After months of nighttime nursing, you may have noticed that your baby wakes fewer times in the night, and they might even be taking less milk as they grow bigger.
Saying goodbye to your baby’s night feeds for good is a huge milestone, for both you and your baby, and during this time, it’s important to know the signs that they might be ready to drop their nighttime feedings and the ways to help nudge your baby in the right direction.
This stage of your baby’s development is known as night weaning and is the first step towards your baby sleeping through the night.
When do babies stop feeding at night?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, by six months, babies are physically able to sleep a full eight hours non-stop without eating. At this age, most babies are getting enough food during the day for healthy growth and development. If you've started weaning your baby they’ll also begin to crave milk less once they have started solid foods too.
If your baby is showing signs they’re ready for night weaning before this age, however, then give it a go. As a general rule, babies no longer metabolically need nighttime feedings when they reach the 12-13 pound mark.
When to start night weaning
Whether you’re finally ready for a full night of undisturbed sleep or you want to work off your baby’s cues, when you choose to drop your baby’s night feed is of course up to you and your parenting style. However, bear in mind the age and weight markers before you start night weaning. Some cues to look out for when considering dropping night feeding are:
Their night feeding is beginning to disrupt their sleep.
They are not eating much.
They have begun to wake repeatedly after their typical feeding.
These are all indicators that the nighttime feed may not be needed and that your child may be waking for some reason besides hunger.
Be sure to check in with your paediatrician before you start night weaning.
How to begin night weaning
After months of snuggles and snacking in the night, your baby will be very much used to being fed when waking up. That’s why it’s a good idea to go for a gradual approach to night weaning rather than going cold turkey, to help ease into that transition for both breastfed babies and bottle-fed babies.
There are a few ways you can try weaning your baby off their night feed:
Make sure they’re eating enough in the day: If your baby isn’t yet on solids, they should be feeding every two to three hours during the day (24 to 32 ounces over a 24 hour period for bottle-fed babies).
Drop one feed at a time: You can do this by extending the time between each feed or shortening the time baby has on boob or bottle to help them get used to the lesser amount.
Pump: Your breasts might be feeling a lot more full and tender once you start to feed less during the night, which is why it’s a good idea to pump before going to bed.
Dream feeding: Giving your baby a feed before you go to sleep is a good idea to help them hopefully sleep for longer without waking up (and without waking you up!).
Let baby fuss: As with all sleep training, it’s important not to rush into the baby's room as soon as you hear them rousing. Leave them a while and they may even fall asleep again by themselves. If you do go in to check on them, try not to make too much of a fuss and get them excited.
How long will it take?
Using a gradual method, it could take a few weeks for your baby to get used to their new routine. The key is to be consistent for a good few weeks, even when your baby continues to wake up in the night.