Getting your infant on a healthy sleep routine can have its challenges—especially if you’re trying to eliminate the late-night feeding, which can definitely test your patience! Find out what you can expect now that your baby is growing up, and get tips for helping her get back to sleep without breastmilk or formula. Hint: This is a great opportunity for Dad to step in and save the night!
The AAP recommends that babies 4 to 12 months get 12 to 16 hours of sleep a day, including naps. Although this is similar to the amount of sleep your baby was probably getting when he was a newborn, the main difference is going to be how long he sleeps each time. Newborns need to wake multiple times at night to be fed, but after 4 to 6 months of age, those nightly feedings should continue to decrease. By 6 months, the middle-of-the-night feeding should be gone for most babies—especially if they’re eating enough during the day and have a feeding before bed. At this milestone, if your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, he should be able to self-soothe back to sleep without eating.
Once your baby is 6 months or older and is successfully eating solid foods, it’s a great time to start eliminating the late-night feeding. As you can imagine, getting rid of the late-night feeding is probably going to lead to some crying. As long as the crying is light, and not heavy enough to make your baby agitated, we encourage you to try to leave him alone until he calms down and falls back to sleep on his own. If the crying gets intense, and if your baby associates Mom with the late-night feeding, having someone else tend to him might make it an easier adjustment—making Dad the perfect person to help soothe baby to sleep (without the bottle) during this transition.
Here are a couple of tricks our experts found helpful to soothe baby back to sleep without feeding:
- Talk to your baby quietly and gently pat his tummy or back (if your baby rolled over on his own).
- Avoid picking your baby up—unless he’s really agitated—in which case, only pick him up briefly to calm him down.
When your baby wakes in the middle of the night, we recommend tending to him with as little stimuli as possible. For example, keep the room quiet and dimly lit if you’re changing his diaper, and avoid feeding him to soothe him back to sleep. The ultimate goal is to get your baby to learn to fall back asleep by himself.
Keep in mind that as your baby grows, developmental milestones—such as cruising (when your baby can pull himself up and walk around holding onto furniture or walking toys) and standing up— can disrupt his sleep patterns for several nights after they occur. This is completely normal.
Recent AAP recommendations encourage parents to have baby sleep in the same room as them, on a separate surface, for at least the first 6 months of life. Some studies show that it’s best to keep your baby in the same room as you for the first year, but contradicting reports show that when babies sleep in a separate room after 6 months, both baby and parents get more sleep. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what works best for your family.
The most important thing is that you—and anyone caring for your baby—follow the ABCs of safe sleep (alone, on their backs, in a crib) to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).