Updated: Jan 28, 2022
Many breastfeeding moms are searching the internet “How to Night Wean”…are you one of them? You aren’t alone! It is important to know that some older babies still nurse for comfort but may not need the extra calories, yet many older babies do need those extra calories. So, how does one know that it’s time to try gentle night weaning?
Is your baby ready to night wean?
Let’s make sure you and your baby meet the following conditions:
Baby is gaining weight well without intervention (those night feedings may be what help baby gain weight).
Baby is healthy according to your pediatrician.
Baby is meeting milestones appropriately.
Baby is eating well during the day and not reverse cycling.
Baby is not going through a growth spurt.
Your milk supply is established (typically by 16 to 20 weeks postpartum but different for every mom).
Do you and your baby meet these conditions?
Great! Let’s move forward with a gentle night weaning method I share with my own clients.
Prepare for night weaning.
This may take a few weeks, so remember to have patience.
Begin a bedtime routine that involves sleepy cues such as a warm bath, reading a book, sleepy music, etc. These will continue on after night nursing ends. Be consistent.
Bring your partner into the routine if you can. You may even desire to take a step back and allow your partner to take over with much of the routine. This will depend on your own emotions and goals.
You can still nurse before bedtime but this time, attempt to nurse to “almost” asleep by gently unlatching your baby and replacing your nipple with a finger or a pacifier.
Attempt to maximize daytime nursing sessions. Encourage baby to nurse more often during the day (maybe every 2 hours instead of every 3 hours).
It’s time to begin!
You have completed the steps above and they are going well. Now it’s time to learn if baby is truly ready for dropping those nighttime feedings. Remember, night waking is normal and happens to people of all ages.
Limit access to the breast. If you are bed sharing, try a “side car” style infant bed or you may feel ready to move baby into their own crib detached from your own bed. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that the best place for a baby to sleep is in his parents’ bedroom until at least 6 months, but even better is until 12 months. Studies show this helps reduce the risk of SIDS.
When baby wakes, use other methods of calming your baby. Remember to involve your partner if you can. Offer a pacifier or your finger if baby needs to suckle, and then remove slowly when baby begins to drift off. Sometimes a gentle pat and placement of your hand on their chest is what they need.
Baby may cry. I do not suggest leaving your baby to cry alone. Soothe your baby. If you are weaning a toddler, try talking to her about nursing in the morning. Give them a visual of when the next nursing session is.
Did you make it to the finish line?
It’s ok if you are still attempting to wean your older baby or toddler from these precious nighttime feedings. Some babies and toddlers truly do need these nursing sessions, and that’s ok! There are studies that show by one year of age, 50% of babies require parental intervention to get back to sleep after waking. Remember to recheck the list I mentioned in the beginning. Babies go through many changes and night waking is going to happen. So, even if it’s not to breastfeed, your baby might still wake one or more times overnight.
Rest assured your little one will eventually sleep all night with time. If you reached your goal and both parties are happy, congratulations! Enjoy those extra hours of rest!
Thanks for sharing your valuable breastfeeding knowledge with Serenity Sleepers!
As a breastfeeding mom of 3 children, I understand how challenging the night weaning process can be. Are you finding that you need extra help laying sleep foundations during the night weaning process? Learn More
Leah K. Brown BS, IBCLC I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology. My background is in animal care, specific to marine animals. After the birth of my first child, however, I became a stay-at-home momma. Due to my passion for breastfeeding and the miracle that is mother's milk, I pursued the four year long pathway to IBCLC certification. After completing my two year clinical internship in 2016 with Kate, I passed my board exam and was notified of my new IBCLC certification status! A wonderful day! I truly enjoying helping moms and babies with breastfeeding and lactation goals through a variety of support methods. I also enjoy empowering expecting parents by meeting prenatally to discuss goals and "what to expect" from breastfeeding and lactation, in the comfort of their own home. My husband and I have two beautiful, rambunctious boys. In my spare time I enjoy volunteering for my local Community Pregnancy Center, baking, spending time with my family, watching movies and exploring the outdoors. Leah is currently partnered with Lactation Network, an organization that helps moms and moms-to-be get the breastfeeding help they deserve, covered by insurance. Please visit our Insurance and Fees page for more info. Leah serves Sumner, Trousdale, Macon, Smith, Wilson, North Rutherford, West Putnam and East Davidson Counties. Email: email@example.com she/her