How early is too early to wean a baby off their night feeds? Good question!
With Love Island star turned mummy influencer Mollie-Mae Hague recently in the news for sharing on her YouTube platform that she's stopped night feeds for her 10 week old baby, we thought we'd look into this more, for all the expecting and new parents in our community who may be wondering.
Of course, all babies are different, and some babies may be sleeping through the night earlier than others, but making up for the calories in the daytime. However, at what point do babies stop needing their night feed? Mollie-Mae admitted, during a YouTube Vlog over on her channel, that her baby girl Bambi has her last bottle at 11pm and wakes in the night hungry but she does not give Bambi another feed until 7am.
"She's going from 11pm to 7am with no milk but she is waking up all though the night and I settle her. She is waking up like 'oh I want some milk' and I'm like 'you're not having milk now.' Around this time is when they stop feeding in the night and with her we are trying to encourage that."
Many people have asked the question; is it factually correct to say that 10 weeks of age is when babies stop feeding in the night?
The reaction from some has been quite strong, with many followers jumping onto the video comments to urge Mollie-Mae to feed Bambi if she's hungry, with a small number of more extreme comments that we're sure are unhelpful to anyone. One person commented; "It is NOT an accomplishment to starve a 10 week old from 11 pm to 7 am. I am horrified. Seek knowledge please, this is child neglect." We don't agree that 'neglect' is at all fair here - sometimes we simply don't know, and learn from it when we're informed otherwise. It's unhelpful to be harsh - we certainly wouldn't take advice from someone who is being unkind to us!
Is 10 weeks too young to wean a baby off their night feeds? Well, we asked our Health Visitor resource and the unequivocal verdict was that 10 weeks is too young to not give a hungry baby a feed in the night, especially if they're persistently waking hungry. Why? Well, at 10 weeks of age, a baby is growing and developing so rapidly that they may still want regular feeds even throughout the night, it's normal, and not giving them that feed won't stop them from wanting or needing it - no matter how they're fed.
What does the NHS say about night feeds?
The NHS website says; "For babies aged 6 months to a year, night feeds may no longer be necessary and some babies will sleep for up to 12 hours at night. Teething discomfort or hunger may wake some babies during the night."
The NHS website doesn't go into rich detail about what to do if a baby older than 6 months still wakes for a feed, even if they don't technically 'need' it - but at this point most infants will be on solids during the daytime too, so your Health Visitor can help you here. However, from this, we can take it that it's very much normal for babies from birth to one year of age to need a night feed, if they wake hungry for it. It's also worth noting that breastfed babies may continue to have feeds well past the age of one, which is also normal and encouraged by the WHO (World Health Organisation).
The NCT (National Childbirth Trust) has a great quote on babies and night feeds...
"It’s easier said than done, but try not to get too hung up about how much other people say their babies sleep. While you’re struggling with what feels like constant feeding at night, it’s not helpful to hear that someone else’s child is sleeping through. And there are so many definitions of what 'sleeping through' actually means! For some parents, it's between 11pm and 4am, while for others it means just two very short feeds in the night.
You can’t change your baby’s needs, so instead try to find the best way of getting through night feeds for you. And most importantly, try and remember that the night feeds won’t last forever. Like everything else, it’s a phase that will pass and take you on your next journey with your baby."
You can call the NCT's parenting helpline on 0300 330 0700 for general advice.
So, when should a baby stop night feeds? How long is a piece of string?
Fundamentally, all babies are different, and some will start to sleep through earlier, some won't know the meaning of sleep for a long time - but as for night feeds, they will usually stop 'needing' them between 6 months and 12 months, as per the NHS. They go through so many growth spurts and leaps that their rapidly developing brains, bones and bodies need the calories. If your baby still wakes for a feed, you're doing absolutely nothing wrong.
We're hugely against mum shaming, as mums ourselves and as part of a hugely diverse community of parents, but we would certainly gently question if a public figue with a large following is doing something that may cause issues, without it really being 'mum shaming'. We hope that Mollie-Mae's Health Visitor is able to offer some helpful advice and support.
Also, we'd definitely like Mollie-Mae and partner Tommy to know that sleep will absolutely come back in length and quality! These are such early days, it's very normal that Bambi still wakes wanting a bottle in the night, and we know just how exhausting it is to be making a bottle bleary eyed at 3am, but it will pass. One day they'll look back at those endless nights with a mixture of relief, pride and nostalgia - parenting really is a perpetual rollercoaster with highs and lows!
Finally... always be kind when offering advice and information to others - you never know if someone has fragile mental health, has had a really bad day, or how close to breaking point they are.
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