Night weaning is a significant developmental milestone for babies …and often much welcomed transition for parents!
In this blog I’ll talk you through the concept of night weaning, how you can prepare, common challenges and when I recommend you start.
Understanding Night Weaning
What is Night Weaning?
Night weaning is the process of gradually reducing and eventually eliminating nighttime feedings.
This transition helps babies sleep through the night without the need for feeding overnight.
Why would you want to night wean?
Sleep is essential for the healthy growth and development of our children. You won’t believe the benefits that 12 hours of restorative sleep has on all facets of our children’s health – physical, social and emotional (it’s genuinely a wonder drug!)
BUT…not only is it important for our children – a full night’s sleep will have a remarkable impact on us as parents, particularly the breastfeeding mother. Like our kid’s a full night’s sleep will benefit both your physical and mental health.
If you’ve followed me for a while you’ll know that I’m passionate about the emotionally available parent and a full night’s sleep helps you to be one!
PLEASE NOTE: Some parents and families feel very passionately about not night weaning and that’s OK – everyone gets to make their own choices in this department.
When to drop overnight feeds?
The ideal time to start night weaning varies for each child.
In the Dr Golly Sleep Program I don’t recommend dropping any night feeds until your baby is nice and robust and breastmilk supply has been established – , around 6 weeks old and 5-6 kg.
Parents are often surprised at what their baby is capable of and shocked that a 6 week old baby can comfortably sleep after a late night dream feed or roll over feed at 10-11pm through to their morning feed at 7am.
From 6 months old, once 3 solid meals a day has been established your baby is capable of sleeping a full 12 hours 7pm to 7am.
Please note: if you have a premature baby I recommend age correction with the sleep programs until 6 months of age.
Preparing for Night Weaning
How to Prepare for Night Weaning
Preparation is key.
My book (Your Baby Doesn’t Come with a Book) is a guide to the first 4 weeks of parenthood and my Preparation for Newborns 0-4 online Course are essentially setting you up with all the foundations of sleep and settling to prep you for night weaning.
- Removing all hurdles that could be cause discomfort for your baby
- One of the biggest causes of discomfort in my experience is an inadequately winded baby
- Creating a nice rhythm to your day feeding every 3-4 hours during the newborn period
- Creating a great sleep environment for your baby so they can learn to link sleep cycles and achieve the appropriate amount of day sleep
- Establishing a consistent bedtime/bath routine so your baby can anticipate the end of the day
The key is a comfortable, well-fed, appropriately rested baby during the day which will help you to gradually extend the time between night feedings to help your baby adjust.
Weaning from Night Breastfeeding vs. Bottle
The basic principles of night weaning are the same whether breastfeeding or bottle-feeding.
There’s a lot of old wives tales that breastfed babies are much harder to night wean than formula fed babies – the advantages of bottle fed babies (whether it’s breast milk or formula in the bottle) is:
- You now exactly the volume you are having for both their day and night feed (s)
- A baby can’t smell a bottle like they can when a breastfeeding mother (who is often) lying beside their cot – this is why I always advocate for the baby to be on the dad’s (no non breastfeeding parent’s) side of the bed
The power of dads and non breastfeeding parents during night weaning:
This is core to my philosophy and I want all dad’s and non breastfeeding parents to know night weaning is their time to SHINE!
See my blog on why below but in short if your baby wakes dads will have more luck settling them as fathers we don’t smell like breastmilk!
Strategies for Nighttime Feedings and Weaning
How to Wean Baby Off Night Feedings
There is a full guide to this in my Dr Golly Sleep Programs.
For younger babies it’s a gradual process. If your baby is over 12 months you can go straight ahead.
The key message I want all parents to know is that that the process you go through to drop night feedings doesn’t have to be a hellish or cruel – you’d be surprised by the amount parents who have followed my programs from day 1 that tell me how naturally it happened with no tears and no fuss (and how good they felt after a full nights sleep themselves!).
Cold Turkey vs. Gradual Weaning
Deciding between the ‘cold turkey’ method and gradual weaning depends on your baby’s age. You can only use the cold turkey approach if your baby is over 12 months and fully established on solids.
Gradual weaning a younger baby is often more effective, allowing both baby and parents to adjust to the new routine over a few nights and teaching them to love long stretches of restorative sleep from an early age.
Sleep Training and Night Weaning
I don’t like the term sleep training as it has such negative connotations – night weaning (if desired) is just part of a holistic sleep and settling approach and the basics like establishing a sleep association with a bedtime routine, room environment and settling techniques will all support the night weaning process. These approaches and systems will help your baby to learn to settle themselves and fall asleep independently.
Does Night Weaning Improve Sleep?
Yes, night weaning often leads to improved infant sleep patterns during the day. Your baby will wake up after a restorative sleep hungry and have a big feed first thing, they then sleep better through the day – it has a beautiful cyclical effect.
Overcoming A Common Night Feeding Challenge
One challenge that sometimes occurs, comes from families who have been following my sleep programs from day one… their baby who has been sleeping through the night since six weeks, all of a sudden starts waking again through the night as they approach 4 months.
See my blog on the 4 month sleep pro-regression for more information on this..
The other challenges are often not associated with night weaning but parents who are at the whits end waking up multiple times a night feeding – the biggest challenge is they are exhausted when they start out. If this is the case allow the non breastfeeding partner a couple of nights to recharge so they are fit and able to take on the process.
FAQs on Night weaning
Will I see a decrease in my milk supply?
Some parents worry about a decrease in milk supply when their baby drops off a feed in the middle of the night. While this could be a problem in the setting of low supply and a baby not gaining sufficient weight (if this is you I urge you to talk to your GP, Paediatrician or Lactation consultant) for the majority of babies and mothers your supply will match their daytime feed requirements with nice full feeds during the day.
How long does night weaning usually take?
In my experience if you’ve been following my programs from day 1 it will happen fairly organically as your baby moved from feeding every 3-4 hours to the 6 week sleep routine.
For those who haven’t been following my programs and are starting from scratch depending on the night feeding patterns it can take a week or so to sort out all the basics/sleep hygiene & remove hurdles and then the night weaning itself usually only take 2-3 nights before your baby transitions into the new normal -, you’ll be amazed at what your baby can do!
A good night’s sleep is closer than you think!
Night weaning is a journey that requires patience, consistency, and understanding.
Remember, each baby’s response to night weaning is unique, and it’s important to be attentive to your child’s needs during this process – you’ll find a variety of settling techniques in my programs to suit your parenting style and the temperament of your baby.
By following this advice and the assistance offered in drgolly.com programs you’ll have your baby (and you!) sleeping through the night before you know it
Whether your baby is approaching 6 weeks, 6 months, 12 months or in the toddler years, it’s never too late to start – sign up to my sleep programs today and get your whole family sleeping through the night!