Night time bottle feeds can be a real struggle. By the time you get out of bed, turn the light on, prepare the bottle, and get your baby up and out of their swaddle, they often get more and more distressed. Not only that, you’re then fully awake and it can be difficult to fall back to sleep once you’re back in your bed.
So, if you’re dreading bottle feeds at night, whether it’s formula or breast milk, you’re going to appreciate these hacks that are designed to make it simpler so you can both get back to sleep quicker.
1. Sleep in the same room as your baby
Not only does sharing a room with your baby for the first 6-12 months reduce the risk of SIDS, it makes night feeds so much easier not having to get up and wander down the hall to your hungry, crying baby.
Because you’re right beside them, you can feed them at the first sign of hunger, and soothe them quicker when they’re unsettled. You’ll get to know their feeding cues and early signs of hunger much easier when they’re close by.
2. Consider keeping bottles room temperature from the start
Bottles don’t need to be warmed, so if you can get your baby used to room temperature milk from early on, there will be no need to heat bottles at night or when you’re out and about.
However, if your baby has a preference for warm milk, use bottles that have a built-in temperature control, so you don’t have to stress in the middle of the night whether the milk is too hot or too cold.
3. Set up a bedside bottle feeding station
This is a game changer for many families. Before you head to bed, spend a few minutes gathering everything you need, rather than fumbling in the dark in your sleep-deprived state. The more organised you are, the quicker the whole process will be and you can return to sleep. Here’s what to include in your bottle feeding station.
Night feed essentials for formula-fed babies:
- Pre-measured formula in a dispenser
- Glow-in-the-dark bottles to make them easy to find
- Bottles pre-filled with cooled boiled water
- A thermos of warm boiled water for bubs who prefer their milk heated
- Burp cloths
- Water and snacks for mum
Night feed essentials for expressed breast milk-fed babies:
- Breast milk stored in glow-in-the-dark bottles to make them easy to find
- A cooler bag or small eski for higher temperatures or for milk that’s been previously thawed or needs to be refrigerated (see Storing and thawing breast milk for more information)
- A bottle warmer
- Burp cloths
- Nipple balm
- Water and snacks for mum
It’s also a good idea to have the nappy change table ready with the nappy, wipes, nappy cream, and a change of clothes all set up and handy to grab. Only change their nappy if it’s absolutely necessary.
4. Keep the environment dark and quiet
A dark and quiet room will help to keep you both in a drowsy state and to fall back to sleep quicker. Red light doesn’t inhibit melatonin production (the sleep hormone), so use a red night light or bulb if you need any light during night feeds or nappy changes.
The blue light from phones or devices will have the opposite effect. It will disrupt your circadian rhythm and distract bub, so try to keep anything with blue lights out of your room. Keep the night feeds boring, so try not to talk or engage too much with your baby. This will help to reinforce that night time is for sleep and daytime is for play.
5. Understand and accept night feeds
Night feeds are important for growing babies and are protective against SIDS. Babies are hardwired to wake at night, so there’s no hurry to phase out the overnight bottles. Waking for milk, whether it’s for food or comfort (both of which are equally important), is common and healthy for babies up to 12 months (when it’s recommended that babies stop using bottles), but you choose what’s best for you and your baby.
The best thing about bottle feeding is that other people can help. So, if you have a partner, share the load – this could be splitting the night in half and doing shifts so that you both get longer stretches of sleep. If you don’t have a partner, consider asking a friend or relative to help you during the day so you can rest or catch up on some sleep.
Once you understand the importance of night feeds, you can accept and adapt to them – instead of fighting it, look for ways to cope instead.