Is your baby sleeping through the night yet? When your baby reaches a certain age, you can drop feedings at night and focus on nutrition during the day.
What is night weaning? Night weaning is when you gradually stop breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your baby at night during the hours they sleep. Newborn babies need feedings around the clock, but as a baby gets older and gains weight appropriately, you can start dropping feedings until your baby sleeps through the night.
Read on to learn about night weaning according to your baby’s age.
Do Babies Naturally Wean at Night?
Yes, babies naturally wean at night as they get older and start to sleep longer stretches at night.
Healthy babies older than six months can go without eating for many hours. Some babies take longer to wean than others because they get comfort from the bottle or breast.
Why Is Night Weaning Important?
Night weaning is important because it breaks the habit of getting up in the middle of the night so that the baby — and mommy! — can get enough sleep.
Night weaning also helps the baby be hungrier for food and milk during the day so that they can begin transitioning to solid foods.
How Do You Know When To Night Wean?
If you’re considering night weaning your baby, look out for these signs before starting:
- Your baby is about five or six months old.
- Your baby is at least 14 pounds.
- Your baby’s night feeding is interrupting their sleep.
- Your baby isn’t eating much during the night feeding.
- Your baby has started waking up more than once after their usual night feeding.
- Your baby is breastfeeding or bottle-feeding more at night than during the day.
Talk to your baby’s pediatrician before night weaning if you have any concerns related to their medical history or weight gain.
Night Weaning Age
Generally, babies are usually ready for night weaning at around six months or older. It takes some babies almost a full year to night wean, so be patient with your baby and yourself!
Breastfed Baby Night Weaning Age
The night-weaning age for a breastfed baby is typically around 12 months. Breastfed babies look to the breast for comfort, not just nutrition.
It might be challenging to know if your baby had enough milk during the day if you’re not pumping. Follow your baby’s cues, and wean when they’re ready.
Formula-Fed Baby Night Weaning Age
The night-weaning age for a formula-fed baby is usually around six months or later.
Since formula takes longer to digest than breastmilk, your baby most likely isn’t waking up from hunger if they wake up in the middle of the night. Try to soothe them with something other than the bottle.
How Many Nights Does It Take To Night Wean?
The number of nights it takes to night wean depends on your approach. Some parents prefer to wean their babies gradually to ease their children into a new routine.
In that case, you can plan to spend a few weeks night weaning your baby. Eliminating night feeds cold turkey will take about three days.
How To Night Wean
Follow these steps for night weaning your baby:
- Get rid of any discomfort: Your baby might be getting up in the middle of the night to get comfort from you through the breast or bottle. Teething, illness, room temperature, or tummy troubles may keep your baby up at night.
- Focus on feeding during the day: If a baby eats enough food during the day, they won’t be asking for food in the middle of the night. Feed your baby more often during the day without any distractions to give them enough nourishment to sleep.
- Get help from Dad: Ask your partner to comfort your baby at bedtime and in the middle of the night so your baby stops expecting feedings after bed. Dad can help soothe baby by cuddling, offering water, or lying next to your baby.
Night Weaning Breastfed Baby
When night weaning a breastfed baby, it’s best to drop night feedings gradually. Breastfed babies look to nurse for comfort in the middle of the night.
Start off slowly by shortening night-feeding sessions or cutting them out altogether. Then, you can start settling and soothing them in other ways.
A baby will eventually learn to fall asleep on their own, but at a young age, they need as much comfort and assurance as possible.
Night Weaning Bottle-Fed Baby
You can begin night weaning a bottle-fed baby after six months of age. During this time, your baby is most likely not getting up because of hunger since formula takes longer to digest than breastmilk.
In that case, you can comfort them with other settling techniques, such as rocking or shushing.
Night Weaning 6-Month-Old
When night weaning a 6-month-old baby, it’s best to drop night feedings gradually. Reduce the time spent on the breast or bottle by a few minutes every other night.
You should also unlatch your baby when they’ve stopped actively sucking so they don’t hang on for comfort.
Night Weaning 9-Month-Old
Night weaning a 9-month-old baby is similar to night weaning a 6-month-old. By this point in development, your baby should’ve started solids, so they’ve naturally dropped feedings throughout the day.
Your baby may crave more feedings at night because of the 9-month sleep regression.
At nine months old, your baby experiences many developmental changes from teething to learning how to crawl and stand. These milestones can affect your baby’s routine and make it challenging to sleep fully through the night.
Follow your baby’s cues, find ways to settle them without milk, and be sure to give them enough milk and snuggles during the day.
Night Weaning 1-Year-Old
When night weaning a one-year-old, offer as much comfort and assurance as possible.
At this age, babies already have a healthy diet of solid foods, so they usually don’t need milk in the middle of the night. Instead, they might be going through separation anxiety.
Since babies at this age are most likely nursing or taking formula at night for emotional support, you’ll need to wean your baby gradually. Try other techniques to soothe them at night instead of offering the breast or a sippy cup.
Night Weaning Toddler
Night weaning a toddler involves changing their bedtime routine so they get assurance and support before going to sleep.
Toddlers may wake up for one or more night feedings due to the need for comfort. Make nursing part of the bedtime routine, such as after bathtime or reading.
As with night-weaning children of any age, you should gradually decrease the time spent nursing in the middle of the night. Once the feed gets short enough, you can drop it altogether.
Now that your child is older, you can explain that it’s not time for milk in the middle of the night and distract them with other soothing methods. Give your child enough time during the day so they don’t miss you at night.
Night Weaning and Sleep Training
You can night wean and sleep train at the same time. Sleep training involves teaching a child how to sleep independently.
Instead of having them rely on milk to fall asleep, you can teach them new soothing techniques. Then you can gradually drop night feedings one at a time.
Cold Turkey Night Weaning
Even though many parents choose to drop night feedings gradually, you can night wean your baby cold turkey.
This option may work for your family if your baby doesn’t drink a lot of milk throughout the night. Give your baby a complete feeding about a half hour before bedtime.
Cold-turkey night weaning can lead to clogged ducts in breastfeeding mothers. Even if your baby isn’t waking up to feed, you may need to pump to relieve engorgement. Gradually stop pumping over the course of a few weeks.
Does Night Weaning Improve Sleep?
Yes, night weaning improves sleep, but not right away. When your baby starts sleeping through the night, the whole family will have more rest.
However, if you only want to wean at night because you’re exhausted, keep in mind that it may take a few weeks before your baby drops all night feedings.
Does Night Weaning Decrease Milk Supply?
Yes, most mothers experience a decrease in milk supply when night weaning their babies.
As long as your baby is getting enough nutrition during the day, this drop in milk supply won’t affect your breastfeeding experience with your baby, but it’s best to wean gradually to avoid engorgement.
Can Baby Sleep Through Hunger?
Yes, a baby can sleep through hunger. If your baby is older than six months and is gaining enough weight, they can sleep through the night without waking up due to hunger.
During infancy, offer plenty of breastmilk or formula throughout the day to make sure your baby gets enough nutrition.
How To Tell if Baby Is Waking From Hunger or Habit
One of the telltale signs that your baby is waking from hunger is that they won’t go back to sleep right away, even after being comforted. A baby waking from habit will usually doze off after crying for a few minutes.
Signs Baby Is Hungry While Sleeping
The signs that a baby is hungry while sleeping include:
- The baby needs to eat before falling asleep instead of falling asleep on their own.
- If the baby wakes up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep without feeding.
- Your baby hasn’t started solids yet.
- Your baby wakes up in the morning and gulps the milk down quickly.
Can I Give Baby Water Instead of Milk at Night?
Yes, you can give your baby water instead of milk at night. Even adults wake up in the middle of the night due to thirst.
Offer your baby water in a sippy cup instead of milk when other soothing techniques, such as rocking or shushing, don’t work after a few minutes.
Tips for Night Weaning
If you’re considering night weaning, follow these tips:
- Check with your baby’s pediatrician if you’d like to start night weaning and have any concerns.
- You can start night weaning when your baby is gaining enough weight.
- Promote independent sleep with soothing techniques besides nursing your baby to sleep.
- Shorten night feedings a little bit at a time, or quit cold turkey.
- If you stop night feedings cold turkey, you should pump if you’re breastfeeding to prevent engorgement.
Night weaning will result in better sleep for the whole family. Talk with your baby’s pediatrician to see if now is the time to start weaning your baby off night feedings.
Mom of three (including identical twin boys), wife, and owner of Parents Wonder. This is my place to share my journey as a mother and the helpful insights I learn along the way.