Thinking about night weaning your baby? Many older babies still nurse for comfort overnight but may not necessarily still need the calories. You, on the other hand, may truly be needing the “extra” sleep you’re “losing” when you feed the baby multiple times a night!
Research shows that exclusively breastfeeding parents get MORE sleep than combo feeding or formula feeding parents– but that doesn’t mean you couldn’t use a few more minutes of shuteye.
I have a written plan for gentle weaning that I share with my clients, with great success.
But don’t take my word for it…
Is your baby ready to night wean?
Before you start the process of night weaning your baby, though, you need to make sure the following conditions are met:
- Baby is gaining weight well, healthy, and meeting milestones appropriately
- Baby is 12 months or older (my personal rule- because by 12 months your milk supply is well established, and because research shows 50% of 12-month-olds still need parental intervention to fall back asleep)
- Baby is eating well during the day and not reverse cycling
If these conditions are met and you’re ready to try my method of gentle night weaning, proceed to step 1!
Gently night wean your baby, step 1: READY, SET...
Get baby ready to night wean (do for at least 2 weeks before moving on)
- Begin using non-nursing cues at bedtime (a bath, reading a book, white noise or sleepy music, calming scents like lavender or chamomile, a lovey, etc) that will continue once night nursing stops- this will create consistency.
- If you have a partner, get them highly involved in the bedtime ritual. Try to take a step back and allow your partner to take over as much as possible.
- Attempt nursing to *almost* asleep, and using the bait-and-switch to unlatch baby and have them suck on your finger instead until they fall asleep. A pacifier also works!
Gently night wean your baby, step 2: GO!
- First, remember that night waking is normal and happens to people of all ages. Baby may continue to wake up at night- your goal is to get baby back to sleep without breastfeeding.
- At bedtime, tell your baby that it’s time to sleep and ______ (your word for nursing/breastfeeding) is going to sleep, too. Tell them _______ will be back when the sun is shining.
- Nurse baby at bedtime as usual, using the cues above throughout the night.
- When/if baby wakes in the night, follow your bedtime cues as developed in step 1. Hold baby, rock baby, comfort baby, but don’t offer the breast. Repeat that _____ went to sleep and will be back in the morning.
- Offer your finger or a pacifier if baby needs to suck to fall back asleep. Offer a sippy cup of water to see if baby is thirsty.
- If you have a partner, get them involved here! If you can remove yourself from night wakings altogether, weaning will be easier for you & baby.
Important tips and notes for night weaning
Baby will probably cry. You are NOT letting baby cry-it-out. You aren’t leaving baby to cry alone; you are with baby, soothing and comforting. Baby will be mad that things are different but baby won’t feel abandoned or unloved.
In birthing, lactating parents, fertility usually returns once the body maintains a consistent 8 hour stretch without producing milk- just stopping pumping at work or stopping night feeds (and not fully weaning) will allow ovulation to resume. If you are hoping to get pregnant again now, this will be to your advantage… but if you will need birth control, GET IT IN PLACE NOW because ovulation is very likely to occur before periods resume!
Gentle night weaning takes a long time and is often the hardest part of weaning. Be kind and forgiving to yourself and your partner (if you have one). Night time might get harder before it gets easier, but consistency will be your new best friend.
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