How to gently night wean your baby

how to gently night wean your baby, a step-by-step guide

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…

Just wanted to share some positive news that (the baby) has been sleeping through the night since last Tuesday - for one WHOLE WEEK! Thanks to your guidance/plan - it WORKED. You're a genius.
Acton, MA
breastfeeding babies can be night weaned after age 12 months if they are healthy and gaining weight well
Even normal, healthy babies wake up during the night. Heck... so do adults!

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:

If these conditions are met and you’re ready to try my method of gentle night weaning, proceed to step 1!

baby and mother preparing for bed
I hate to break it to her, but this baby does NOT appear sleepy.

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!
This night weaned baby is sleeping like a... baby.

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.
two moms so happy that their night weaned baby is asleep
Night weaning makes all parents happy and gorgeous! (Not really, but we can dream...)

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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13 thoughts on “How to gently night wean your baby

  1. My baby is struggling to eat solids and we have been battling this since 6mths of age. Her weight has not been the best and we see dieticians, paediatricians etc I want to night wean my 11month old and totally wean her when she turns one. Can I night wean her now even though she’s not eating solids properly. I need to be back at work so have to wean her!

    1. Hi, if she isn’t eating solids well you need to make sure that she is able to get all the ounces of milk and calories she needs during the “daytime” hours. It’s numbers game in terms of calories and nutrition- they have to be eating SOMETHING healthy!

  2. Hello my son is 10 months old, he wakes up 5x at night to fall asleep on nursing, he only falls alseep on his own at 830ish w baby music but after that wants to nurse whenever he wakes up, dont know how to wean him off, should I start by decreasing each time or rock him every other time he wakes up? Or let him cry it out?

  3. My twins wake up every night 3-4 x each. I nurse them back. Every time it is very exhausting. I’ve tried give them sippy cup but that not working. I’ve been drinking no more milk tea. Hopefully this work

  4. My son is 18 months and in the room, crying as I type this because he wants to nurse after waking in the middle of the night. I am trying to ween him because breastfeeding to putting too much pressure and stress on my body in addition to waking up every single night when he wakes. It sounds like from the rest of these post that I am not allow in sleep deprivation, I just would hate to force weening him and still suffer from sleepless nights because he’s waking throughout the night. Lord send me an angel because I’m going to need it!

  5. Hi Rachel,

    Thanks for the great article!

    I am wondering what you think in our situation?

    I have tried twice, unsuccessfully, to night-wean my 22 month old daughter. The first time, she was teething at some point, so I gave her the boobies for comfort… the second time, she got a cold, so the boobies returned to support her immune system. Now, whenever she wakes at night and the boobies are sleeping, she asks for food – and I quickly got tired of sleep-walking to the kitchen to give her food in the wee hours, so we are breastfeeding until she goes to sleep. My daughter does not have a very big appetite for food – like my first child, she seems to ‘save her appetite’ for breastmilk. I offer her a wide variety of things to eat and she ‘grazes’ all day long… if we try to keep food to snack and meal times, she is constantly asking for food, whining and unhappy… we co-sleep and I would like to transition her to her own bed really soon (we are moving house next month and she will have her own bedroom – my hope is to transition her to there, or that she will co-sleep with her older sister – what do you think of siblings bed-sharing? They both seem to like the idea, only the little one is awake too much at night to do that just yet). Do you suggest to continue co-sleeping while weaning? My little one is very assertive and ‘helps herself’ whenever she feels like it, although I put my boundaries when I need to. I am lost about what to do next, about how to fill her belly better with food so she needs less milk, and about which step to take next – night-weaning or stop bed sharing? I would be so grateful to hear your advice and perspective on our situation!

    Thanks so much!

  6. My daughter in 1year 2months old I’m failing to wean her at night. My cousins said they used neem oil on nipple to wean off as it tastes bitter and bad. But my girl doesn’t care for taste or smell she latches anyway. She doesn’t take pacifier or bottle to feed. I don’t know what to do.

  7. If baby refuses a pacifier, and therefore the bait and switch, what do you suggest? My son is two and has never accepted a paci. He sounds a lot like Carolyns baby above.

    1. Hi, he’s two years old or two months old? I’m a little confused about why he needs to take a bottle!

  8. My son is 10 months now and I am doing my research so we can night wean at 1. He wakes about 6 times a night! It is exhausting. He even wakes mid-nap and needs to be nursed back to sleep so I cant even nap myself! This, plus working, waking at 430 to get ready, is slowly killing me. Of I only knew nirsing to sleep would become this, I never would have started!

    1. I’m sorry Carolyn, that sounds really rough. If it helps- and I don’t know if it will- lots and lots of babies wake up repeatedly all night long, no matter how they eat or how they fall asleep. Don’t blame yourself for this!

    2. I’m curious about your case. Could get your baby sleep through the night at 1yo? How was the process?
      Mine is 7mo and I’m aleready desperate. The sleep depravation is killing me and I haven’t been able to go back to work because of that and the imposibility of at least get him to take good naps since he keeps catnapping.

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