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Frequent Nighttime Feedings
By Jane Squires, RN, IBCLC
Q. My son is almost 4 months old and is still exclusively breastfed (no solids). My pediatrician told me he should be going at least six hours and maybe even through the night and that his feedings should be spaced out more during the day. I'm still nursing about every two hours during the day and only 3-4 hours during the night. He's gaining weight very well, and he seems content enough. He does only take one breast at each feeding and eats for about 10-15 minutes. He refuses to eat longer or from the second breast; he'll get mad if I try to make him. If I do try to force him he'll just spit all of it back up. It doesn't bother me that he eats so often since I'm a stay at home mom, but could this eating pattern suggest that something is wrong? The pediatrician suggested I just let him cry it out for a bit at night, and he'll just go back to sleep when he realizes I'm not going to feed him, but I feel really bad doing this. We have a "side-car" arrangement (with his crib pushed between our bed and the wall with one of the side rails off) and whenever he wakes up at night I just roll over and latch him on. Then when he's done, I just move back over onto our bed and he stays in the crib. So frequent nighttime feedings don't bother me, but I'm wondering if there's any reason to be concerned.
A. I wish you could come to my support group. I would have a thing or two to say about your pediatrician, but I won't. I am a great fan of attachment parenting, which means you don't let the baby cry it out. If your baby wants to eat every hour, and you don't mind, why not? Breastfeeding is an art and a science, and unfortunately a lot of people are not aware of this.
Whenever babies reach developmental milestones they tend to wake up more frequently at night. Then after a while they go back to their old/new sleep patterns.
You sound like you know what you are doing and trusting your instincts is very important. You are doing nothing wrong. You are being a great mom.
The important thing is he is eating well and gaining weight. Many babies eat only on one side at a time, and they become full. There is no sense in forcing him to eat on the other side if he is going to throw it back up. Breastfed babies know when they have had enough to eat. Sometimes they do not eat because they are hungry, but because they need nurturing, or cuddling, or just to be close to you.
Thanks for your question, and I hope I made you feel ok about this.
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