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Does a 6-Month-Old Still Need Night Feedings?

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Dear Heather,

My baby is 6 months old and still feeding two to three times at night. Is that normal or should she be sleeping straight through?

RELATED: How a Too-Good Night Routine Can Ruin Baby Sleep

Dear Night-Feeding Mama,

There's no one right answer to this question. It's normal and natural for your baby to still feed at night, but it would also be very normal (and achievable) for her to sleep 11 hours without feeding.

Most doctors agree that by 6 months, a baby can take in all her calories in the daytime. On the other hand, if you're breastfeeding and have any doubts about your milk supply, you might want to continue feeding once or twice a night. Dropping feedings too quickly can lead to a decrease in your production, even during the day.

Whether you continue to feed your baby at night or not, the feedings can be quick and routine, without a lot of fanfare or time spent trying to soothe your baby back to sleep (since she can do that herself at this age). If you're spending a lot of time feeding or rocking back to sleep in the night, that's a sign that her sleep potential is being a little stifled.

In my experience, the biggest predictor of how often a baby wakes up in the night is how she went to bed. If it's by nursing to sleep, she's much more likely to wake up and expect to be fed to repeat that pattern. On the other hand, if she fell asleep at bedtime by going into her sleeping place awake, grabbing her blankie and rolling around on her own to get comfortable, she's much more likely to do that in the night when she wakes—rather than call out for a feeding.

In other words, you have choices.

RELATED: How to Stop Co-Sleeping With Your Toddler

When I do sleep consultations, I always start with the bedtime routine and how it ends, modifying it to move the feeding earlier and disassociate it from falling asleep. That alone sometimes allows a baby to sleep longer stretches. Next, you could decide to keep in one feeding and wean the rest gradually (or wean them all if you'd like). In "The Happy Sleeper," we have a very specific formula for how to wean over the course of a couple weeks. Weaning gradually ensures that your baby isn't ever hungry and also is the friendliest to your breasts if you're nursing.

Happy sleeping,

Heather

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Sleep expert Heather Turgeon, co-author of "The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep—Newborn to School Age," will fix your family's sleep problems in this space as she does in her Los Angeles-based sleep consultations. Turgeon's solutions are nonjudgmental, kind and—best of all—based on science.

No situation is too challenging. Leave your sleep problem in the comments. Let's all get a good night's sleep, finally.

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