Babywise Tips – How to Merge or Drop Feedings

Babies “drop feedings” because they are either sleeping longer or staying awake longer.  As a reminder, the act of “dropping a feeding” is part of the larger merging process and requires that some adjustments be made in the baby’s daily routine.  On paper, we can make everything work out, but in reality, babies often need some help.  This is where the collective wisdom of experienced mothers comes in handy.  Here are a few time-tested suggestions to consider.

  • Dropping the middle-of-the-night feeding: Between weeks seven to ten, most PDF babies drop the middle of the night feeding on their own.  One night, they simply sleep until morning.  Other babies gradually stretch the duration between the late-evening feeding (10:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.) and the first middle-of-the-night feeding until it becomes the morning feeding.  However, there will be occasions when Mom is on board with the idea of an eight-hour sleep and desires to make the adjustment, but baby is not a willing partner.  He has the capacity and the ability, but sometimes may need a little nudge because his internal sleep-wake “clock” is stuck.  You will know this is the case if he is waking within five minutes of the same time each night for three consecutive nights.  There are a few ways to handle this.
    • One is to allow the baby to resettle himself without Mom or Dad’s direct intervention. Apart from monitoring and periodically checking on the baby, possibly patting him on the back to let him know you are there, allow Baby to learn to resettle himself.  Normally, after three to four nights with some crying, the sleep-wake clock adjusts, and Baby begins sleeping through to morning.
    • A second method is for Mom to push the late-evening feeding closer to 11:00 p.m. or midnight. Once Baby is sleeping through to the first-morning feeding, she can gradually back up the late-evening feeding by 15-30 minute increments until the feeding is where she wants it to be.
    • A third method, called the backward slide, is a last resort. This is how it works:  If your baby is consistently waking at 2:00 a.m. each night, preempt this nightly ritual by waking and feeding him 15-30 minutes earlier – around 1:30 a.m.  If he sleeps to his normal morning waketime, in a couple of days try moving the time back by half an hour, to 1:00 a.m.  You can continue this backward slide until your baby’s late-night feeding is at a time you are comfortable with.  The way you know you are making progress is if your baby is sleeping from the end of this earlier feeding to the first feeding of the day.

When you are working to establish a new sleep routine for your baby, stick with it.  You and your baby will arrive at your goal and you both will be better off when it happens.

  • Dropping the late-evening feeding: This occurs around three months and is usually the trickiest feeding to eliminate.  Having grown accustomed to sleeping all night, some parents are reluctant to drop the late-evening feeding for fear that the baby will wake in the middle of the night.  If your baby is showing a lack of interest or is difficult to awaken for this feeding, those are good indicators that he’s ready to drop it.  The way to drop this feeding is by gradually adjusting the other feeding times.  For example, if the late-afternoon feeding is around 6:00 p.m., try feeding the baby again at 9:30 p.m. for a couple of days. Then move the feeding to 9:15 or 9:00 p.m. for the next two or three days.  Continue gradually adjusting the time backward until you reach your desired time for the baby to go down for the night.  Dropping the late-evening feeding will often make the last two feedings less than 3 hours apart.  That should not be a problem providing the last feeing of the day is the priority.


Excerpt taken from On Becoming Babywise by pediatrician Robert Bucknam, M.D. and Gary Ezzo, M.A. (2017 6th Edition)


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