Feed Reduction Techniques:
Based on the idea that reducing feeds will also reduce night wakings
Since many babies do wake up because they need to eat in the night, it may be possible to shift some of their calorie intake to the daytime which can improve night sleep. Keep in mind that if your baby is used to eating in the night, it doesn’t matter if she has an actual hunger of if it is just a habit, it will still feel like hunger. It is possible to very gently shift feeds, which may in turn give a longer stretch of sleep.
Dreamfeeds can improve sleep when used alone or combined with another sleep coaching method. Using Dreamfeeds is a great way to separate the behavioural issues from feeding. With this method, baby are fed before he wakes and cries. You can plan to go in and pick you baby up and feed him before his usual wake time and feed times. This helps reduce crying and calling out behaviours in the night and allows for easier and gentler weaning strategies when reducing feeds is appropriate. It is most important that the baby is not crying at the beginning of the feed, ideally asleep. Most babies at this age will eat well while still asleep of very drowsy. If your baby wake up during a feed and falls back to sleep, this is never a problem and will not create a bad habit. This method can be more challenging when implemented without another sleep coaching method when the baby is awake at the end of the feed. Some babies will also wake up at the regular time anyways. For this reason it is often best to combine Dreamfeeds with another method so if baby is awake at the end of the feed or wakes shortly after being fed, there is a strategy to coach baby back to sleep.
Core Night Stretching This method is based on a theory that if babies are not accustomed to eating at a particular time, they will not wake hungry at that time. An infant that feeds on average every 2-3 hours during the day should be able to go 4 hours without eating in a 24 hour period. You can manipulate feeds so this stretch is at an ideal time (usually 12 – 4am). After the last feed of the day, establish a stretch of time where the baby is not eating. This last feed may be a dreamfeed or you may feed your baby as soon as he wakes up and it often lands between 10pm and midnight. This period of time after the last feed of the day becomes your core night stretch. Start with whatever length your baby gives you even if it is just a 2 hour stretch of sleep. Protect this stretch by comforting your baby without feeding and without crying if he wakes up during this time. You may try to giggle, rock, walk or even using a swing or bouncy/vibrating chair. Once your baby is sleeping consistently through this window, you can gradually lengthen your core stretch 5-15 minutes every night or every few nights. This is done by gently holding baby off from feeding. It may be as simple as changing his diaper before feeding to get another 5 minutes. By 12 weeks of age many healthy babies can sleep a 4-6 hour stretch.
Summary: establish a stretch of time when baby is not eating, without letting your baby cry, protect that stretch by not feeding baby if he wakes during that time and then gradually and gently stretch out the stretch so baby is sleeping longer.
Posted in: Month 4: Sleep Coaching Methods