How & When to Wean Night Feeds
Struggling to wean your little one off of night feeds and fear that this is the only thing stopping you both from getting a full night’s rest? If so, you’re in the right place. I’m breaking down exactly what you need to know about how and when to wean night feeds, plus, I’m giving you three simple tips that will leave you feeling empowered and confident that you can do this!
The First Thing You Need to Know About Night Weaning
The very first thing to know is when to start the weaning process. Here are some things to keep in mind when determining if your baby is ready to sleep through the night without a feed.
You’ve spoken to your pediatrician and they have given you the OK to begin the weaning process. This is super important as you want to make sure that your baby is getting enough calories during this period of rapid growth!
It’s normal for your baby to need two night feeds between the ages of 3-6 months.
Your baby may need one nighttime feed until 9 months old.
With all this being said, it’s super important to note that starting this weaning phase is only going to be possible if you are making sure your baby is getting plenty of feeds to keep up with how many calories they require per day.
If we are cutting out that nighttime feed, it’s important to make up for that during the day when your baby is awake. This will likely look like feeding your babe roughly every 2 ½ to 3 hours during waking hours.
If your baby is old enough, you will want to speak with your pediatrician about incorporating solid foods into the mix as well.
Keeping up with more regular daytime feeds is going to make it much easier to wean, as your baby will be less likely to wake up hungry.
What About Dream Feeds?
Ah, the dream feed. It’s something many of us have leaned on as a crutch, but here’s the thing — I personally think that making sure that your baby is getting enough feeds during the day is a better approach than offering a dream feed. This way, you’re letting your baby lead you with night feeds with parameters. For example, a baby that is 6 months old may need 1 night feed at least 6 - 7 hours after their bedtime feed. This means that if your baby is 6 months old, and wakes before this 6 hour mark, then you should stick with your sleep training method instead of offering them a feed. A dream feed can lead to habit, and more importantly the first chunk of sleep after your baby goes to bed is the most restorative so by offering a dream feed you could disrupt the sleep they need.
3 Additional Tips to Start Weaning Night Feeds
Now that you know the basics, here are three additional tips to help you get started, and hopefully feel more confident in taking a big step in helping both you and your baby sleep through the night!
#1 Separate Feeding Times From Sleep Times
It’s important to separate feeds from sleep (including naps). Offering a feed right before sleep can lead to sleep feed association. Always feed after your baby wakes.
#2 Slow & Steady!
We don’t want to abruptly take those nighttime feeds away, so slow and steady wins the race. Start slowly, making sure that you are giving your baby plenty of feedings during the day, and slowly wean them by offering a little less at night instead of stopping all at once.
Tip: If you’re bottle feeding, try decreasing your feeds by one ounce per night as a gentle approach to weaning. If you are breastfeeding offer them less time at the breast. In both situations make sure your baby doesn't use the feed to fall back to sleep (a.k.a. feeding association).
#3 Offer a Large Feeding Before Your Nighttime Routine
Since I encourage clients to keep their feeds away from sleep to avoid creating that sleep feed association, you can offer a large feed before you start your bedtime routine — just be sure to space it far enough away from when those lights go out, and even better offer this feed outside of your baby's bedroom or wherever they sleep (living room, family room are acceptable places to offer the feed).
You Got This!
Weaning off the night feeds can be stressful for every parent, and if you’re struggling, you are definitely not alone. Try these tips to see how they work for you, and if you still need help, reach out! We can create an individualized plan to help you, your baby, and the whole family finally get that restful night’s sleep you’ve been daydreaming of!