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Thread: OK to reduce night feedings?

  1. #1
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    Default OK to reduce night feedings?

    Hi, I'm hoping for some advice on how to reduce night feedings. My DS is almost 7 months and for the last few weeks his sleep has been an absolute nightmare. He goes down around 7:30 then is usually up every hour or so until about 11, then again at 1, then at 4, then up for the day around 5-5:30. I generally tend to him and feed him every time he wakes up. We are working on his sleep from multiple angles, using mostly ideas from Gail Pantley's book, "The No-Cry Sleep Solution". He spends most of the night in his crib then usually comes into bed with us after the 4AM waking so we can get a little more sleep (otherwise he would probably be up for the day at 4AM).

    Anyway, we went to the pediatrician a couple of days ago and she asked about his sleep. I told her how it was going, she basically told me he needs to learn to self-soothe, that it is developmentally appropriate for him to do so, and that at this point biologically he no longer needs to eat at night and could learn to sleep through the night without any feedings. He's a pretty big boy, 18 lbs 11.5 oz and 27 inches long at not quite 7 months. We've never had any issues with his weight gain except in the first couple of days after he came home from the hospital. I work about 30 hours a week, breastfeed when I'm home and pump while at work. I have no issues with supply and have actually maintained a mild oversupply--I can pump anywhere from 5 oz-10 oz per day above what he actually eats.

    Now, based on what the pediatrician said, my DH would like to night-wean or at least cut back on feedings at night. I am in agreement with cutting back on nighttime feedings, if it is possible to do so without jeopardizing my supply, but I am not ready for night-weaning and I don't think my DS truly is either, regardless of what my pediatrician says. (I do like my pediatrician a lot and think she has a great bedside manner but I don't agree with her on sleep issues and don't feel the need to listen to everything she says).

    Ideally, I would like to reduce to just 1 night feeding, preferably the one right before I go to bed around 12-1AM. So in my ideal world, he would eat around 7:30 right before he goes to bed, then again around midnight, then again around 5:30 when he wakes up.

    Do you think I can work on reducing the night feedings to one per night at this point without jeopardizing my supply as a working mom? Alternatively, could DH give one bottle overnight if need be--e.g. I would still feed at 7:30 PM and 12AM, but DH could give a bottle if DS wakes at 4AM? That 4AM feeding is killing me. Then I would feed again around 5:30 AM. I make plenty of milk right now and could pump enough at work to supply that nighttime bottle but I don't know if it would cause supply issues in the long run. I'm just nervous as a working mom about my supply. I know stimulation from baby is way better than pump in terms of maintaining my supply so I guess I'm a bit worried about cutting down on the night nursing, even though I really need to start getting more sleep!

    I'm exhausted all the time and it's affecting my work so something has to change here. However, I want to breastfeed for minimum a year and am planning at this point to continue for longer so I also don't want to hurt my supply. DH is supportive of me continuing one night feeding if I want to, and is also supportive of me continuing to nurse beyond a year if I want. He just agrees with the doctor that biologically DS doesn't 'need' night nursing anymore and thinks I am doing it more for my own sake than DS' sake.

    Co-sleeping more to get more sleep isn't an option for us--our bed is too small and as big and squirmy as DS is, none of us sleep well anymore when we're all in bed together. So that's not an option for getting more sleep.

    I would really value everyone's input on this one. Thanks in advance!

    ETA: I breastfeed DS directly in the morning before work at least once, sometimes twice, and again in the evening usually 3 times between when I get home and when he goes to bed, if that makes any difference.
    Last edited by @llli*joshuas.mommy; May 25th, 2012 at 12:48 PM.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: OK to reduce night feedings?

    Is he teething? Frequent night waking is common at 7 months due to teething. You can try ibuprofen before bed for that. Mine also woke up a lot at that age because he was pretty distracted during the day and didn't nurse as well as he did at night. That is a legitimate biological need for nighttime feedings (but I also believe that comfort is a legitimate need too, although some might disagree) and is more difficult to deal withthan teething. You can try to encourage more frequent and efficient nursing during the day (nursing necklaces, nursing in a dark, quiet, non-stimulating space, etc.), but it's hard to say how well it will work. It's worth a shot though, if it might mean more sleep.
    K. Sophia - Mama to my little lactivore, the amazing Mr. X (11/10).

  3. #3
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    Default Re: OK to reduce night feedings?

    He might be teething, tylenol does seem to help some. I agree that comfort is a legitimate need, but I don't see anything wrong with gentle approaches to help him wake less (e.g. sending Daddy in to comfort him when he wakes, if he'll accept it, instead of me feeding him every time). I'm not gonna let him cry it out. I'm just wondering, if I am able to get him to wake less often (we're working on it), will that jeopardize my supply now that he's 7 months old?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: OK to reduce night feedings?

    If daddy goes in and comforts him and it works, then that need is being met and I don't see a problem with it. However, if teething and or true hunger is causing the waking it might be difficult to comfort him back to sleep without nursing.

    I don't think anyone can say for sure if it will impact your supply or not. After a year it shoudn't matter, but 7 months is pretty young and it's really hard to say. Nighttime nursing is generally better at stimulating milk production than daytime nursing, so it is not without some risk. You can always try to cut just one nighttime feeding and see how it goes. Then take it from there.
    K. Sophia - Mama to my little lactivore, the amazing Mr. X (11/10).

  5. #5
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    Default Re: OK to reduce night feedings?

    I got the "self-soothing" line from my doctor around this age, but that's really a parenting decision, not a medical issue (for most children anyway). I personally wasn't comfortable with what "training" a seven month old (at least, my seven month old) would entail - there would have been some pretty intense crying if I hadn't nursed Joe at night.

    I also agree that around seven months, a lot of babies get pretty restless at night because of teething, so I'd be inclined to try some ibuprofen, and basically wait it out a bit until the teeth are in.

    Contrary to what some books and doctors will have you believe, children do learn to self-soothe, all on their own, without any training or forcing of the issue by parents. But different children learn at different times. For Joe, this developmental leap came a bit later and he just wasn't ready to learn to go to sleep on his own at seven months, and still needed mama at that time.


    You can call me JoMo!

    Mom to baby boy Joe, born 5/4/09 and breastfed for more than two and a half years, and baby girl Maggie, born 7/9/12.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: OK to reduce night feedings?

    I guess I will start by trying to cut just one night-time feeding, as K. Sophia suggested, and see what happens. Thanks for the advice.

    JoMo--just to clarify, I'm not talking about any serious 'sleep-training'. I won't let DS cry it out. I'm just trying to find gentle ways to help him sleep longer and wake less. I certainly don't expect him to sleep through the night any time soon, but the current schedule is wrecking my mood and making me so tired I can't get anything done at work. Something's gotta give.

    Anyway, the sleep issues are another issue altogether--my main question at the moment was if I could cut out some night feedings without harming my supply. I think K. Sophia is right, I just have to try it and see what happens.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: OK to reduce night feedings?

    Sorry to hear about the sleep issues! Sleep deprivation is so rough when you're back at work and have no other time to catch up. Just wanted to say that my awesome LC had told me that the best time to pump/nurse during the night is between 1 am and 4 am, so if you are cutting back on a pumping, maybe try to keep the one at at that time intact? Good luck!

    ETA: If you are cutting back on a *feeding*, not a pumping.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: OK to reduce night feedings?

    I do recall a mama who said that she had actively reduced night feedings in one post here, and in some other posts described having a horrible time pumping enough while at work. I have no idea if the two are correlated (pumping is an entirely different beast), but I would definitly tread lightly and work on only one feeding for now and give it t least a couple weeks to see what happens.

    In the meantime - I know you can't cosleep, but can you put his crib next to your bed? Like I said before, my son woke a lot (every 1-2 hours all. night. long. ) at that age, and I couldn't bed share because of an injury. I had his crib placed next to the bed, and it definitely helped me get at least a little more sleep.

    Good luck!
    K. Sophia - Mama to my little lactivore, the amazing Mr. X (11/10).

  9. #9
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    Default Re: OK to reduce night feedings?

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*joshuas.mommy View Post
    JoMo--just to clarify, I'm not talking about any serious 'sleep-training'. I won't let DS cry it out. I'm just trying to find gentle ways to help him sleep longer and wake less. I certainly don't expect him to sleep through the night any time soon, but the current schedule is wrecking my mood and making me so tired I can't get anything done at work. Something's gotta give.
    Well, again, all children are different, but there really wasn't any "gentle" method of reducing night-wakings for Joe at that point in time (and I know because I tried!), and I ended up just making the best of it with cosleeping and going to bed earlier and coping as best I could. If the methods in Pantley's book work for you, that's awesome. Joe just wasn't on board for ANY of that. I wanted to offer hope even if gentle methods don't work, and also just to say, doctors say that, but self-soothing is like walking or potty training - kids get to it on their own schedule, so if it doesn't happen when you want it to, it doesn't mean you've done anything wrong.


    You can call me JoMo!

    Mom to baby boy Joe, born 5/4/09 and breastfed for more than two and a half years, and baby girl Maggie, born 7/9/12.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: OK to reduce night feedings?

    I agree with all the previous posters here. One thing to consider - how are his daytime naps? Any chance he's overtired at night? If you think that might be a factor, you could try putting him down earlier, like 7 or a little before (I'm not sure what you time you get home from work). It's counter-intuitive, but sleep begets sleep, and my DS was always more restless at night if I put him down too late. He slept better and longer if he went to bed earlier. Just a thought. GOod luck!
    Blessed with DS - born 9/2/09 - nursed/pumped for 12 months
    Blessed with DD - born 3/27/12 my dreamfeeder

    903 ounces donated.
    http://www.wakemed.org/landing.cfm?id=135

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