My EBF 3 month old goes to bed between 8 and 9p, usually fed within an hour of being put in bed. He wakes up between 2 and 2:30a for a feeding, usually eats very well and goes back to sleep until around 4:30 or 5, which is actually convenient because I have to get up at 5 to get ready to leave for work at 6:15 and I want to nurse him before I leave.
Can I possibly get him to drop this 2:30 night feeding this young?
The short answer to your question is yes, you can (probably) drop the night feed. If your doctor gives you the go-ahead, taking into consideration your baby’s weight and growth rate, then you’re medically cleared for night weaning.
But I wouldn’t recommend that you do it.
The reason is your baby’s sleep and feed schedule sounds biologically appropriate – ideal, actually. Night weaning at this point, while possible, would be tantamount to sleep training.
And I’m not sure if that’s what you want to do.
If you’re gung ho about dropping the feed, you can do it gradually or you can do it quickly. Each methods has its pros and cons. Gradual methods tend to take longer and be more labour intensive. And quick methods are quick, but are emotionally really difficult – basically cry it out.
Consider the extra comfort your baby is going to need over the next few months. Soon you'll have the 4 month sleep regression, then the 5 and 6 month regressions too. Plus, he's going to go through a succession of growth spurts. He's not going to drop that feed without a fight.
Night weaning can impact your milk supply, too. So all in all – probably not a great idea.
Rather than dropping the feed, take a look at his overall sleep schedule. 9pm is appropriate and normal for a 3 month old, but a 4 month old will do better with a bedtime closer to 6pm.
You can ease this transition by ensuring your home is calm and dimly light between his last nap and bedtime.
"Evening mode" will help his brain produce melatonin, the sleep hormone, which will shorten that wake window and encourage its evaporation altogether. Soon, 6pm will no longer be his last nap. It will be bedtime.
Once he’s sleeping on more of a 6pm to 6am schedule, and feeding around 10pm and 2am, then you can start thinking about dropping the second feed.
At this point, he will have a "mature" sleep cycle, driven more by his circadian rhythm than the simple sense of tiredness that drove his sleep as a newborn.
The circadian rhythm – which is the 24 hour biological clock that regulates bodily functions – slows down the digestive tract in the night. So once his sleep has matured, dropping the second
feed will be more of an exercise in killing a habit, than suppressing a need.
And I think the value of that speaks for itself.
Susannah Ritchie is a family educator specializing in infant & toddler sleep. She works with tired parents to find sleep solutions for the whole family.