Waking throughout the night to breastfeed or bottle feed your baby is an experience that can last for months. But at some point, you’ll be thinking…surely they should be sleeping through the night by now!
That was definitely the case for us, as we hit 7 months and I kept hearing from other moms that their baby was sleeping through the night, or only woke once. I know you’re not meant to compare…but there we were, with baby Charles waking every 2-3 hours for a bottle. *Sigh*
Since my maternity leave had ended I was also back at work, and waking that often during the night to go get him, prepare a bottle, feed him, resettle him, put him back to bed, get myself back to bed…then wake up in the morning to rush off to work…it didn’t feel sustainable.
I’ve never been one to push a routine (I’m probably the opposite, we barely have a routine) so I took a pretty relaxed approach to night weaning.
Fast forward a week or so, and no more feeds during the night – success!
In retrospect, we probably could’ve done this earlier, but in some ways I had learnt to love waking through the night until the sleep disruptions started making my return to full-time work a little challenging!
Before you start weaning your baby off the night time feeds, it may be a good idea to chat with your GP, family health nurse or paediatrician to get advice based on your personal situation.
Also, don’t try and rush this process! At such a young age, what’s more important for your baby is that they’re getting loads of love, affection and care from you.
When should you start night weaning
There are a couple of signs that baby doesn’t need night feeds anymore, including:
- Baby is 6 months old – generally this is age which doctors agree is the time when babies don’t need to have milk throughout the night any longer. Assuming your baby is growing and developing well, then at around 6 months they’re probably ready to start going a full night without feeds. It’s important that they’re getting enough food during the day to allow for the longer stretch without food at night!
- Baby doesn’t drink much during the night feeds – this is likely a sign that they’re drinking milk/sucking on a bottle just for comfort and to settle, rather than because they’re hungry.
Times when you shouldn’t start night weaning (or expect slower progress):
- Baby is unwell – if your baby has a cough, cold or any other type of illness, don’t start night weaning yet! Their daily and nightly patterns will probably be out of whack already, and definitely need the extra comfort for you as their tiny bodies battle to fight whatever’s affecting them.
- Baby is going through a developmental leap – you could try night weaning during this time, but it’s much less likely that you’ll be seeing much success! Their brains are rapidly changing and having to go through another big change is pretty tough on them. How do you know whether your little one is going through a developmental leap? I use the Wonder Weeks app – one of the 7 apps every new parent needs in 2018.
- Baby is teething – your bub will tend to be more fussy during this time, so it might be harder to detach them from their routine of night time feeds. Perhaps give your baby a pain reliever (check with your doctor) before bedtime and that should help them at least feel less discomfort.
- You’ve recently gone back to work – if you’re not with your baby as much during the day anymore, it’s likely that they’ll try and seek additional comfort from you when you are there – during the night! Wanting to nurse or take a bottle from you is a way for them to reconnect with you as they’re undergoing the change of spending more time away from you. Wait until you’ve settled into the new routine of being away during the day more, or get going with night weaning before your return to work.
When the time is right for you and your baby (trust how you feel about the whole thing as well), you can start the night weaning process!
Night weaning for breastfed babies
Some breastfeeding mothers prefer to keep breastfeeding throughout the night in order to maintain their milk supply. However, with night weaning you can still allow your supply to peak during the daytime, aligning with when you ideally want your little one to be feeding in the first place (rather than in the middle of the night)!
There’s generally 2 main cases:
1. Baby’s night time feeds last less than 5 minutes – pick one of the night time feeds to try and stop completely, by comforting and settling your baby back to sleep rather than feeding them if they are awake and crying. Gradually do the same with all other night time feeding occurrences, as your baby starts to adapt to the new routine.
2. Baby’s night time feeds last longer than 5 minutes – rather than cutting out one of these feeds entirely straight away, aim to shorten the feeds to under 5 minutes each. Reduce each feed by 2-5 minutes or so (depending on how long they currently last) over 5-7 days until all feeds are less than 5 minutes in duration. Then go to Case 1 and continue from there!
Night weaning for bottle fed babies
There’s generally 2 main cases:
1. Baby drinks 60mL of milk or less during night time feeds – pick one of the night time feeds to try and stop completely, by comforting and settling your baby back to sleep rather than feeding them if they are awake and crying. Gradually do the same with all other night time feeding occurrences, as your baby starts to adapt to the new routine.
2. Baby drinks more than 60mL of milk during night time feeds – rather than cutting out one of these feeds entirely straight away, aim to lessen the amount they drink to under 60mL during each feed. Reduce each feed by 20-30mL or so (depending on how much baby currently drinks) over 5-7 days until all feeds include less than 60mL. Then go to Case 1 and continue from there!
How do you know if it’s working?
As you reduce the night feed occurrences/amounts, you should probably notice that your baby starts drinking more during the day instead. This is a good sign! It means their body is realising that it needs to get the required nutrients during the day, so that they can restfully sleep throughout the night without having to wake up hungry.
The biggest indicator that night weaning is working for your baby…is if they start sleeping through the night! Win!
How did you manage to wean your baby off their night time feeds? Did they naturally stop on their own or did you try a particular technique? Share your experiences in the comments below!