Night Weaning

Mothers sometimes wonder at what age their babies are ready to eat less at night or night weaning. There is no accurate answer because some babies aged four to six months eat enough during the day to last them several hours in the night while other older babies may continue to feed at night. This article will explain when is the best time to night wean your baby as well as how to night wean your baby.

When to Night Wean Your Baby

Some experts believe that night weaning may begin when a baby is about four to six months old. However, you may notice that even if a baby is not hungry at night she may continue waking up and wanting to feed. This may be due to her habit of feeding several times in the night, and it may take some time for you to change this behavior.

This routine can cause chronic sleep deprivation for mothers, who may decide it is best to night wean their babies. There are easy cases when even if other mothers continue to nurse or bottle-feed their babies at night, babies usually give up feeding at night and sleep longer hours on their own.

It is also advisable to talk to pediatrician to help you decide if you can night wean your baby based on her growth and your own situation. The following tips can help quicken the night weaning process and make it easier at the same time.

How to Night Wean Your Baby

Here are some practical tips to night wean your baby:

  • Start the night weaning process gradually by nursing your baby for shorter periods or by giving her smaller amounts of bottled milk at night. Prolong intervals between her feedings by comforting the baby with gentle pats until asleep.
  • Give your growing baby enough to eat during the day especially as she becomes more active. Be sure to schedule some breaks for feeding during the day to reduce feeding at night.
  • Offer extra feedings to your baby in the evening to avoid hunger while sleeping. You can also give a final feeding before you go to sleep.
  • Avoid night weaning during times of transition, such as vacations or when you return to your work. If you work during the day, cuddle your baby more when you are together so she will not seek comfort at night.
  • Ask your partner to help comforting the baby at night when she cries. Your scent or the smell of breast milk may make her want feeding. You can also place the baby's bassinet near your partner's side.
  • Eliminate feedings gradually by comforting the baby and telling her to sleep. Avoid picking her up and speak firmly that she will eat in the morning. Although she may not understand words, she will get your meaning as you soothe her with gentle pats. Babies usually cry only for a couple of nights while adapting to night weaning.
  • If your baby continues crying several nights in a row, hold night weaning and try again after another week.
  • Allow the baby to sleep at a distance from you, either in a bassinet or a mattress in another room or at the foot of your bed. When she wakes up you or your partner can comfort her to sleep and return to your own bed.
  • Sleep away from the baby in another room and let her sleep next to your partner for a few nights. Being away from mom's breast can reduce wakefulness at night and she will soon learn to accept dad's comfort.

Watch these videos for more tips on night weaning tips:


Is Night Weaning Good or Bad?

Child health experts have different views on night weaning. Richard Ferber, pediatrician and author of Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, says that unnecessary feedings at night may cause some sleep problems. He believes that a baby may wake up several times at night to eat, which can lead to wet diapers or digestion problems. These may cause waking up several times and lead to vicious cycles.

On the other hand, Dr William Sears writes that night feedings strengthen the bond between child and parent. He advises that parents should not rush night weaning as long as feedings are not too disruptive. His book, The Baby Sleep Book, offers strategies to make night feeding easier.

The decision to night wean must be considered based on what is good for the family, as with other parenting decisions.


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