Your best friend's baby is sleeping through the night at 4 months old, and you're up every two hours with your 6 month old feeding back to sleep.
No one prepared you for this level of sleep deprivation. It's so easy to think you're never going to sleep for more than 2 or three hours at a time again, but I promise you that you can and you will!
By the time baby is 4 months old, there really is hope of getting longer stretches of sleep at night. But keep in mind, that if your baby relies on any associations to fall asleep (such as being rocked, held, or fed to sleep) and doesn't know how to fall asleep independently, you will continue to struggle with more frequent night time wake ups.
How many night feedings are needed by age?
At 4 months old (16 weeks adjusted age), 2-3 night feedings are normal, but not always necessary if baby's weight is healthy. If baby is waking more frequently than that to eat at night, it's likely they're depending on that feeding to connect their sleep cycles and fall back asleep.
The best way to battle this is to sleep train so baby knows how to fall asleep independently without depending on a sleep association such as feeding, rocking or bouncing.
Additionally, I have my clients follow a feeding schedule of feeding every 3 hours when on a 3 nap schedule, and every 4 hours when on a 2 nap schedule (around the time solids are introduced). This helps baby to get full feedings at every feeding, rather than little snacks when being nursed or bottle-fed every 1-2 hours.
By 10 months old, most pediatricians agree that babies are capable of sleeping 11-12+ hours at night without a feeding. Always check with your pediatrician when in doubt.
Max number of night feeds by age
4 - 7 months old: up to 3 night feeds (but I prefer to see 2)
7-9 months old: up to 1 night feed
10 months and beyond: 0 night feeds
If baby is capable of falling asleep and back to sleep independently, but is still waking more frequently than the amount of times in the above list, chances are their schedule is off. Make sure you're following age-appropriate wake times so baby is on the correct schedule for his age.
Habit vs. hunger
If you've ruled out schedule, and baby knows how to fall asleep independently but continues to wake up at the same time each night for a feeding, chances are that wake up is out of habit rather than hunger.
Baby is waking out of habit
Wakes at the same times every night
Is wide awake after feeding
Baby is waking out of hunger
Wakes at different times every night
Falls back asleep shortly after or during feeding
How to wean a night feeding
If baby is waking out of habit, you can wean the feeding that's occurring at the same time every night by either slowly reducing the amount of time spent nursing over a week's time (or by reducing the quantity in the bottle), or by cold turkey dropping the feeding. You would sleep train through the wake up at this point.
If baby continues to wake at the same time regardless of how long you’ve sleep trained, she most likely still needs that feeding. Focus on increasing her calorie intake during the day and sleep training during the nighttime wake up for one week. If she continues to wake at the same time, add that feeding back in.
If you need help or have any sleep questions, set up a free 15-minute consultation with me to discuss!