at night. Or the five month old baby whose mom has low milk supply, that pediatrician or lactation consultant is probably gonna tell the mom, you know what? Maybe instead of feeding that baby five times a night, let’s try weaning him down to two feeds so that we can still get some proper stretches of sleep at night and even transfer some of those calories over to the day. So I want you to know that even if you are dealing with some of these extenuating circumstances, it’s not a Trump card.

This is not an all or nothing type of situation where it means that either you can wean your baby from all their night feeds, or you gotta keep them all you can be all you can eat buffet open indefinitely. There is absolutely a happy medium that you can figure out with the help of your healthcare provider that balances the need for your little one to potentially still eat at nights with the need for your little one to actually learn how to sleep proper stretches of sleep as well. So in summary, when can your little one be consistently sleeping through the night without feeds? As long as they’re healthy, as long as they are meeting all their milestones, typically by eight months corrected, if not earlier, but by at least four months, we can usually get them down to one night feed. If that is not happening for you, see if your little one might be experiencing what’s famously known as reverse cycling.

Take a look at whether or not they rely on milk or some other form of sleep crutch to fall asleep and fall back to sleep, which could absolutely be getting in the way of your little one. Learning how to sleep through the night. And if you’d like some more information, more guidance on what you can do today to get your little one sleeping through the night like a champ so you can finally feel like a functioning human. Take a look at my free masterclass that I have on how you can go about maximizing your little one sleep and get them sleeping like a champ. The link is in the show notes. Go and sign up to watch that class. You can take a look and watch immediately and start taking action today. I hope this was helpful and that you all have a wonderful day. Take care everyone. Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, leave a review and share this episode with a friend who can benefit from it. I also love hearing from my listener, so feel free to DM me on Instagram at my sleeping baby or send me an email at eva my sleeping Until next time, have a wonderful restful night.

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