How to Drop the Last Middle of the Night Feeding
The newborn days are so tough for me.
I don’t function well without enough sleep and I feel like I’m a walking zombie until my babies are sleeping through the night.
Establishing a Babywise Routine isn’t easy, but it pays off so quickly.
Somewhere around 6-8 weeks, my babies all stopped waking during the 3-4 am hour and instead slept until the 5-6 hour.
While you’d think that would be awesome, because it means an extra hour of solid sleep for me, it’s actually the MOST frustrating time for a baby to wake.
With a desired wake time to start the day being 7, having a baby wake at 5 is like torture.
How do you handle it? How do you get them to drop that feeding and make it until 7?
How do you get your child sleep to be so solid that night waking and night feeds no longer happen?
Having to wake yourself up to feed your baby at 5 am knowing you will be up again at 7 is true misery!
Here’s how I handle dropping the last middle of the night feeding:
Treat it as a Full Feeding then Re-Wake:
Baby sleep is the goal so night feedings can become frustrating when they can lead to issues with when to start the day.
A good rule to continue keeping sleep training in tact is to treat that early morning wake up as a full feed, put the baby back to sleep and then wake them back up at your desired wake time and feed again to start the day.
However, this is frustrating to me.
Because you nurse your baby at 5 am and then they are supposed to wake again at 7 am and eat again!
When my babies first drop their middle of the night feeding and start to sleep solid from their dreamfeed until 5 am, I do treat the 5 am wake up as a full feeding.
I offer both breasts and make sure they are full. Then I put them back to bed.
Some people like to go ahead and start the day and adjust the schedule from that point and treat the 5-6 wake up as the start of the day.
Personally, I prefer to put them back to bed (even if it’s only for an hour) and then wake for my desired wake time.
If they wake at 5 and are back to bed at 6 I will wake them to eat again at 7-7:30 to start the day!
My personal goal is to always be within the 30 min window of my scheduled times.
So if my baby does make it until 6:30 I will treat it as the start of the day since it’s only 30 min before my desired awake time.
Nurse back to Sleep:
After a few mornings of a full feeding at 5-6 am and then back to sleep and re-waking at desired awake time, I will stop treating the 5-6 am wake up as a full feeding.
Instead, I will sneak into my baby’s room, as quietly as possible, and offer them just enough to eat to get them back to sleep.
I will keep my baby fully swaddled, I won’t change their diaper, I will just offer one breast in the complete dark and nurse them until they are asleep.
Then I put them back down in the crib and wake them again at 7 to start the day.
This way they have enough in their belly to feel satisfied and to be able to sleep for that extra 1-2 hours to make it until our desired time to start the day!
When I think back to the newborn stage with my babies, this “sneaky nursing session” where I start night weaning ends up being one of my sweetest memories.
There is something precious about just sitting in the dark with your almost-asleep baby at your chest!
If you are formula feeding I would recommend cutting back on the ounces offered at this wake-up and treat it the same way I do while breastfeeding.
Keep the room dark and be as quiet and disrupt them as little as possible.
With formula bottle feeding, you can see how much they are drinking and it may help you to know that they can make it until 7 because they aren’t drinking very much!
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I have found that none of my babies respond well to me going in and just holding them or comforting them if they wake at the 5-6 hour.
Since I breastfeed my breasts are yelling “empty me! empty me!” at this time and hearing my baby cry only makes that worse.
I feel that the baby can also smell that milk and knows that Mommy is a feeding machine so if I try to hold them, they just get more worked up like they are saying “it’s time baby!” until I finally cave and just nurse.
However, if you have a hands-on husband he may want to try going in when they wake and simply holding them or even rocking them back to sleep.
My husband is a pro at this!
I’m so thankful he’s always willing to run in and comfort our babies.
Our second child responded very well to physical touch and this seemed to work best for her to help her transition back to sleep rather than staying awake.
I’m not a big fan of sleep props but this is THE time that I highly recommend using a pacifier.
Usually what happens with my babies is that they will sleep solid through the night.
They will not wake at the 5-6 hour and will sleep until the desired awake time of 7!
Yay! But then…it’s like a fluke and they go back to waking again at the 5-6 hour.
So frustrating to have had that full night of sleep to only start having to wake up at 5 am again!
However, at this point I know they CAN make it until 7 so I don’t feel as much urgency to feed them when they wake.
In this scenario my husband or I will go in right when they start to fuss.
If I let them fuss too long I’ve found they often get more worked up and more hungry and will be less likely to fall back to sleep.
I go in right when they first wake and give a paci.
Hold it in their mouth until they are back to sleep and then I leave again.
I will do this twice. If they spit the paci out two times then I know they are legit hungry and I will go ahead and feed them.
The beauty of using the pacifier in this situation is once they do sleep solid, they don’t have any need for that paci.
It’s truly a sleep aid rather than a prop. I have found it works pretty flawlessly in helping hold my babies off until the desired awake time.
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I’m personally not a big fan of any props be it pacifier or swing, but both serve a helpful purpose in certain situations.
If your baby is waking at the 5-6 hour it may be tricky to get them back to sleep.
Some babies are “ready for the day” at 5 am!
You feed them and try to put them back to sleep so you can wake them again at 7 but they aren’t having it.
This is a good opportunity to utilize the swing.
I always “start as I mean to go on” meaning I’d try to first put them back to sleep in their crib but if they aren’t having it I’d move to the swing in hopes of getting them back to sleep until the desired wake time.
Sleep props during this time can lead to sleep problems down the road but as long as you only use props, like swings and pacifiers, after baby wakes until baby falls asleep again it avoids the prop becoming a sleep association item.
Once babies sleep through the night without waking they stop needing the props since they never relied on them at the start of sleep!
Cry It Out:
I don’t recommend letting a baby cry who hasn’t been consistently sleeping through the night.
However, my last baby had a FIERCE sleep regression issue at 4 months old.
I tried everything and nothing worked. It ended up being best for HER if I just let her fuss when she woke in the middle of the night at that four month old tough stage.
Some babies just cry more than others. Some get more worked up when the cry and need to have comfort or a prop or even use the swing but others just need to fuss and actually get worked up more when someone intervenes.
As heartbreaking as it was for me to hear her over the monitor, it was what gave HER the best rest and that’s really what is most important!
If you have an OLDER baby who has started waking middle of the night again, then letting them cry may just be the answer!
The 5-6 am wake up is one of the most frustrating times as a mom.
You know your baby is so, so close to that glorious victory of sleeping through the night, and no longer waking for nighttime feedings, yet it feels like it’s never going to happen!
My babies ALL struggled with the 5-6 am wake up and it is a short-lived phase.
I know when you are in the heart of it that it feels like an eternity but my babies all only struggled with it for 2-3 weeks and then they started sleeping fully through the night from their dream feed until the desired awake time.
No two babies are exactly alike and it takes some guesswork to figure out what works best for your baby.
And remember, just because your baby hits moments of struggling with sleep doesn’t mean they aren’t a “Babywise Baby.” ALL babies have their unique sleep challenges!
Stick with it! Soon this aggravating phase will be in the past and you will actually be well-rested (yes, YOU!!)!
Other Helpful Posts:
- Tips for Successful Breastfeeding
- Weekly and Monthly Summaries for the 1st Year
- What to do While Baby is Awake
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