Weeks 11 – 16
Reducing Nighttime Feedings
While some three month olds are perfectly capable of sleeping through the night (meaning five or six hour stretches), most will still need to wake up at least once in the middle of night – especially breastfed ones. But when you’re pulling out your breast or warming up a bottle for the fourth time in one night, it’s more likely that your baby is eating out of habit or for comfort rather than hunger. To cut down on the number of feedings and prepare him or her for sleeping through the night:
- Feed more throughout the day. Nurse more frequently or increase the amount of formula to make sure your baby isn’t making up for needed calories at night.
- Gradually stretch the time between feedings. By this point it technically isn’t a nutritional necessity for babies to eat every two hours. This is the time to be curious about what your baby is capable of, instead of assuming she needs food. She might surprise you and go back to sleep after a bit of grunting and squirming in bed (remember, babies make all kinds of noises at night, and not all of them mean, “pick me up”). When your baby wakes, you can also try other soothing methods (shushing, patting, singing, rocking) before automatically offering food. Breastfeeding moms might want to nudge dad for this one because the smell of your breast milk could be counterproductive. If the baby still cries to eat after all other options have been exhausted, at least the interval between feedings will have been extended, even if only for 20 minutes.
- Wake your baby for a night cap. It works for some moms to gently pick baby up without waking her and have her latch on or take the bottle – this is called a “dream feed.” This way you might get a couple extra hours of uninterrupted sleep before the next feeding, and it can break the wake-cry-feed cycle at night. It takes babies a few times to get used to eating in this way, so try it for a number of nights before deciding if it works for you.
- Make sure your baby is full before bed. If you don’t want to wake your baby in the middle of his or her slumber (as previously suggested), make sure your baby doesn’t nod off mid-feeding without fully satiating his or her hunger. If you see those little eyes start to flutter closed, pick him or her up to burp or play. Try undressing your baby and keeping the lights on until he or she has a satisfying feeding session.
- Decide which nighttime feeding you’d like to keep, and then reduce the amount of formula or nursing at the other feeding times.
General Feeding Concerns
- Although some well-meaning strangers (and probably relatives) will insist that adding rice cereal to a baby’s bottle will help him or her sleep through the night, avoid adding any kind of solids for at least another month.
- Formula-fed babies will probably start sucking down more ounces, keeping him or her fuller longer and subsequently resulting in fewer feeding sessions.
- Breastfeeding has probably gotten much easier in the last month or so, but it’s still important to take precautions against breast infections.
- Breastfeeding not working out? Here’s how to wean from the breast, switch to formula and once again cope with the joys of engorgement.
- Are you contemplating whether you should supplement with formula? Now that your milk supply is more established, for many moms it’s possible to add some formula while continuing to breastfeed.
- If you haven’t already, now is a good time to start introducing a bottle, with either breast milk or formula. While some prefer to feed straight from the source as often as possible, it isn’t a bad idea to get your baby used to another mode of feeding in case you have to be physically separated for more than three hours. (Hello, date night!)
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