The one thing every new parent looks forward to is the day where their baby sleeps through the whole night. Realistically though, it’s not as easy as it sounds and does take some effort to get them to settle.
Want to go a night without having to wake up for a feed (or five)? Here are some helpful tips on night weaning and how to have a smooth transition.
How to start night weaning:
- Increase day feeds
- Have patience
- Have a helping hand
- Gradually decrease night feeds
- Include comforters
- Don’t give in
What Is Night Weaning?
In simple terms, night weaning is phasing out night feeds and a way to get your baby to sleep through the whole night. It’s no easy feat and does require patience and strength. Once it’s done, though, you’ll hopefully be able to have more than three hour’s sleep in a row again.
It’s an important milestone in an infant’s life and one that you will be thankful about. It does take time for them to get used to the new feeding hours and adjusted sleep patterns.
Is My Baby Ready?
Before attempting to wean your baby, consult with your pediatrician. You may feel like the time is right; however, your little one may not be ready just yet. Night weaning usually occurs as early as six months old. Don’t worry if they haven’t started yet; every baby is different.
Reasons why they may not be ready include:
- Needing comfort and contact
- Going through a developmental change
Your pediatrician will tell you when your baby is ready to start night weaning. As soon as they say it’s okay, start slowly and gradually increase your efforts.
How to Start Night Weaning
You’ve got the go-ahead from your pediatrician that you can begin the process, but you have no idea where to begin. Let’s be realistic, your baby will probably not sleep through the first few nights easily at all, but with time they will. Here are a few tried and tested methods to help.
Increase Day Feeds
A good step to consider is making sure that you are consistently giving your baby enough food during the day. If they are not hungry during the night, there is less of a chance that they will get up for a feed. Try feeding them more food around their bedtime so that their stomach is full.
If you increase the amount of formula or breast milk you give your little one, it will reduce the amount of times they get up for a night feed. If they’re on solids, try to offer more filling meals and snacks during the afternoon and evening.
Have a Helping Hand
Babies can get used to the smell of mom and they can associate you with feeding, especially if they smell your breast milk. Try having your partner get up for the nightly feeds instead.
Some people say even moving the crib to the other side of the bed helps reduce the amount of feeds that they want at night.
Gradually Does It
Don’t try and eliminate all the night feedings at once. It will never work and both you and your baby will find it very challenging. Instead, if you’re used to getting up four times a night, take it down to three for the first few days.
If your baby has a positive reaction to the process you can continue this method until there are no nightly feeds at all. This is a good process if your baby gets up a lot at night.
Shorten feeds and try to prolong the time until the next feed by patting their back. No matter their age, explain that nighttime is for sleeping and not for eating. You can gently soothe them and take your time with night weaning.
Don’t expect results within the first few days and more importantly, don’t give up. Allow time and flexibility for your child to get used to the changes that you are implementing.
Even if they only sleep for one hour longer than before, that’s great. It’s slow progress but it means you had an extra hour in bed than what you’re used to.
If you’re really struggling with night weaning and your baby is not taking to the process at all, speak to your pediatrician. They will be able to help you and guide you on your best course of action.
Try swapping milk for a comforter such as a teddy or a blanket. Babies usually wake up for comfort more than anything and having something there will aid them in sleeping longer.
Have the blanket or toy with you during the day when you feed the baby. Your child will start to associate the comforter as an extension of you. This will bring them comfort when they wake and help a lot with night weaning.
Don’t Give In
I know how hard it can be when you hear your baby cry. You just want to help them. If you give in and give them a night feed, you’ll have to start the whole routine again.
They will cry a little bit for the first few days and after that they should slowly be getting into the new routine. I was surprised at how quickly my baby girl took to it in just a couple of days.
If your little one is excessively crying, stop trying to wean them and try again when they are a little older. Every child is different and it may not be the right time to begin night weaning.
How Long Will It Take?
Night weaning is different for every baby and takes a different time, depending on your approach.
If you’re going to quit night feeds cold turkey, it should take your baby around three to four days to get used to it. Expect a lot of crying and an overly fussy baby in the first two nights though.
If you’re going to take a middle approach and cut the feeds in half at night, it may take you around a week and a half to have them weaned off. Doing it this way brings less fuss, but they will still be crying a lot over the first few days.
If you’re going for the gradual approach, it will take around three weeks for your baby to be fully weaned off feeds at night. There will be less fuss as the feeds are reduced little by little, but it takes a lot of time and patience.
Try whichever one is more suited to you and your lifestyle. If one technique doesn’t work, try another. When you and your baby get comfortable with a method, try not to change it as you may have to start the whole process from scratch.
You Can Do It!
It may feel like the biggest obstacle in the world at the moment, especially with the lack of sleep. Don’t worry. Everyone has to go through this at some point in their life and you are not alone. The main thing to remember is to listen to your baby. They will tell you when they are ready.
Take your time and don’t give in. After a few trying weeks, you will be able to have your first full night’s sleep since before they were born. You got this.