Night Weaning: Your Step-by-Step Guide
Little Yawn Collective - Apr 28, 2022
Since bringing them home from the hospital, you’ve been making multiple nightly trips to your baby’s crib to top off their tummy. You and your partner may have gone back to work, and now a good night’s sleep is crucial to getting through the day with some semblance of focus.
Now that your baby (and their tummy) can accommodate more milk, you may have noticed a drop in the number of times they wake to feed in the middle of the night. You may think to yourself, “if only we could just feed during the day and sleep through the night.”
If this is you, night weaning may be your new best friend.
Night weaning is helping your baby to make the transition from feeding both day and night to only during the day. It can be a process for you and your little one, who may find feeding until they fall asleep comforting. With a plan and consistency, you’ll be able to help your baby snooze longer without the nighttime feedings.
When Should You Start Night Weaning?
After bringing your baby home, you may be wondering when you’ll have a good night’s sleep again. The semi-good news is that with night weaning, you’ll certainly make fewer trips out of bed during the night for feedings, but you may still need to get up with your little one for diaper changes and some cuddle time.
All babies are different and grow at different rates. If your baby is growing steadily and at a healthy rate and is around four to six months of age, they will be able to make the long stretches of the night without waking up to feed.
How Night Weaning Can Help You Sleep
When your baby can make a five to six-hour stretch without night nursing during their first year, you’ll be able to enjoy some uninterrupted sleep.
Five or six hours may not seem like a lot, but being able to sleep this amount of time uninterrupted may make you feel fresh as a daisy compared to the multiple wakeups you were doing before.
Although the night weaning process is not the same as sleep training, the two can go hand in hand. When you teach your baby to self-soothe, they may naturally start to eat more during the day. You may also choose to move their feeding to the beginning of their bedtime routine and give your baby the full tummy to help them make it longer through the night, resulting in some quality sleep for everyone.
Night Weaning Step-By-Step
Step 1: Keep a Night Weaning Journal
Keeping a journal of all the times your baby wakes up to feed during the night is important so you have data you can work with.
If breastfeeding, track how long your baby feeds during the nursing session. If you are bottle-feeding, track how many ounces of formula they consume and how long it takes them to eat.
Step 2: Track How Many Times Your Baby Needs Milk at Night
Keeping an active record of your baby’s overnight feeds lets you know how often your baby needs milk during the night. You can then determine how much they are ingesting and gradually incorporate that amount during their daytime feedings.
If you are bottle-feeding, figuring out the amount your baby is ingesting is very easy. If you are breastfeeding, you’ll need to account for how long they are feeding and tack those minutes on during the day.
Step 3: Stick to a Schedule for Nighttime Feedings
Now that you have figured out how often your baby is feeding during the night and have a good idea of how much they ingest, you can start to schedule feedings.
Your goal is to move all of your baby’s feedings to the daytime, but this will need to be done gradually. Going cold turkey with the nighttime feedings will likely end in tears and sleep problems for everyone.
If your baby does wake up to feed, but it isn’t the time for a feeding, stay strong! Allow your baby some time to calm themselves. If you go right in to tend to them when they start to cry, your baby may come to expect that instant response.
Step 4: Give Your Baby Less Milk at Night
Gradually giving your baby less milk at night helps them transition to drinking more milk during the day and eventually not wanting to drink any milk during the night. Doing this will take some proactive planning and a little patience.
Look at your night weaning journal for guidance and the data on how much your baby has been ingesting. Start to give a few ounces less if bottle-fed and a few minutes less if breastfeeding. Tack those missing amounts to your daytime feeds to start the transition.
Step 5: Give Your Baby More Milk During the Day
Allow your baby to feed as much as they want during the day. You want to encourage your baby to consume their calories during the day instead of night.
Before your baby goes to bed at night, top off their tummy to help them sleep longer through the night. This will also help your baby not wake up with an empty tummy and be ready to nosh again early in the night.
Step 6: Reducing How Much Milk You Offer at Night
As you reduce milk supply at each feeding, start to eye the earliest feeding on their night schedule. Your goal is to get rid of that feeding and instead feed your baby a little more before they go to bed. As you gradually tack on more ounces during the day, you’ll be able to gauge how soon you can drop the other nighttime feedings.
Again, if your baby wakes and cries in the middle of the night, try to remain patient and see if they will self-soothe themselves to sleep. If too much time passes and they are still upset, rub their back and say soothing words.
Why Isn’t Night Weaning Working for Me?
Nighttime weaning can be a hurdle to cross for some babies. They find comfort in being with you at night, and a warm, full tummy is a nice feeling to fall asleep to.
Sometimes you’ll find that night weaning isn’t working, which is okay. Either there are easy fixes, or your baby may not be developmentally ready to give up those nighttime feedings. If your baby isn’t ready, try again in a few weeks, they will eventually get there.
Is My Baby Waking Up at Different Times?
If your baby is waking up at different times during night weaning, it can have a lot to do with the amount of food in their tummies. Since you are changing the time and amount they are being fed, their digestive system is also working on a different timetable.
When this occurs, send in reinforcements. Your baby may associate one parent with feeding, so sending in someone different for comfort can be helpful and also send the message that the milk tap is turned off for the night.
What if My Baby Doesn’t Want Milk During the Day?
There are several things to look for if your baby is refusing their bottle or the breast during the day. The first is making sure that you are feeding your baby in a peaceful setting. Turn off the TV, put away your phone, and make sure you are both in a dark and quiet place. This will keep distractions at bay, and your baby may turn their interest back to feeding.
If your baby doesn’t want milk during the day, make sure they are not suffering from reflux or teething symptoms. A quick trip to their pediatrician can rule out anything medical and gives you peace of mind.
Summing It Up
Chin up, parents! We know this is one of the hard parts of parenting. You may enjoy the bonding while feeding your baby in the wee hours of the morning but also value the time you have to sleep and re-energize yourself for the next day. Watching your baby grow up and getting used to new routines is what having a baby is all about, and you are doing a great job.
When it comes to routine, you know that your baby’s bedtime routine is one of the most important. During this time of night weaning, you may have to switch some things around to incorporate your baby’s last feeding.
You can keep the same by using Little Yawn Collective’s sleep solutions to ensure that you are creating the perfect environment to help your little one feel cozy and snoozy.
Our melatonin-free products are the perfect companion to your baby’s bedtime routine. Infused with our NaturalSnooze fragrance, your little buddy will feel relaxed and soothed with our scents of lavender, bergamot, and cedarwood.
Check us out, and see how we can help keep one part of the day, bedtime, a breeze!
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