Calorie Shifting

When baby is at least six months of age and developing well, you can start reducing the night-time feeds as these are no longer essential to health and growth.


If baby is used to a 1.00 am feeding, his stomach will hunger for food at that time every night. One of the best techniques for helping your baby to sleep through the night is to reset his ‘stomach clock.’ The aim is to reduce baby’s night time food intake without letting him go hungry. Regardless of the age of the baby, he will generally take in the same amount of calories per 24 hours. If you gradually reduce the night time feeding, baby will just eat more during the day to make it up. This is called calorie shifting.


If you have decided it’s the right time to start reducing the night-time feeds here’s what to do if you’re bottle feeding: Start by reducing the volume of milk or formula in the bottle by one or two ounces (30-60 mls) each feeding. You could start with just the bedtime feed and move onto the other night-time feeds or you could attempt them all at once. Keep reducing the volume of milk/formula by one ounce (30 mls) per night over the course of the next week, until there are no more feeds.



An alternative way to accomplish this is to dilute the bottle with water. Quite soon, baby will be taking enough calories during the day and decide that waking up for this new type of bottle is really not worth it! Here’s what to do: Choose your least favourite night feeding time and make the formula for that feeding ¾ of the strength. If baby is satisfied with this bottle, gradually decrease the strength by 1/8th each night until you are giving him only water. Repeat the process for all the night-time feedings and by the end of the process, your baby won’t be hungry at all during the night and he will be taking in more calories during the day to compensate (Lavin, Glaser 2007).


If your breast-feeding here’s the process you can take to gradually reduce the time spent feeding over 5-7 nights:


  • Make a note of the length of time of baby’s usual night-time feed.
  • Reduce the time spent feeding by two to five minutes every other night. So for example, if baby usually feeds for 17 minutes, cut the feed to fifteen minutes for two nights, then thirteen minutes for the next two nights, then eleven for the next two, and so on.
  • Re-settle your baby after each reduced feed with the calming techniques of your choice.  Consider playing baby’s lullaby CD as a quick and easy comforter.
  • Once baby is feeding for five minutes or less, stop the feed altogether.  Once feedings have stopped, try sending in someone besides Mum to tend to baby. The scent of breast milk can re-activate the baby’s desire to be fed.



Comments (7)

September 9, 2009 - 8:01 am /

Thank you so much for this article. I will be trying out this method starting tonight!

June 14, 2010 - 3:41 pm /

I am Azadeh, from Iran, my daughter is 5 month 8 days, she is about 6.8kg now. She was 3.4kg when she was born.
I am so tired and sleepless, in my country is not common to let the baby sleep by her own, but I want to try Dr.ferber technique. She is breast feeding and nothing more, her physician believes that I have to give her food after 6 month.
The problem is that she wakes 3 times before for milk, but it is about one month that she wakes 4 or 5 times.
Can I reduce her night time feeds at the same time with teaching her to sleep by her own?
Thank you so much for your valuable notes.

June 16, 2010 - 10:00 am /

Hi Azadeh

Your daughter’s weight is healthy for her age (the healthy average for birth is 3.5kg and 5 months is 7kg). However, we don’t recommend trying the Ferber technique before 6 months of age when your daughter will be around 7.5kg.

I agree with your physician who says she should go onto eating solid food after 6 months old. This is because at the age of six months and more, breastmilk on its own doesn’t give your baby everything she needs, in particular iron.

I don’t understand this phrase, “The problem is that she wakes 3 times before for milk, but it is about one month that she wakes 4 or 5 times.” Could you clarify what you mean so I can be of more help?

I wouldn’t advise teaching her to sleep by herself and reducing the night time feeds at the same time- just attempting one is disruptive enough.

You have about one month before she reaches the age when you should begin reducing her feeds. Don’t start now because she still needs the nutrition at this age.

I’d advise you get her used to having her own room for a month and then when she’s ready, start reducing the feeds from the age of six months. She will then take in more calories during the day to compensate.

For more advice on moving her to her own room see here:

February 25, 2011 - 3:44 pm /

I have an infant that is almost 6 months who is has been breastfeeding 2x a night usually around midnight and aboout 4am or so. I would like to reduce it to just 1x a night as he really doesnt nurse that long at night i think that it is more for comfort than hunger. i tried to just take the second feeding away and still nurse him at 1am but he is awake then starting around 11:45 often and on till he falls back asleep and then anytiem after 1 i feed him. he is then back up wanting to eat after 3am often and on till he falls back to sleep. He does get a bottle of formula 4oz with rice cereal suggested by pediatrician at bedtime after he nurses so he is getting plenty of food before bedtime that he should be able to go for at least 4 hours as he does go for 3 hours during the day. Any suggestions on how to reduce his feedings to 1 or less during the night?

April 6, 2011 - 3:40 pm /


My son is 13 months old and he still wakes up 2-3 times at night for a bottle. I have cut out the milk and have given him water…but he still wakes for it…granted, he will only sip on it and drink an oz or so…but he will scream until we put the bottle in his mouth. What can we do??? We are going crazy not getting enough sleep.

August 17, 2011 - 10:35 pm /


I have a 17wk old daughter, exclusively breastfed, who wakes anywhere between 2-4 times a night. The first night feed can be at any time up til 2am then it’s very 2 hours from that. She bearly feeding for 5 mins per time and still needs a big breakfast feed at 8am. Is it too early to start night weaning? If so any ideas on how to start?

Sheena McMillan
April 22, 2013 - 10:11 pm /

Hi, my son was born weighing 2.2kg and now at 24 weeks old weighs 6.4kg. He has 4 7oz bottles a day at 8am 12pm, 5pm and then I wake him at 10pm for his last feed. He sleeps from 6.30pm to 7.30am. He has started weaning, and is now up to 2 meals a day and we have also just increased his formula to 8oz. When would you recommend weaning him off his 10pm feed? I don’t want to over or under feed him, and the health visitors are pleased with his steady weight gain despite his prematurity (born at 31 weeks gestation) I’m also aware even with these times, I am extremely lucky to have such a happy contented baby who gives me 7 hours sleep every night.

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