To some parents, night weaning might seem like a glorious adventure on which to embark because… ahhh, sweet sleep. (I see you raising your hand, parent).
So, are you and baby really ready for it?
Night weaning doesn’t have to be difficult, but it does need to happen at the right time and in the best way possible. In looking for tips on how to go about night weaning, some odds and ends to consider, and how to spot the signs that you’re both up to the task, read on. You’re in the right place, parent.
The typical age when baby is ready to night wean.
One of the most popular questions asked in regards to night weaning is simply: when should I do it?
While each and every baby is unique, the general time frame according to BabyCenter usually falls between 4 and 6 months. Around this age, babies can consume enough calories to tide them over for up to six hours of sleepy time.
This bodes well for both you (as the sleep-deprived parent) and baby. You can both enjoy some much-needed REM sleep and feel more rejuvenated when you awaken.
Remember that each baby is different, so it’s not uncommon for some babies not to have read their own manual. There are younger babies who can go for longer stretches without stopping to eat. Conversely, some older babies need to eat more frequently.
Knowing your little one is key to a successful night weaning venture. Also, it’s also important to keep on the same page as your pediatrician. Should you have any questions or concerns, please consult with your trusted doctor.
Looking for the signs that baby is ready to night wean.
The wonderful thing about babies (among many) is that they have their own way of communicating with us. We just have to hone in and listen, which can be surprisingly challenging sometimes.
Nevertheless, there are signs your baby will display to show you he or she is ready to drop the nighttime feeding(s). Consider the following signs from The Baby Sleep Site.
- Inconsistent Waking – Babies who are ready to start night weaning tend not to wake up at the same time during the night. This behavior indicates that your baby isn’t truly hungry. Rather, he or she is simply awake and needing some help returning to the land of slumber.
- Less Daytime Appetite – When babies eat less during the day but still wake for a nighttime feeding, this is a sign it’s appropriate to night wean. At this point, the nighttime feeding is out of habit or baby simply wants to play.
- Change in Diet – A lot of babies old enough to eat solids drop the nighttime feeding by themselves. If not, now is a dependable time to encourage nighttime weaning. The extra calories in solid foods do wonders to fill up little tummies.
Some exceptions to consider.
As mentioned before, every single baby is different. What this means is that every single night weaning adventure will be different for you, too.
You’ve probably realized by now that your baby is off-kilter whenever a change occurs. For instance, teething or illness can turn your smiling angel into a red-faced screamer. It’s normal and natural, but boy is it tough!
Regarding night weaning, avoid making a significant impact on your baby’s schedule during any time of transition (moving or switching jobs), illness or growth spurts, or major change (like the holidays or family vacation).
Even as gently as you may present night weaning, adding the slightest stress on top of what your baby already perceives to be stressful is a recipe for disaster.
Wait it out and focus on night weaning when all is calm in your lives.
Signs YOU are ready to night wean.
Although you might have been ready to night wean about three days after arriving home from the hospital, your baby undoubtedly disagreed.
It’s true that most articles about night weaning are focused on baby. And rightfully so.
You are the other half of this equation, though, so how do you know when you are ready to start night weaning?
Primarily, if you can no longer function during the day because you’re exhausted from waking up to feed during the night, then it’s time to consider night weaning.
The bonding time during night feedings is indeed genuine and to be treasured. That special feeling of bonding with your baby can be shifted to another time during the waking hours, though.
Be confident that it’s not the special moment that you want to lose. It’s simply that you want to be a better parent for your baby while you’re awake.
Tips on how to night wean (the drama-free way).
Night weaning doesn’t have to be an all or nothing kind of endeavor. If it doesn’t work for you at first, then try again at a later date.
Always remember to listen to your own baby first and foremost. Following are a few practical tips from KellyMom.com on how to start night weaning without drama.
- Cluster Feed to Provide Full Tummy – Before you take away a feeding at night, make sure your baby has enough to sustain him or her. It’s a good idea to amp up the day time feedings, especially as nighttime approaches. A common strategy is cluster feeding, which is when baby feeds close together at a certain time of the day (notably nighttime).
- Keep Baby Focused – Because life is so awesome and exciting, babies tend not to want to miss a single thing. While you do want to nurture this natural sense of discovery, keeping your baby focused during a feeding might have become a feat. It’s important to keep baby focused or redirected on eating so that he or she is getting all the food and nutrients needed for proper sustenance.
- Ease Baby into the Process – Night weaning isn’t a race, but it can be somewhat of a challenge at times. A great strategy to ease baby into not needing the nighttime feeding is to shorten the feeding time. Rather than removing it altogether, simply nurse or bottle feed for a few minutes less each time. Focus on comforting your baby in a different way opposed to sucking on your breast or bottle.
- Make a Temporary Switch for Nighttime Duty – Many babies get in the habit of wanting to eat simply because Mom is there. For breastfeeding mothers, this is especially true. Try sending your partner to answer your babies nighttime cries. As you may know, babies learning quickly that Dad doesn’t have the “goods” that Mom does (aka no breasts). Your partner can offer comfort without providing food, though. A lot of times, this is what baby truly wants anyway.
Night weaning is usually a much-anticipated event in the life of a new parent. That first time your baby sleeps throughout the night feels great!
Remember, even with all the advice in the world, your baby should be the loudest voice you hear. Babies have this wonderful way of knowing exactly what they need – the trick is in the interpretation.
With the help of your pediatrician, you and your baby can successfully embark on the night weaning adventure.
We’d love to hear your thoughts about your night weaning experience. Please leave a comment in the section below.