Feeding FAQ: 0-8 weeks – Formula Feeding

How do I move night feeds on and get my 3-week-old less awake at 2.30am?

My 3-week-old daughter is waking at 2.30am and between 5am and 6am for feeds. This is regardless of what time we feed her at the late night feed, or how much she has taken. Her body clock seems stuck at these times and I’d really like to get her further onto to a 3/3.30am, 6.30am feed time. We have followed the advice in the book to wake her at 10pm and keep her awake until 11:15pm but this has only moved her on from a 2am waking, to a 2.30am waking. I have also increased the morning feeds as suggested. She is also very difficult to settle after her 2.30am feed and can be awake until 4am. I am having to resort to dummies just to get her to sleep at this time and I really don’t want her to get bad sleep association, but it’s either dummies or waking the entire house up! This wakefulness means she is very tired in the morning and I have difficulty keeping her awake until 9am for a morning sleep. She sleeps well in the day (I have to try and keep her awake) and settles well at 7pm as she is so tired. Is there anything I can do to move her night feeds on, and to make sure she is sleepy at night?
At present she feeds at: 7am 5oz, 10am 5oz, 2 or 1.30pm 4oz, 5pm 3-4 oz, 6.30pm 4oz, 10pm 5oz, 2.30am 4oz, 5.30/6am 3oz. She weighs 8lb 10ozs.
Her daytime naps are 8.30-10am, 11.30-1.30pm, 3.45-5pm. She settles at 7pm.

Your daughter is still fairly young and it is not unusual for a baby of this age and weight to still be waking at 2.30am and again between 5 and 6am. By the time she is 4-6 weeks of age she will be more capable of sleeping a longer stretch. She will gradually move herself on in the night when she is physically capable. The main sign that she is ready to move on, is a reluctance to feed, or feeding less at 7am.

Cutting back on the daytime sleep, especially in the afternoon, could help your daughter be little less of a “night owl”. If your daughter wakes from her lunchtime nap at 1.30pm, then let her have a cat-nap about 3pm for 15-20 minutes and another around 4.30pm for another 15-20 minutes, rather than one longer stretch of sleep in the afternoon. You may need to work towards this by gradually cutting back on her longer nap. Encourage her to stay awake in the afternoon by plenty of floor time and kicking. Make sure she is not too warm which could make her sleepy.

Begin to encourage her on a little in the morning. Keep her up another 5 minutes at 8.30am for a few days before putting her down, and then increase this by another 5mins every few days until she is going down nearer to 9am. As she is still young and quite sleepy, you do need to move her forward very slowly. By cutting some minutes of her daytime sleep, she could become less awake at 2.30am. Once she settles better after the 2.30am feed, she will be less tired in the morning. It is not unusual for a baby of this age to only stay awake for 1.5 hrs between feeds.

Ensure you keep things very low key in the night. Feed her by the lowest night light possible and only change her if it is absolutely needed. Keep any handling to the minimum and try to avoid too much eye-contact as all these can contribute to being more wakeful. Make sure she is well-winded and swaddled before going down. You may need to sit with her for 10 minutes after her feed with her swaddled up on your shoulder in the dark to help her calm down enough to sleep.

When you wake her up at 10pm , do you split that feed? Make sure she is really awake at this time by taking her downstairs into the light and have a TV or radio on. Give her 3-4ozs at 10pm, then let her have a kick until 11.15pm. Once changed, offer her another 2-3oz from a fresh bottle at 11.15pm. Give her this feed in the light and then settle her down to sleep once finished and winded. This means she takes a slightly bigger feed as she does at 5/6pm and will be awake for 1.5 hrs. Once she begins to sleep through from her night feed to 7am you can begin to cut back very gradually on the time she is awake at this feed.
Doing the 5.30/6am feed as a night feed should help her to settle back to sleep as quickly as possible until 7/7.30am, when you wake her for her next feed. Only change her if you really have to. Sometimes, giving a bigger feed at her waking at 5/6am then following with a small top up at 7/7.30am works better.
Your daughter is still a very young baby, and may continue to genuinely need to feed twice in the night at 2.30 and 5/6am for another week or so. Until she is well over 9lbs and gaining 6-8ozs on a regular basis, she may well go on waking at this time.
Once you begin to notice a reluctance to feed at 7am, or cutting back on the first feed of the day, then you can begin to move her on. See p 148 of The Contented Little Baby Book to show you how to do this.
Make sure she is well tucked in, with towels used to secure a sheet lengthways across her. When she wakes at 2.30am leave her a few minutes before going in as she may begin to settle back to sleep on her own. Only when she is really beginning to “cry up” do you need to go in and feed her. If you go to her at her first sound she will become used to waking up at this time and demanding a feed.