When to Drop a Feeding for Your Baby: Merging Feeds

When to Drop a Feeding. How to know when to drop one of your baby’s feedings and how to go about doing it.

Baby eating from a bottle

As your baby grows, she will take fewer feedings in a 24 hour period. A one month old might eat ten times a day, but a 12 month old eats 3-4 times a day.

That means feeding will be dropped along the way. This is referred to as a merge in newer versions of On Becoming Babywise.

When you drop a feeding, or merge feedings, you don’t decrease the amount of food your baby eats. You rearrange it. More gets taken in during fewer feedings.

You might start to drop ounces (or baby will take less during breastfeeding sessions) as more solids are eaten.

There are three ways described in On Becoming Babywise (affiliate) to drop a feeding:

  • Dropping the middle of the night feeding. This usually happens between weeks seven and nine–though it is perfectly normal to be later! Some babies drop it altogether, while others gradually stretch it out. By this I mean your baby was eating at 2 AM. Then moves toward 3 AM, etc. If you have a “stretcher,” see this post: 5-6 AM Night Wakings. There are some who don’t go by the book. Don’t worry if your child is one of these. It doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong or that you are a bad mom or that your baby is difficult. It just means your baby is one of those babies described in Babywise: “not all babies go by the book” (page 124). See How to Drop a Night Feed for more strategies.
  • Dropping the “Dreamfeed” or “late evening feeding.” Babywise says this typically happens around three months old. My daughter didn’t drop it until six months old. For more on dropping the dreamfeed, see: Dropping the “Dream Feed.”
  • Extending your routine. This is moving to a 3.5 or 4 hour routine. In this case, a daytime feeding will usually be dropped. Baby is usually ready to move to a 3-4 hour routine between three and four months, but there is no rush to get there. For more on this, see: When to Move to a 4 hour Schedule. You can also read Baby Whisperer: Four Hour Schedule.

I have listed these in the order they should be dropped.

First, the middle of the night. Then the “dreamfeed.” You want to make sure to drop the feedings in the night before dropping any daytime feedings.

You want baby to consume needed calories during the day and not night, and if you drop night feeds before day feeds, baby will still need to wake at night.

Finally, you drop daytime feeds as you extend the schedule.

If baby was eating every three hours a day and is now eating every four hours a day, then there will be fewer feedings each day.

Be sure your baby is ready to do these things–don’t force it. If you wonder what ages your child should be doing things, be sure to see: Babywise Milestones or Your Babywise Baby: First Year Overview.

Reader Questions:

  • Emily said…
    Hi,Question for you (long, sorry!)I have been weaning my daugher off of night feedings. She was not eating well during the day, so my pediatrician recommended diluting her bottle each night slowly over the course of a few weeks (ie putting less formula in the same amount of water) until she was just on water, and then when she was making it through the night on that, cutting out the water and letting her CIO.I’ve been doing this for 2 weeks, and was down to 1 ounce of formula in a diluted bottle. Well, my helpful husband got up just now at 2 am when she was crying and gave her a full strength 8 ounce bottle. I won’t even get into how irritated I am, but I’m wondering what your advice would be on what to do next. Should I start all over from 8 ounces and work my way down to 1 AGAIN? Or since I KNOW she’ll make it through the night on just 1, should I just go back to the 1? The other issue is that since she had that full bottle tonight she probably won’t eat well tomorrow and will need a night feeding again tomorrow night….ugggIt’s 3 am, sorry if I’m rambling. Thanks for your help 🙂
    October 10, 2008 12:44 AM
    Babywise Mom said…
    Emily, I would just go back to 1 unless she eats so terribly today that you need to offer her a bit more. That is good advice for dropping the night feeding.
    October 10, 2008 2:44 PM
  • Abby’s Mom said…
    Val- I have a question about bedtime feedings. I currently feed my almost 5 month old at 7pm and then she has a bath and I read a short book to her. She is then put in bed around 7:30 to 7:45. My problem is that the feeding before that does not happen until between 4:30 and 5pm so she doesn’t eat much at 7:00. But, I don’t want to move that feeding any later because she needs to go to bed. Do I need waketime after her last feeding of the day or is it okay to reverse her bath and feeding so that she has a bath and then nurses right before I put her in bed? (She does not nurse to sleep so I would still be able to put her down awake)
    May 9, 2008 9:12 PM
    Babywise Mom said…
    That is a great question. Two months ago, I would have said of course do it and leave it at that. I now have a word of caution. A BW friend of mine has a bbay a couple of weeks younger than Kaitlyn, so we were both weaning about the same time from nursing. She did things like you are proposing. She ran into difficulty weaning her son from that final nursing. She didn’t nurse him to sleep or anything, but he had apparently become attached to it. I do bedtime where I feed, then pj’s and story, etc. I didn’t have any difficulties dropping feedings. My friend says she will do things a bit different with the next child.So I would say do like the bath and pjs, then nurse, then do something else. You could read a book, before too long you will be brushing teeth, etc. Just don’t make nursing the last major event of the day.Also, I am guessing you have at least 5 feedings a day right now. Once you move down to 4 feedings, the feedings shouldn’t be too close to each other.
    May 10, 2008 2:34 PM
    Abby’s Mom said…
    Thanks for the word of caution. Trouble weaning is exactly what I trying to avoid. Abby WILL NOT drink from a bottle and we have tried EVERYTHING. So, my hope is that eventually (I am sure it will probably be closer to 12 months) she will learn to drink from a cup. Since I don’t have the option to give her a bottle, I don’t want anything else to delay the weaning process when it comes time. Thanks so much for the advice and yes I am actually still feeding 6 times a day on most days. (Mostly do to reflux, some feedings are very poor) Hopefully she will be ready to start solids soon (she will be 5 months in a few days) and we can get down to 5 and then eventually 4 feedings every day.
    May 10, 2008 7:16 PM
    Babywise Mom said…
    You are most welcome. I would start offering her sippy cups of just water right now. I would try to make it seem as though it isn’t a big deal to you. Just have it there for her to try if she wants. If you don’t like sippys, then I would offer water in a cup quite often to get her used to drinking from whatever it is you want to wean to. Kaitlyn took a while to move down to 4 feedings a day, also, because of reflux. She went to 4 when she was close to 7 months, and we started solids at 4 months. You are good to wait for her to be ready for it 🙂
    May 12, 2008 1:57 PM
Merges. When to drop feedings