Nighttime Feeding: Your Survival Guide

How to survive nighttime feedings and encourage baby to quickly fall back to sleep? Our survival guide will help you reclaim valuable sleep time for yourself and baby. Here are our top 7 tips for night feeds (plus 2 more bonus tips).

Whether you’re breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, middle-of-the-night feeds will be part of your routine for at least a few months of your newborn baby’s life. Yes, it’s rough, but it’s what your little one needs.

But while some babies have no trouble settling back down after they’re fed, other babies have a hard time settling back down – and still others might cry through the night for hours. Why is this? There’s an important factor to keep in mind: your nighttime feeding routine can affect how well baby goes back to sleep.

How to survive nighttime feedings and encourage baby to quickly fall back to sleep? Our survival guide will help you reclaim valuable sleep time for yourself and baby. Here are our top 7 tips for night feeds (plus 2 more bonus tips).

1. Low light is just right.

If your little one sees too much light during the night, that might trick their circadian rhythm (their body clock) into thinking it’s morning, and make it tough for them to fall back to sleep. So, keep the light low.

Don’t turn any regular lights on in baby’s sleep space. Watching TV during the night feed is also a no-no, as that’s too much sleep-interrupting blue light for baby. Instead, turn on a hall light and crack the door of baby’s sleep space just slightly. Or, use your phone (on the "blue light filter" or “night light” setting) for just a little bit of light. You can also use a red light in baby’s sleep space, as this is the one color of room light that won’t mess with baby’s circadian rhythm.

2. Have your feeding essentials within easy reach.

Having all your feeding essentials nearby makes night feedings easier, and reduces the time you’ll spend wandering around (meaning it will be easier for you to wind down afterwards). This includes pillows and other items you need to feed baby comfortably, wipes and towels, and your phone with an audiobook, podcast, or soothing music to help you relax.

If you’re breastfeeding, you should also keep a reusable water bottle handy because staying hydrated is crucial. A banana’s another great choice to have nearby in case you need a snack, as it might actually help you wind back down (thanks to tryptophan).

Get all of these essentials ready before you go to bed, if they aren’t already in your feeding space.

Vicky Thornton-Norris shares some of the essentials you might want on hand in your feeding space:

3. Don’t change that diaper!

Stimulating your baby in any way might make it hard for them to fall back to sleep. Plus, baby probably won’t need the diaper change – they can usually go several hours without one. If baby has a big leak, an open sore, or severe diaper rash (where you absolutely need to change the diaper), it’s best to change their diaper before the feed – and do it quickly.

Along the same lines, avoid talking to baby, singing to them, or otherwise engaging them. You don’t want that stimulation to wake baby either – save that for daytime.

4. Use a white noise machine (or an alternative).

Playing white noise throughout the night can help young babies have more restful sleep through the night, and go back to sleep more easily after a feed. Plus, it helps block out any other sounds that could be stimulating.

If you don’t want to use a white noise machine, a fan or humidifier can have the same benefits. Or, after a feed, try holding baby and gently making a “shhh…" noise, to mimic what they heard in the womb.

5. Be sure to burp baby.

Even though most stimulation isn’t a good idea, babies still need burped after every feed. And that includes the night feeds. Burping makes sure that baby releases the gas that builds up during a feed. If they don’t burp, they could be very uncomfortable – meaning they’ll likely wake up again within 15-20 minutes or struggle to go back to sleep at all. So, don’t rush this important step. Keep burping them until you know they’ve burped.

6. Ask for help!

If you’re bottle feeding or pumping, the night feed is a great time for your partner to feed baby a bottle. That way, you can catch up on sleep. (Or, you might alternate night feeding duties if you’re formula feeding.) An added bonus? This helps your partner bond with baby!

If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll still need to get up to empty your breasts. But your partner can help get you water or supplies, bring baby to you, help you get baby into position, and/or gently lay baby back down to sleep when you’re finished.

7. Don’t stress out.

Yes, nighttime feedings can be a lot to deal with, but if you remember that this is a time to bond with and help baby, that helps put things in perspective. So, don’t get frustrated or watch the clock, and remember that there are many parents going through this stage at the same time as you.

Plus, it’s just that – a stage. In a few months, baby should start to sleep through the night. Most babies start to sleep through the night at 3-4 months old, and sleep through the night consistently by 6-8 months old. Right now, though, enjoy this unique time with your very little one, when they’re snuggling close and bonding during the night feeds.

How To Make Night Feedings More Manageable: Bonus Tips For The Rest Of The Day

If you can, it’s helpful to sleep when baby sleeps throughout the day. This will help you catch up on the shut eye and may make waking in the middle of the night more bearable.

You might also try a “dream feed,” or one last feed before you (the parent or caregiver) go to bed. This usually happens between 10 PM and midnight, and tends to be 2-3 hours after you put baby in their crib for the night. For some babies, dream feeding can reduce the time that they are awake during the night, and eventually help them sleep through the night. In the process, it can also help you reclaim more sleep. Although it doesn’t work for all babies and parents, it’s worth trying to see if it makes night feeds more bearable.

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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  If your infant has severe eczema, check with your infant’s healthcare provider before feeding foods containing ground peanuts.