If you’re a sleep-deprived mama, hang in there! Night weaning is hard work sometimes, but the end result will be worth it.
First, I want to share with you a little background of our child’s sleep struggles.
I have found that when you are looking for solutions to your child’s sleep problems, it’s nice to read what others have gone through so you don’t feel alone. 🙂
Our son has never been a ‘good sleeper.’ The night after he was born, he had slept four straight hours, and my husband and I were thinking, ‘this isn’t too bad! Four-hour sleep stretches aren’t terrible.’.
Little did we know, that was the longest stretch of sleep we would have for quite a while.
For the first three months after he was born, he would sleep anywhere from 30 minutes to 2.5 hours at a time. He was a pretty colicky baby, and the only ways we could get him to calm down to go to sleep were to nurse him or walk and gently bounce with him.
Then, around three months old, our son occasionally started having a 4 to 6 hour stretch of sleep at the beginning of the night! My husband and I were ecstatic! After that first stretch of the night, he continued to sleep for no more than 2.5 hours at a time, and I continued to nurse him at each waking.
Let’s fast forward to around five months old. Our kiddo had his first 8-hour stretch! We were in disbelief. Every other night or so, he kept having these fantastic nights of sleep where he would get 7.5-9.5 hours of sleep with no wakings. We thought we were out of the woods!
That lasted for almost an entire month.
Then, around six months old, teething started. His sleep began to dwindle to where he wouldn’t sleep for more than five hours at a time. I was back to nursing him at every waking as that was the only way to get him to sleep again.
Very seldomly, he would have a night where he would sleep a 7-8 hour stretch, and those nights were terrific. But by the time he was nine months old, he was only sleeping somewhere between 1 to 3 hours at a time.
At this point, my husband and I decided to try night weaning.
The first night we attempted, we tried to cut out feedings completely, with little planning. Our son cried and cried for about an hour until I nursed him. We were so tired; we kind of just gave up at that point.
So, these night wakings every 1 to 3 hours continued to happen until our son turned 12-months-old. Then, once he started getting better at walking, it got worse. He started sleeping for no more than 2.5 hours at a time!
We thought these super frequent wakings were caused by him learning how to walk, so I kept nursing him back to sleep after every waking, trying to get any rest I could get for myself! But all of a sudden, he was almost 15 months old, and nothing had changed.
That was when we decided to get educated and get serious about night weaning.
By following the tips in this post, we were able to drop the night feedings entirely in less than one week, and everyone in our house was able to get a bit more sleep!
When should you start night weaning?
If your baby is at a healthy weight, you can start night weaning around six months old. By this time, your baby can ‘sleep through the night’ (which is usually defined as sleeping at least six straight hours) without needing a feeding.
If you have any questions or concerns, it’s always a great idea to talk to your baby’s pediatrician. They will help you make the best decision on the best time for night weaning.
This post contains affiliate links to products I have used and enjoyed. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. To find out more, you can read my disclaimer here. Also, I am not a medical professional, just a mama sharing her experiences to help others. Always consult your doctor for medical advice.
The best tips for night weaning your baby:
These tips are what I used to night wean our breastfed son, but you can easily use these tips for bottle-fed babies too!
Time it Right
When you are thinking about weaning your child from night feedings, you will want to look at your schedule. It’s crucial that you don’t have too much going on during the week you choose to start.
For instance, you will want to avoid night weaning when you will be traveling or when your family has any significant events going on, like family visiting.
You will also want to avoid weaning if someone in your family has gotten sick or if your kiddo is teething. Illnesses and teething are two surefire ways to not having a good outcome.
Breastfeed More During the Day
Once you start to cut out night feedings, it’s a good idea to add in some more feedings throughout the day. This will help to ensure your child is getting enough nutrients during this big change.
Suppose your little one doesn’t seem to care about having more feedings, then you can skip this option. You can always follow your baby’s lead on this one.
If Your Child is Older, Talk About it!
If your child is over one year old, talk about these changes with them! They understand more than you might think. 😉
On the day you are going to start night weaning, you can explain that nursing or bottles are only for the daytime. For example, you can say before each feeding, “Remember, babas are only for the daytime. Babas are going to go to sleep tonight.”. In your case, ‘baba’ can be changed for whatever word you use for nursing or bottles.
Stop Nursing to Sleep for Naps
If your little one is dependent on nursing or having a bottle to fall asleep, stop that first. It might be best to have someone like your partner or a grandparent help you with this.
When I stopped nursing my son to sleep for naps, we made this change on the weekend. My husband took over nap duty for those first two days. After all, if I tried to get our son to sleep, he just cried because he wanted to nurse.
By the time Monday rolled around, our son was fine with me putting him down for a nap without nursing. Just keep in mind that it could take longer than two days for you.
Ensure Your Child Eats Enough Dinner
Once you start feeding your little one solid foods, make sure they are eating enough at dinner! Even if you are still nursing or giving a bottle during a nighttime routine, it’s essential to make sure their bellies get full.
If your child is picky when it comes to solids, a great alternative is to give them some banana before bed! Bananas are a great before-bed snack, and it will help to keep them full.
Make a Bedtime Routine
Bedtime routines are so essential when it comes to creating good sleep habits! If you are unsure about making one, here are the best tips to make a bedtime routine!
Another critical key to bedtime routines is to stick to them. Once you have the right routine and it’s consistent every night, your child will look forward to bedtime.
Stop Nursing to Sleep Before Bed
Like nursing to sleep before naps, you will want to stop nursing your child to sleep for bedtime before weaning from the middle of the night feedings.
As I mentioned above, you might want to have your partner take over bedtime responsibilities for a few nights until your child has adjusted.
Sleep In Another Room
If your child is dependant on nursing, and you are room-sharing or co-sleeping, it might be a good idea to transition your little one to their own room if you are ready.
We transitioned our son to his room when he was about nine months old, and he did surprisingly well with it! It also helped not have me right next to him all night, so he didn’t wake up and want me to pick him up because he saw me there.
Have a Sippy Cup with Water Ready
When you are ready to night wean, and if your child is old enough to be drinking water, it’s a great idea to have a sippy cup in their room, ready to go. Sometimes, your kiddo might just be thirsty, and water is all they need before they fall back to sleep.
We use these sippy cups, and they are lovely! They aren’t entirely leak-proof, but they are the closest I have found to be leak-proof without actually being a water bottle.
Try Removing One Feeding at a Time
If you are looking for the most gentle way to night wean, try to remove one feeding at a time. If your child only gets one feeding in the middle of the night, then you will be done relatively quickly!
Although, if your child gets multiple feedings throughout the night, remove one feeding, and then wait three or four days before removing the next feeding.
Have Your Partner Or Grandparent Help
The alternative to removing one feeding at a time is to remove night feedings altogether. If you need to go this route, it will be very beneficial to have someone help you.
This is what we ended up doing, and when we stuck to it and didn’t give in, it worked really well.
The first couple of nights, my husband would go to my son when he woke up and was crying in the middle of the night. Our son (much to our surprise) only woke two times in those initial nights, and it took my husband about an hour and a half to get him to go back to sleep each time.
My husband would walk around the room or rock in the chair to get our son to calm down. Or, he would talk gently to our son and reassure him that everything was okay.
After the first couple of nights, it took less time to get our son to go back to sleep, and he didn’t cry to breastfeed when I would try. Exactly one week after starting night weaning, our son slept for 10.5 hours straight!
In the days after the crazy 10.5 hour night of sleep, our son started waking up only once after sleeping for about seven straight hours. That is a considerable improvement, and I am totally fine with helping him once a night if he’s thirsty!
Things to Keep in Mind:
No matter what method of night weaning you try, there will be tears. Hopefully, those tears will only be coming from your child and not you. But trust me, there is no judgment here if you shed some tears in the process, too.
If your child has been dependent on these middle-of-the-night feedings, night weaning is a substantial change for them. But you have to remember to stay calm. Your child can sense if you are anxious or frustrated, which will only keep them awake longer.
If your child is crying and you are feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, have someone you trust to take over for you. It’s completely fine to ask for help!
There will be Bumps in the Road
Keep in mind that your kiddo is doing so much developing and learning in their first few years. There are bound to be some bumps in the road!
Some setbacks to keep in mind are teething, growth spurts, an illness, and even reaching significant developmental milestones like walking.
Once we had successfully night weaned our son, everything was going great! That is until about three weeks later. Our kiddo started waking up 2-3 times a night again, and we were so confused!
Then we realized our son was getting his last six teeth all at once. Poor guy!
So if you have cut out every night feeding, and there seems to be a sudden regression, take a closer look to find out what’s going on.
If you are planning on night weaning your child, I wish you the best of luck! Just remember, this is such a small part of your child’s life in the scheme of things. Once the middle-of-the-night wakings stop for your family, it will seem like this all happened so long ago!
Before you go, check out these related articles:
- The Best Breastfeeding Tips
- Simple Teething Remedies To Soothe Your Child
- Breastfeeding Essentials Every Mom Needs
If you use the tips you read here, I would love to know how it goes for you! Also, if you’ve already night weaned your child, I would love to know any new tips in the comments below!