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How Often Do Babies Need to Eat During the Night?

by Eliza Martinez, studioD

Part of bringing a new baby home is waking up several times each night to feed him. All babies are different and operate on their own schedule, so resist comparing your little one to her siblings or other babies you know. In general, infants need to eat at certain intervals because their tiny tummies only hold a small amount of food at one time. If your baby is having trouble sleeping at night, talk to his pediatrician to rule out conditions other than hunger, such as acid reflux.

Breast Milk vs. Formula

Breast milk is digested faster than formula, so your method of feeding plays a role in how often your baby needs to eat during the night. If you are nursing, your baby is likely to wake more often than a bottle-fed baby because his tummy is emptying more quickly. In the beginning, your baby's nighttime eating habits are likely to be irregular, but as time goes by, you'll start to detect a pattern and can expect how many times he'll wake up to eat.

Age of Baby

Newborn babies should nurse every one and a half to three hours and should never go more than four hours without eating, according to KidsHealth.org. Bottle-fed babies probably won't be hungry as often but should still eat at regular intervals of four hours or less. The time between feedings becomes longer as your baby gets older. There's very little chance that your baby will sleep through a feeding, but if you wake up and it's been longer than usual, you can go ahead and feed him anyway, especially in the first few weeks of life when it's not recommended to let too much time pass between feedings.

Amount of Food

If your little one falls back to sleep after nursing on only one side, or only finishing half his bottle, chances are he's going to wake up soon after and want the rest of his meal. In the beginning, it's important to feed on demand, but as your baby gets older, you can gently wake him up and try to get him to finish his food. This way he's full and you can both sleep for longer stretches, but it also helps prevent him from getting into the habit of needing to eat every hour or less during the night.

Growth Spurts

When your baby hits a growth spurt, it might seem like no amount of food satisfies him. It's normal to be hungrier than usual when he's about to grow, so during these phases, he might need to eat more often during the day and could wake up more often to eat at night. Growth spurts typically occur in the second week of life and at two, four and six months of age, according to KidsHealth.org. If your baby's appetite increases at these ages, he's probably just fueling up for normal growth and development.

About the Author

Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.

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