Considering night weaning your child but don’t know where to start? Below I share with you some easy steps to a better night’s sleep.
When you have a child, you know that there’ll be sleepless nights. Even if you’re not totally prepared for how bad they’ll be, you know you’ve got to go through them because you’ve got this tiny, helpless human who depends on you. But what happens when the tiny, helpless baby turns into a babbling, crawling, toast munching machine, who is feeding more in the night than in the day?
Why might you want to night wean?
Well firstly, you might not, and that is totally OK! There should be no pressure to change anything if what you’re doing works for you. However, if any of the following apply, and your little one is over 6 months old, you might like to consider making some changes:
- You are exhausted from feeding multiple times throughout the night.
- Your baby only feeds for a couple of minutes/takes a couple of ounces. This indicates they’re not really hungry and just feeding for comfort.
- Your baby feeds a lot during the night but doesn’t eat very well during the day. They are likely spreading their 12 hours worth of food/milk over 24 hours.
From around 6-8 months old many babies are able to sleep through the night without a feed. This is of course so long as they are otherwise healthy and gaining weight appropriately (if you can’t get them weighed then a good indicator is whether they are growing out of their clothes as they should be).
If they’re physically able to sleep through the night, then why aren’t they?
This is the million dollar question, isn’t it! More often than not, it’s because they don’t know how to get to sleep on their own. If you feed/rock/cuddle to sleep, then when your baby comes into a light sleep at the end of their sleep cycles, they’re going to need you to help them get back to sleep, and this is often by feeding.
From your baby’s perspective, it’s very strange to fall asleep in one place and then wake up alone in another! If you were to fall asleep in your bed and find yourself in the garage every time you woke, you’d probably need a bit of reassurance and help to get back to sleep too!
So how do you help your baby to cut down on their feeds and self-settle?
I wouldn’t advise you to go cold turkey on getting rid of the feeds because even though little bodies may be capable of going 12 hours without a feed, if they’re used to being fed multiple times throughout the night then they might actually be hungry out of habit. Think about if you go on a diet – you probably don’t need the numerous snacks you usually have, but it doesn’t stop you from craving them on the first few days of your diet.
A good starting point, especially if your baby is used to multiple small feeds throughout the night, is 2 or 3 feeds. You then respond to all other wakings in a consistent manner, for example by lying your baby back down in their cot and stroking their back/tummy.
If you choose to offer your child 2 feeds, one of these might be at around 10.30/11pm as a dream feed (where you take the feed to them whilst they’re asleep) and another at the first waking after around 2am as a response feed i.e. you feed them as a response to their waking. If you are feeling really committed to the night weaning, you can even try two dream feeds. To do this you’ll need to set your alarm for the second one and respond to any other waking by using your settling response.
Once your little one is used to being settled in this way and you are satisfied they are having their hunger needs met, you can start to reduce the amount you offer. You might find that by this point their eating has improved during the day too.
To begin to cut down on the feeds, monitor the amount and/or time that your baby feeds for a few days. After 3 days, take the largest/longest feed they had and reduce it slightly, for example 8oz to 7oz/16 minutes to 14 minutes. After another 3 days you reduce the amount/time again, and so on until you are down to 4oz or 6 minutes.
Any less than this and it seems unfair to tease them with such a small amount! At this point you can drop the feed altogether, but you might like to consider bringing their morning feed a little earlier. If they wake at the time they’d have usually been fed, simply respond as if it were any other waking.
I’d advise you start this process by reducing the early hours feed first, then once this has gone you can either keep the 10.30pm one if you’re happy with it and your baby is taking it, or you could begin to reduce this one too.
If you’ve found this article helpful, I’d love to know via email at email@example.com. If you’d like some help implementing this process, or with any other sleep challenges you’re experiencing, you can book a free call via my website www.lavenderbluesleepconsulting.com
Daisy is a certified Infant Sleep Consultant, qualified teacher and has a degree in Psychology and Education Development