Information On When And How To Night Wean Your Baby
Night Weaning Your Baby
You hear the alarm again at 2am. Not an alarm clock or your cell phone, but the baby waking for a night feeding. For many parents, this middle-of-the-night waking can bring exhaustion and stress. There are many unexpected aspects weaved into the beauty of new motherhood. Also, there is a reason sleep torture has a history in torture tactics. As your infant grows, you may start to explore the transition of night weaning to help everyone get more sleep.
Weaning night feeds comes at a different time for every family, and no two babies are exactly the same. What worked for my best friends flopped for me. The tactics that were game changers for our family were not the right fit for our friends. It is important to know when it is appropriate to night wean, what could create complications, and how to approach night weaning.
When to Night Wean
There is no one perfect time to start the night weaning process. You want to take a few things into consideration as you start this conversation with your partner and pediatrician.
- Baby’s age and growth: Many pediatricians agree that night weaning becomes appropriate starting between 4-6 months. However, some families do not start until a year or longer. Consider the age that feels right for you and your family needs. You also need to monitor your infant’s growth chart and whether he is consistently gaining at a healthy rate. Growth charts will help you and your pediatrician determine a time that you can start night weaning safely.
- Current Sleep Habits: Is your baby taking a night feeding and going right back to sleep? Is the night feeding causing your baby to wake for a long chunk of time? Does he wake, suckle, fall back asleep, wake, suckle and repeat without getting much milk? Looking at these patterns can help you identify whether your baby still needs his night feed.
- Family goals and values: Are you considering night weaning baby because it would be an improvement for your family? If so, that is great. Take time to discuss your family goals and values and how night weaning plays into that. If you realize that night weaning is coming from external pressures instead of your values, you may want to reconsider starting. The things you put into motion as a mom work best when your family values are the driving force.
How to Night Wean
There are different approaches you can learn and use for night weaning a baby. Some prefer a quick weaning approach. Others adopt a more gradual weaning process. The right way to wean for your family is the way that feels best for you. Consider what your needs are for weaning. Also consider the tools and comforts your baby currently has or may need to develop throughout the night weaning process.
A quick route to night weaning means you have ensured that your baby is getting enough food throughout the waking hours. A quick weaning process may be appropriate for babies who do not take in much food during the night feeding, but wake and suckle at the bottle or breast. This process would include helping your baby to find other comforts during the night waking. During this time it may be helpful to work with a sleep consultant to help you work with helping your baby get back to sleep without a night feeding.
The gradual night weaning process is a more drawn-out approach to decreasing night feeds, increasing wake-time feeds, and encouraging longer stretches of sleep for your baby (and you)! When you are weaning, you want to either stretch out the time between the last feed before bed and a night waking feed and/or gradually decrease the amount of milk available to your baby during the night feed by either decreasing the ounces offered by bottle or decreasing the time available to your baby at the breast.
If at any point the weaning process is not working for you and your family, it is okay to stop and try again after more time has passed.
Tips to Support Weaning Night Feeds
A dream feed refers to feeding your baby shortly after he has fallen asleep and before you go to bed for the night. This allows your baby to be full through a longer night stretch. Many babies enjoy a dream feed and do not fully wake up for the feeding.
Create a schedule for your night weaning to help you and your partner, if applicable, to be on the same page. Identify your goals for weaning and the rate at which you plan to decrease feedings during sleep hours.
Things that can Complicate Weaning Your Baby at Night
Night weaning, sleep training, and other transitions for your baby can be complicated by other needs your baby may have. If your baby seems distressed during night wakes, consider the following possibilities.
Teething: Many babies increase night waking due to teething. These babies may seek out the breast, bottle, or other soothing method to help alleviate pain from teething.
Reflux: If your baby is experiencing reflux, it is possible that he is not retaining enough food to stay full throughout the night. Work with your pediatrician to address reflux issues and create a plan.
Infection: An infection, such as an ear infection, can create pain and distress for your baby (and you). If your baby is facing an infection, they may wake more frequently and be difficult to soothe. This would be a time to hold off on night weaning until your baby is feeling better.
Solids & digestion: If your baby has started solids, his digestion has changed. This could be a reason for discomfort and needs at night. Additionally, if you have started solids, also ensure that your baby is taking in enough milk and solids to stay satisfied through the night.
Mom’s Body During Night Weaning
If you are a breastfeeding mom, you want to include your needs and care in the schedule and planning process. If you are used to feeding or pumping at night, removing that feed can cause engorgement of your breasts. Similar to the gradual approach to night weaning your baby, create a gradual weaning plan for yourself and the amount of milk you get from your breasts at night. Complete a good, full feeding or pump before bed and gradually reduce the amount you pump or feed in the nighttime to allow your breasts to accommodate for the changes.
The way how to wean night feedings looks different for every family. Whether you are starting this approach at 6 months or 18 months, the best way is the way that allows you and your baby to feel safe and confident.