Do I need to feed my baby when he wakes at night?

Momma… it has been your job to ensure your little one gets the nourishment needed each and every day. And I know you’re willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen, of course, who wouldn’t?

When your baby wakes in the middle of the night they must be hungry, right? Not necessarily… babies cry for all sorts of reasons,

  1. They are uncomfortable,
  2. They have a dirty diaper,
  3. They are too hot or too cold,
  4. Or yea they are hungry.

Odds are if your baby is waking several times at night food isn’t what they need each and every time. If they have developed a dependency on nursing, rocking, sucking, etc, in order to go to sleep then they aren’t going to be able to over come that in 15 or 20 minutes of crying. But we can chat about sleep training later.

Here are something to consider if you’re trying to determine if the wake up needs a feed…

Is your baby under 6 months?

Typically up until the 6 month mark babies need 1 nighttime feed. This isn’t always the case, some infants can sleep through the night at a younger age. But in this young age range you can expect to be woken up to give the one night feed.

Is your baby eating enough during the day?

Your baby may be capable to sleep through the night without a feeding but if those calories don’t get shifted to daytime then they need them and will still wake to get them from you. Increase the daytime bottles when you know your baby doesn’t need the nighttime feed anymore. *This is also a topic you should check with your pediatrician to ensure they are getting essential calories and your baby’s weight supports this.

Is your baby falling asleep quickly when you feed them?

The moment the latch or get the bottle in their mouth if they are falling asleep then this is a sign your baby is using eating as the way they need to go back to sleep. If they are genuinely hungry then they will take a full feed every time! It is pretty easy to tell if they just want you or want to be fed.

Does your baby sleep for a good stretch after a feed?

If your baby is full then they should be able to sleep for around 3-4 hours afterwards. Around the 6 month mark the sleep cycle length for your baby is between 45min-1 hour…So if wake ups are happening after that length of time you know they are depending on that sucking to go back to sleep after reaching the top of the sleep cycle.

Will they go back to sleep without a feed?

If the body is truly hungry it won’t allow you to go to sleep until you’ve had a full feed. If your baby is capable of going back to sleep easily within 5-10 minutes of crying then that’s a good sign they aren’t hungry and are just looking for help to go back to sleep. If they can go back to sleep on their own, great! No need to wake them for a feed. *Again, unless your pediatrician states otherwise.

Does your baby fall asleep independently?

This is the winning question! If you can put your baby down awake and can leave the room without rocking, nursing, a pacifier, or any other outside assistance then the nighttime wake ups are far more likely to mean you are needed for something in the middle of the night.

Figuring out what your baby needs in the middle of the night can be a tricky situation. The amount of calories your baby gets each day is obviously important but often we forget how sleep plays a direct role in that as well. Once the feeding to sleep association is broken it is a lot easier to figure out what is needed of you during the night.

Remember as always, if you need help with developing those essential skills, I got you covered!


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