Your little one is getting bigger and waking up less for night feeds. You may be wondering if it is time to start night-weaning but are not sure where to begin.
It’s natural as your little one gets bigger, and their tummy holds more food for them to start dropping night feeds. Some babies naturally do this, while others need a little nudge, especially when giving up their last nighttime feed.
If you have a little one that needs some nudging in the right direction so that you can all start enjoying a full nights sleep, then this post is for you.
When to Start Night Weaning
The short answer is between 4 – 6 months. At this age, babies can sleep through the night without requiring a feed from a developmental perspective. Your baby should ideally weigh between 5.5 – 6kgs before you start to night wean.
However, when you begin night weaning is entirely up to you. Some parents let their babies wean themselves naturally whilst other parents give their babies a gentle nudge towards night weaning. Everyone’s circumstances are different – you may have another baby on the way or need to return to work after maternity leave and these can all play a part in the decision making. Before you start night weaning though, it is always best to check with your paediatrician first.
Can Your Baby Fall Asleep Independently?
Another essential factor to take into consideration before night weaning is whether your baby can fall asleep independently. If your baby is currently using night feedings to fall back asleep when they wake, then night weaning will be difficult.
If you have a little one that has not yet learned to fall asleep independently, you may want to consider sleep training your little one before attempting to night wean.
Signs Your Baby Is Ready for Night Weaning
As mentioned, some babies drop feeds naturally whilst others need a little nudge. Here are some of the signs that your baby is ready for night weaning:
Sign 1 – Your baby takes little milk during a feed. If your little one is feeding for a very short time and then simply falling asleep, this is a sure sign they are ready for night weaning. The chances are your little one is waking more out of habit and comfort than hunger.
Sign 2 – You are waking your baby to feed. If your baby is sleeping 6 – 8 hours straight during the night and you are waking them to feed them, then this is the perfect time to stop. Your little one has shown they can go for longer stretches without requiring any additional feeds.
Sign 3 – Your baby eats well during the day, including solids. If your little one is on solids and is eating well during the day, they are likely getting sufficient calories and do not require a night feed.
Cold Turkey or Gradual Night Weaning
Whether you decide to go cold turkey or take a more gradual approach is up to you. However, if your baby is still waking up several times to feed, you are probably better off taking a more gradual approach. Your baby has become used to their midnight feasts, and a gradual approach will make the transition a lot easier; and if you are breastfeeding, this will also make it more comfortable for you.
However, if your baby is only waking up once in the night for a feed, you may want to consider going cold turkey.
Night Weaning Breastfed Babies
As mentioned above, you may decide to go cold turkey in this instance. If your baby wakes, do not offer a feed, instead resettle your baby using other settling techniques. This will likely take a few nights before your baby gets used to the fact that you are no longer offering a feed when they wake.
If you take the gradual approach, then use the following steps:
- Time how long your baby usually feeds for during the night.
- Gradually reduce the length of time your baby feeds on each breast every couple of nights. For example, let's say your baby feeds for 7 minutes on each breast. Start with 6 minutes on each breast for 2 nights, then reduce to 5 minutes for 2 nights. Continue to do this until you get to approximately 2 minutes on each breast.
- Once you reach 2 minutes on each side, stop feeding altogether and resettle using other settling techniques.
Night Weaning Bottle-Fed Babies
If you decide to go cold turkey, when your baby wakes do not offer a feed. Instead resettle your baby using other settling techniques. This is easier if your baby only wakes once in the night and takes less than 60ml of milk.
If you take the gradual approach, then use the following steps:
- Reduce the amount of milk you offer at each feed every couple of nights. So, for example, if your baby currently drinks 160ml, then offer 130 – 140ml for 2 nights, then 110 – 120ml for the next 2 nights. Continue to do this until you get to approx. 60ml.
- Once you reach 60ml, then stop feeding altogether and resettle using other settling techniques.
What to do if Your Baby Persists
You may find that once you get to only a few minutes or a few ml, your baby stops waking for feeds independently. However, if you have a baby that is a little more persistent, you can try one of the following tips to get them to settle:
- Tip 1 – Send your partner in to resettle. To your baby, you equals food, so they are often more willing to accept the “no more food” message from someone who does not represent the exact thing they are looking for.
- Tip 2 – Let them fuss a little. I do not mean you should let your little one scream for hours but give them 5 – 10 minutes to see if they will fall back asleep without your assistance.
- Tip 3 – Stay consistent. Once you have stopped night feeding, please do not go back, this will only confuse your little one and encourage their persistence.
Early Morning Feeding
You may have successfully night weaned, but your little one is still waking up around 5:00 am for a feed. This is a tricky one without a definitive solution, unfortunately.
When left to fuss for a few minutes, some babies will happily go back to sleep for another couple of hours. Whilst others start to treat 5:00 am as the start of their day. If you really can’t stand the thought of starting your day at 5:00 am, you may have to give in for this one feed and feed them to get an extra couple hours of sleep.
If you do decide to do this and are breastfeeding, consider giving your little one a bottle for this feed; this way, you and your partner can take turns with the 5:00 am wake-up.
Night-weaning is just another milestone in your baby’s journey, like with everything else, consistency is key to ensure the transition is easier for everyone.