Updated: Mar 8
Is your baby still waking up every 2 hours for a feed? Is the only way you can get your baby to go back to sleep by feeding? Are you exhausted and wondering how you can possibly night wean your milk monster? I got you.
Maybe you’re wondering when is the right time to night wean? Or you’re worried that you left it too late and will never be able to? Not to worry it is never too late to night wean your baby or toddler and the right time to night wean is when you are ready to do so.
Signs your baby is ready to night wean
Your baby is over 6 months of age
Your baby gets sufficient milk calories during the day (4-6 milk feeds, formula or breastmilk)
Your baby is established on solids (1-2 meals per day including protein)
Your baby’s thriving (weight and growth)
Your baby is not hungry first thing in the morning and you struggle with that morning milk feed
Your baby can self-settle and re-settle
Some babies will naturally start sleeping longer stretches at night and drop feeds as a result, while other babies will continue to wake up for feeds as a habit even though they no longer need the calories at night.
How many night feeds does your baby need?
First of all I want to provide you with a little guide as to how many night feeds your baby actually needs. This is provided that your baby feeds well during the day. Please note this is a guide only and can vary from baby to baby so best to check with your doctor before attempting to drop any night feeds.
0-3 months: Feed on demand
3 months: 2 feeds
4 months - 6 months: 1 feed
7 months - 8 months: No feeds if baby is well established on solids (2 meals, protein at lunch), can still offer 1 feed overnight
9 months: Can sleep through without a feed, provided solids are well established and protein is offered at lunch
How night weaning will affect breastfeeding mums
Once you stop breastfeeding overnight some hormonal changes happen, which can affect your mood and sleep. This is because you’re losing both the prolactin (well-being and calmness hormone, helping you go back to sleep after a night feed) and oxytocin hormone (love hormone) and the changes to your mood and sleep usually last for a few days or weeks. This change in mood is more noticeable if you decide to quit night feeds cold turkey so a more gradual night weaning approach is usually recommended.
If you have been relying on night-feeds to re-settle your baby overnight, you will also have to start re-settling your baby a different way which can be quite tough at 2 am when you’re exhausted and just want to go back to sleep. It’s best to be really committed to this change to make the transition easier.
What if your baby is ready to night wean but mum is not?
Some mums love those middle of the night feeds when the whole house is quiet and there are no other distractions and often find it hard to let go of that middle of the night bonding time. Please know this, you don’t have to night wean if you don’t want to and you will know when the right time is to night wean.
How to night wean
So you’ve decided to stop feeding at night and your baby is showing signs of readiness as well. You’re asking yourself how do I go about night weaning?
There’s a few different ways to night wean all depending on the age of your baby, how many times your baby is feeding overnight and whether your breastfeeding or formula feeding.
If your breastfeeding quite frequently still, you can gradually start to reduce the amount of feeds by feeding on some wake-ups and re-settling using a different method on others. This is where seeking help from a sleep consultant is helpful as they can help you come up with an overnight plan and an alternative settling method that teaches your baby to self-settle without hours of crying.
If you’re bottle feeding frequently still, then you can simply start to reduce the volume of formula given at each feed.
If your baby is only feeding once or twice overnight, you can consider cutting feeds out cold turkey and re-settling using a different method. A word of caution here is to be mindful what settling method you replace the feed with. If you decide to rock or hold to sleep instead or offering a water bottle, your simply replacing the feed to sleep association with a new association that will have to be weaned if your baby continues to wake up overnight. This is where a commitment to teaching your baby to self-settle while night weaning is a great idea. You can of course start off with rocking or holding your baby back to sleep and then gradually do less and less until your baby is ready to self-settle. As I always say, it’s only a problem if it’s a problem for you.
The good news is that some babies start sleeping through the night all on their own after you nightwear and you don’t need to do anything. Other babies will need some help going back to sleep as they were using those night-feeds to re-settle back to sleep overnight.
What if my baby is genuinely hungry at night?
If your baby is waking up overnight genuinely hungry than cutting night feeds is not recommended. These are the wake ups where your baby is eating all they can during the day and still wake up at night usually at different times.
This is not to be confused with habitual hunger where typically older babies will wake up at the same time each night for a feed. They are still experiencing feelings of hunger since they are eating less calories during the day because they are still feeding at night. Here you can start to gradually increase calories during the day by offering more solids and more volume in your baby’s bottles, while at the same time gradually reducing night feeds over 3-4 days. Again I don’t recommend cutting feeds cold turkey here as your baby is experiencing feelings of hunger.
Just know this, reach out for help if you need it. I’ve gone through the ups and downs of sleep regressions, frequent night feedings, night weaning myself and know how tough it can be.
I can help you come up with a personalised plan that suits your parenting style and your baby’s temperament. You can book in for a free 15 min chat now and find out how I can help you sleep again.