Creating a Night Feeding Schedule for Your Baby

baby sleeping night feeding

We all go into life with a newborn expecting sleepless nights, but it's easy to underestimate how daunting it can be to handle the responsibility of keeping your little one fed and happy 24/7.

If you're feeling overwhelmed or looking for a plan of action, we're here to help. With a well-thought-out plan, you can create a night feeding schedule that works for you, your partner, and your little one. Here are some tips for managing the night feeds as a family.

Understanding Your Baby's Needs

Before diving into the specifics of scheduling your little one's feeds, it's important to understand your baby's unique needs. Newborns have tiny tummies and often need to feed every two to three hours for the first few months.

No amount of planning can prevent your little one from getting hungry, so it's important to adapt and recognise their hunger cues.

Building a Flexible Routine

While it's great to have a feeding routine, flexibility is key. Babies are unpredictable, and their needs can change from day to day. Instead of rigidly sticking to a fixed schedule, try to establish a loose routine that allows for adjustments. This flexibility will help you better respond to your baby's cues and allow for a more relaxed feeding experience for both of you.

Coordinating Night Feeds with Sleep

One of the challenges of night feeds is striking the right balance between feeding your baby and trying to get some much needed sleep yourself. Choose a bedside crib that lets you easily get your little one in and out to make night feeds more accessible. This way, you can tend to your baby's needs without fully waking up, making the nighttime routine easier for everyone.

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Dream Feeding

Dream feeding involves waking your little one for a feed after they have been asleep. This technique can be particularly useful for extending the time between night feeds. As you go to bed, likely a few hours after putting them down, gently pick up your baby and offer a feed without fully waking them.

Sharing Nighttime Duties

Enlist the help of your partner or a loved one to share nighttime feeding duties. This way, both of you can get some much-needed rest, ensuring you're better equipped to handle the demands of parenthood during the day. Handling the night feeds alone and getting into a feeding schedule without help can be demanding. Try to establish a system that works for both of you, whether it's taking turns or splitting the night into shifts.

Creating a Comfortable Nighttime Environment

A big part of mastering a night feeding schedule is to make your baby's nighttime feeding experience as comfortable as possible. Dim the lights, keep noise to a minimum, and use soft, soothing tones to create a calming atmosphere. This will help your baby understand that night feeds are relaxing and reassure them that it's time to go back to sleep afterwards.

Example Night Feed Routine for a Formula-Fed Baby

  • 7:00 pm: Begin the nighttime routine with a warm bath for your baby. This can help relax your little one and signal that bedtime is approaching.
  • 7:30 pm: Prepare a bottle of formula and feed your baby in a quiet, dimly lit room. Hold your baby close, providing comfort and bonding time during the feeding.
  • 8:00 pm: Burp your baby gently and ensure they are comfortable before putting them down to sleep. Use soft lighting or a nightlight to create a soothing atmosphere as they drift off.
  • 11:00 pm: Prepare another bottle of formula and gently wake your baby for a dream feed as you go to bed. Keep the lights low and avoid stimulating activities, funny faces, or loud talking. After the feed, put your little one back down to sleep.
  • 3:00 am: If your baby wakes naturally or it has been around 3 to 4 hours since the last feed, offer another bottle. Again, keep the interaction calm and minimise stimulation to encourage a swift return to sleep.
  • 7:00 am: Start the day with a morning feed. This can be an opportunity for a longer feeding session, as your baby may be more awake, alert, and hungry after a good night's sleep!

Remember, these times are just a starting point, and you should adjust the routine based on your baby's individual needs.

Example Night Feed Routine for a Breastfed Baby

  • 7:00 pm: Initiate bedtime with a calming activity such as reading a short story or singing a lullaby after their bath. Breastfeed your little one in a quiet, comfortable environment.
  • 10:00 pm: Feed your little one if they wake for a feed around this time, burp your baby and ensure they are settled before placing them gently back down to sleep. Keep the room dimly lit or use a nightlight for a calm atmosphere.
  • 1:00 am: Respond to your baby's cues for a nighttime feed if they wake around this time. Remember to breastfeed in a low-stimulation environment, avoiding bright lights or loud noises. After the feed, put your baby back down to sleep.
  • 3:00 am: If your baby wakes naturally or signals hunger, don't hesitate to offer another breastfeeding session. Again, keep the interaction calm and soothing, encouraging a swift return to sleep.
  • 7:00 am: Commence the day with a morning breastfeed. This can be a longer session, allowing for bonding time and your little one to refuel after a good sleep!
It's important to note that these schedules are just examples, and the key is to be flexible and responsive to your little one's needs. Every baby is different, and adapting the routine as necessary will help ensure a successful night feeding routine for your family.

Head here for more on establishing a safe sleep routine for your baby.

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