Night Weaning - No More Middle of the Night Feedings

Many infants continue to require at least one nighttime breastfeeding session at night. For parents, this period can be both wonderful and frustrating.

cute baby face, big blue baby eyes
Baby with beautiful, blue eyes

Night Weaning

Breast milk is easier to digest than formula; therefore, breastfed babies wake quicker and more often because they become hungry quicker.

Most babies will continue to breastfeed at least once during the night through the first year. This time can be frustrating and tiring for parents.

Here are a few tips that could make this season in your life a little easier, even if you decide to stop breastfeeding at night...

baby sleeping, cute baby sleeping
Baby sleeping - Photo by Jonathan Borba / Unsplash

Night Time Breastfeeding Tips

  • Co-sleeping: If the mother and baby are sleeping in the same bed, the mother could sleep while she is nursing. When her baby gets older, they will start latching independently at night.
  • Keep the lights off: This will keep your baby drowsy. When you switch the lights on, it's like turning the day switch on. Breastfeeding with the lights as dim as possible will keep your baby sleepy so that they do not keep you up after breastfeeding.
  • Swaddling can be very helpful for babies until about 2-3 months. Swaddling your baby will increase the length of sleep periods. Mothers can nurse their babies while they are wrapped, this keeps a baby calm, and your baby might even continue to sleep while being nursed.
  • Feed your baby before they wake for a feed. This will ensure that your baby sleeps during a feed and does not keep you up at night.
  • Remember that night nursing may become more frequent during growth spurts, illness, and teething periods.
  • Try to remain calm and patient.

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How to Stop Breastfeeding at Night

Tips for gentle weaning at night

  • Breastfeed your baby just before you go to bed. This will give you an extended sleep period before your baby wakes again.
  • Make sure that your baby is drinking enough during the day. This way, they might not be as interested in the breasts at night.
  • You can say no. When your baby is at the age where they can understand "no," you can tell them it's sleep time. Be firm but loving, and do not give in. A toddler can be told that "Boobies" (breast milk) is for daytime, "Boobies are gone until tomorrow," or something to that effect.
  • Ensure that distractions are minimal during daytime feedings so that your baby drinks more during these times.
  • Get Dad to take over for the night; if necessary, you can sleep in another room.
  • Give extra love and affection during the day. A baby often wakes up at night just because they miss being held.
  • When putting the baby to sleep, make sure they are comfortable.
  • Teething can cause pain and discomfort and cause your baby to wake up more often at night. Give your baby something before bedtime to relieve pain if you know that your baby is teething.
  • Body temperature. Everyone has difficulty sleeping if they are too cold or too hot.
  • Try to keep solid food intake to a minimum before five months of age, as this could lead to abdominal cramping and sleep issues.
  • Your baby may have acid reflux. Common signs include frequent vomiting, excessive spitting up, irritability during or after feedings, arching of the back during or after feedings, and poor weight gain. Some babies may have respiratory issues, like chronic cough or wheezing, or seem to have a sore throat and make gagging or choking sounds.
  • Colds and ear infections can keep your baby up too. Symptoms that may indicate an ear infection include tugging at the ear, fever, irritability, trouble sleeping, reduced appetite, and drainage from the ear.

Deprived of Sleep?

  • Express some milk for your baby before bedtime. Allow your partner a chance to give your baby the supplement. Avoid giving your baby an artificial nipple before four weeks of age.
  • The mother can start adding some solid foods to her baby's diet during the day from 6 months onwards. You can add things like rice cereal or soft fruit. This will encourage less nursing at night.

Why should solids not be introduced before six months?

  1. Digestive System Immaturity: A baby's digestive system is not fully developed enough to process solid foods before four months of age.
  2. Risk of Allergies: Early introduction of solids can increase the risk of developing food allergies.
  3. Nutritional Imbalance: Breastmilk provides the essential nutrients that babies need. Introducing solids too early can disrupt this nutritional balance. It can also interfere with breastfeeding and reduce a mother's breast milk supply.
  4. Choking Hazard: Babies younger than four months haven't developed the necessary motor skills to swallow solid foods, which increases the risk of choking.
  5. Weight Gain: Solid foods are often more calorie-dense than breast milk or formula, and early introduction can lead to excessive weight gain.