Are you ready to night wean your baby? Wondering when and how to do it? We’ve got the keys to closing the kitchen at night. Read on for our best tips.
There comes a day in (almost) every mama’s life when she says, “It’s time.
Tell me how to wean night feedings.”
However you feed your baby, whether breast or bottle, we hear you.
We’ve been there.
If the time is right and you feel ready, read on, and let us guide you through this next phase.
In this article: 📝
- What does night weaning mean?
- When do babies sleep through?
- How do you know your baby is eating enough during the day?
- How do I wean my baby off night feeds?
- 10 Keys to night weaning success
- Do babies naturally stop night feeds?
- How long does it take to night wean?
- Can I stop night feeding cold turkey?
What does night weaning mean?
The basic idea of night weaning is to eliminate feeds that occur during “sleep” time.
First, a note: if night feeds are working for you and your baby, there’s no need to stop them.
You do you.
After all, as an adult, you may still wake for a glass of water or a cuddle from your partner.
And we have a friend who legit loves a midnight refrigerator raid 🙋.
But as the caretaker of a small human, regular night time wakings to feed can become exhausting.
We’d never suggest not attending to your baby’s need for comfort at night, especially if they are teething, ill, or experiencing a dreaded sleep regression.
But if your baby is simply eating at night out of habit, there are ways to nudge them away from nighttime feedings.
When do babies sleep through?
Sleeping through the night is considered a stretch of 6-8 hours.
These numbers can be deceptive though.
If you put your baby down at 7pm, this means they could wake at 1am for a feed, having just “slept through the night” for 6 hours.
Not quite so exciting.
If you add in a dream feed just before you go to bed, you can prolong this stretch though — more about that below.
Experts generally agree that by 6 months of age, most babies are able to sleep 6-8 hours at night without waking for a feed.
This assumes they are getting their full milk requirements during the day.
Remember, milk (breast or formula) is still the most important source of nutrition for your child at 6 months.
How do you know your baby is eating enough during the day?
By 6 months, a formula-fed baby will need about six to eight ounces a feed, four or five times in a 24-hour period.
It’s trickier of course to tell with a BF baby, but 6 or more wet diapers a day, golden yellow soft poop, and steady weight gain are generally signs baby is feeding well.
If baby checks these boxes and you’re ready to night wean, the last thing to do is check in with your pediatrician, and then you’re cleared for take off.
Ok, ok. But how?
How do I wean my baby off night feeds?
For breastfed babies:
If baby is just waking for a quick feed, less than 5 min say, you can stop the feed altogether and make use of other calming and settling tactics.
More on that below.
If they wake for more than one quick feed a night, try eliminating one feed every few days, and know that it may be an adjustment.
For both of you.
Be gentle with yourself if it takes longer than you thought.
If night feeds are longer than 5 minutes, try shortening them gradually over the course of a week or two.
This will give you, your baby and your breasts time to adjust.
You want to avoid engorgement and mastitis, which can happen if you wean too rapidly.
You can shorten the session by about 1 minute per night, and use other methods to comfort baby.
Keep in mind though if you hope to continue breastfeeding during the day, night weaning too early can lead to inadvertent day weaning, too, due a drop in your milk supply.
If this is something you want to avoid, you can see how your milk supply adjusts and keep one feeding and/or pumping session at night, if necessary.
For formula-fed babies:
If you’re looking for how to wean night bottle feedings of two ounces or less per night, you can cut those out altogether and use other methods to settle baby.
Because formula digests slower than breast milk, they really are unlikely to be waking from hunger at around six months.
If the bottle is more than 2 ounces per night, you will need a tapered approach.
Reduce the bottle by an ounce for two nights at a time, before dropping it again.
Once you reach 2 ounces or less, you can stop entirely.
10 Keys to night weaning success
1. Don’t rush into the nursery the moment you hear baby fussing.
Give baby a moment in case they settle themselves.
If they continue to fuss, then go in.
2. Make sure baby gets enough solids and or milk feeds during the day.
This will reduce the likelihood that they wake from hunger.
3. Remember it’s a learning process for everyone.
It helps to be consistent with your action plan, unless of course baby is unwell or teething.
Slow and steady wins the race 🐢.
4. Try dream feeding.
This is a feed you give after baby is already asleep, when you’re on your way to bed — for example, at 10pm.
You gently wake baby just enough so that they can feed, keeping the lights dim and the room quiet.
It might just be enough to get them through a longer stretch while you’re getting your all-important shut-eye.
5. You may need to wait.
Don’t start the process of night weaning if there are big changes afoot, like going back to work, vacations, or relocations.
6. Call on your community.
If your breastfed baby is still waking for milk and you’re sure they’re not hungry, ask your partner/parent/friend to handle some nighttime wakings, if possible.
Babies often accept alternative soothing methods more easily from someone other than their mother.
7. Trust your instincts.
You know what’s best for you both.
8. Look into other sleep and settling techniques.
These can help them go back to dreamland.
Offering a pacifier or lovey or making use of gentle music or a soft nightlight can help too.
9. Know that night weaning may not always mean extra zzzs. (Sorry.)
To keep things real, if it’s more sleep you’re after, this is a gentle reminder that night weaning might not necessarily mean baby will sleep through.
There are so many reasons babies wake.
But if you’re looking to reclaim a little bit of your body, or avoid having to trek down the stairs to make a bottle, night weaning can help.
10. Use the methods that feel best for you.
Studies have shown that there’s no difference in sleep patterns between breastfed and formula-fed infants.
Some are just more wakeful than others.
Do babies naturally stop night feeds?
A few do.
Some just take longer than others, and then there are babies that need a little extra help to get there.
How long does it take to night wean?
This is one of those things that may not go in a straight line.
You may feel like you take two steps forward and one step back some nights.
It all depends on baby’s readiness.
Feeding can be comforting, and a baby may look for more comfort over certain periods.
During big changes, like starting daycare or moving homes, a big developmental leap, or even if they’re getting a bit sick, they may wake more frequently.
It’s not that you’re doing anything wrong, it just is what it is.
So again, be gentle with yourself.
Can I stop night feeding cold turkey?
If baby’s feeds are short and more about settling back to sleep, you may be able to stop cold turkey.
But most experts recommend a gentle, slower process.
If nighttime feeds are something baby has come to expect, it can be hard for them to suddenly go without, so a gradual approach is often less distressing for everyone.
And there you have it, a simple, gentle guide to closing up nighttime room service.
If you want to chat with other moms about weaning or anything else, head over to the Peanut community.
Good luck, mama!