When you’re a new parent, you reach new depths of being tired. You may feel like there can’t possibly be any light at the end of the sleep-deprived tunnel. For months, you’ve been waking up around the clock to make sure your baby gets the sustenance they need when they need it — even if it means that you’ve become far better acquainted with the 3 a.m. hour than you ever hoped to be. But take heart, Mama! You may be closer to night weaning (and more sleep) than you think.
Remember: Sleeping through the night is a development milestone for your baby. And because every baby is different, they may reach milestones at different points. So, even if your baby isn’t ready for night weaning yet, understand that they will be at some point in the near future. Hold onto that knowledge for motivation to keep going when it feels like the constantly fatigued phase is lasting forever.
When the point to begin night weaning does come, the following information should help you along with the process.
What is night weaning?
Put simply, night weaning is weaning your baby off feedings that take place during the night. Per the norm, your little one will have numerous feedings throughout the day and one final feeding before going to bed. But once you start night weaning, you’ll transition them off of waking up at 1 a.m. or 3 a.m. or any other point during the night. Then, when they wake up in the morning, they’ll have their first official nursing or bottle-feeding session of the day.
When should you start night weaning?
Since babies hit milestones at different points, there isn’t exactly a hard-and-fast rule here. Generally speaking, though, most babies reach the point of being metabolically able to sleep through the night around four to six months old. Still, it’s important to look to your baby for cues that they’re ready for night weaning. Are they waking up less often? Have their nighttime feeding sessions been getting shorter and shorter? If so, your little one could be signaling that the time for night weaning has come.
Before you decide to try night weaning, it’s best to discuss the matter with your baby’s pediatrician. They’ll likely want to sign off on the timing.
How do I stop night feedings?
There are myriad things you can do to encourage your little angel to sleep through the night:
- Feed more frequently during the day (so, maybe every two to two and a half hours during the day as opposed to every three)
- Dream feed
- Eliminate distractions during nighttime feeding sessions
- Minimize possible discomfort by adjusting room temperature, offering relief if baby is dealing with issues like teething pain, addressing gas (have you tried gripe water?) and reflux, etc.
- Avoid overstimulation
- Finish feeding as soon as baby stops actively eating and starts comfort sucking
- Increase time between feedings each night
- Make each night feeding shorter
- Be consistent
How long does night weaning take?
What works for one baby may not work for another. For that matter, what works for one mommy may not work for another — you may prefer and find more success in a gradual approach, while another mother could find the same success with a cold turkey technique. If your baby truly is ready to night-wean, a gradual approach could take a few weeks. Stopping altogether at once may take a few days. But night weaning is a highly individualized process for babies, so yours might reach that point slower or faster.
If your little one doesn’t seem to be taking to night weaning, they may not be ready yet. If that’s the case, you may want to consider easing up or revisiting the process in a few weeks. You can always ask your baby’s pediatrician for advice on recognizing your child’s readiness and tips for effectively transitioning from their regular routine to night weaning.
How to wean a breastfed baby?
After you decide to take your boobies off the midnight menu, there are a few tips to keep in mind so you and baby can have a comfortable transition.
- Don’t go cold turkey. This can lead to engorged breasts, which can increase your chance of mastitis. Instead, stretch out your breastfeeding further and further apart, until you eventually stop altogether.
- During this weaning process, your breasts may fill up faster than you like, so avoid discomfort by pumping them during your daytime feedings. It can be a great source of comfort and help ease the pain of your full breasts.
- Just because you’re not breastfeeding anymore, does not mean you should cut down on the cuddles. Part of what makes breastfeeding so amazing is the bond you get to form with your child. Despite the weaning process, you and baby still need your snuggle time, even if they’re not eating. Cuddling is key to your child’s development and affects their self-confidence, expression of empathy, and understanding of social relationships. So, use those former breastfeeding times to read or sing to them.