Night Weaning – by Jenna

Night weaning is a touchy subject for some, for others it is a life changing process. Some mothers are happy to wake up multiple times for a feed and even enjoy this time spent with their babies. If this is you, then there is really no reason to stop. For others the lack of sleep can affect your entire being, making it difficult to function normally let alone look after children. When night wakings are affecting your life this much, it might be worth considering night weaning.

All babies are different, but most of them will be ready to sleep for noticeably longer stretches by the age of 6 months. Bear in mind that sleeping through the night is a developmental milestone that babies tend to reach in their own time. While night weaning will reduce the amount that you are actually feeding, it may not eliminate night wakings altogether. By weaning, you are simply teaching your baby that she no longer needs milk in order to go back to sleep… and hopefully getting a few of those extra and much needed hours yourself.

Before attempting to night wean:

  • Make sure that both you and your partner are ready and 100% on the same page. Dad can sometimes be a better source of comfort in the night as he simply cannot provide milk.
  • Do it at a time when your baby is well settled and healthy. Do not attempt to night wean if there has been a big change in your baby’s routine or if your baby is teething or sick.
  • Make sure that your baby is comfortable (not too hot or too cold)
  • Ensure that your baby is in fact getting enough to eat. As she gets older and becomes more active she may not take time out in the day to nurse and so she will want to make up for it at night. Try feeding her in a calm and quiet space during the day to limit distractions. You may even want to increase the frequency of day feeds if necessary.
  • Keep in mind that feeding is a form of comfort as well as nutrition for your baby. While you are taking milk away, there is no need to take that security and comfort away too.
  • Stick to your plan for a week. It is unfair on all of you to chop and change. If things are really not going well after one week then consider stopping and trying again at a later stage.
  • Remember that getting your baby to sleep is not a battle that needs to be won. The real goal should be for your family to get the sleep that they need while respecting the needs of your baby.

The process:

  •  A bedtime routine is extremely important when it comes to night weaning. This tells your baby that it is in fact nighttime at that she is getting ready for a long stretch of sleep.
  •  After bath time, settle and dress your baby in a calm and quiet space
  • Offer the last feed of the day
  • Settle your baby in her cot with a comfort tool such as a special blanky / dummy
  • When baby wakes tell her it is not time for milk and that she can have milk in the morning. Giver her a dummy and her blanky and walk out of the room.
  • She will most like cry. remember that this is not a battle! It is ok to pick her up, settle her down and then put her back into her cot… just don’t feed her.
  • If after numerous times of settling she is still crying, offer water
  • Continue to do this as many times as it takes, remembering that this is not a war you are fighting, you are simply trying to teach your baby to fall asleep without milk.
  • Set a time in the early hours of the morning in which you would be happy to feed. some babies will have a small feed between 4 and 5am and then go back to sleep until 7am. If this works for you, then go right ahead and do it.
  • You will most likely notice that each night your baby needs less and less comforting and by the third night she may not even need to be picked up before settling back to sleep.
  • Remember that there are no rules for this. If it doesn’t work for you then switch things around until you find something that does. Just be fair to your baby and give whatever you try time to work before throwing in the towel.

Lastly, approach night weaning gently and with love. Keep in mind that children do grow out of night waking, even when we do nothing to encourage it. …This too shall pass.

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