If you are feeling ready to sleep through the night again, you aren’t alone! I am working towards that goal myself. Here’s how to night wean.
Gradually, gently lengthen out the interval between feeds during the day. Start with a goal of feedings every 3 hours, then work towards every four hours. There is no rush.
Try distraction as a tool for increasing the time between feeds. My favorite distraction is going outside for a walk. It’s amazingly effective.
Once your baby is comfortably feeding four times a day plus any night feeds, proceed to step two. Don’t be surprised if you already see an improvement in night sleep just from completing step one!
You may also find that your baby is much less likely to cry to eat once you are on a regular schedule, and that they are happy to wait until the scheduled time.
Gradually, gently, reduce one night feeding at a time. If your baby only feeds once per night, start with that one. If your baby feeds two or more times per night, pick one of those feedings. I usually suggest the second feed, then the first feed, then the third feed, if there are three.
Every other night, reduce that one feeding only by either 30 seconds (if you are breastfeeding) or ½ ounce (if you are bottle feeding). If your baby takes both bottle and breast, experiment and see which is easier to reduce. I have done it both ways.
Your baby may fuss when you reduce the feed, but in my experience, they rarely cry for long.
Rest assured, you are only reducing the feed by roughly 15 calories every other night, so your baby really won’t be starving. It’s normal to be anxious about this but they really will be fine!
Once that first feeding is eliminated, start reducing the next feed, if there is one, until all feedings are successfully eliminated.
And voila, you have a baby who sleeps through the night!
Most sources say to wait until 12 pounds but none of my three babies were that big and none of them had issues with weight gain despite night weaning. Check with your pediatrician if you are concerned.
Tribeca Pediatrics, a huge practice with offices all over New York City as well as in LA and Chicago says that you can night wean at 2 months old. Other pediatricians are much more conservative.
Another thing: if you are breastfeeding, you want to make sure that your supply is well established before reducing the number of nursing sessions… but you can use a breast pump to make up for one or more missed sessions. Using a high quality pump and pumping on both sides will increase your output. I suggest a hands free pumping bra to make this a lot more convenient. Not to worry, you can use the same bra all day long. It's worth the investment!
That said, some women’s supply never gets beyond a certain limited volume and if that is you, you may need to nurse more frequently and/or supplement.
I have had very good luck with Mother’s Milk Tea for boosting supply.
Another caution, if your baby has reflux, you may not be able to increase the duration of time between feeds. (The general rule of thumb with reflux is “half as much (volume), twice a frequent.”
That being said, my baby is a heavy spitter (though does not have pain nor difficulty gaining weight and therefore does not have a diagnosis of reflux) and I manage this with a LOT of spit up cloths and offering a dream feed in the evening before I go to bed, in order to boost her total daily intake without overloading her stomach at any given feeding.
Night weaning really isn’t that complicated, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy, for emotional reasons, of course.
If you’d like help getting your little one sleeping through the night, whatever their age, set up a free consult and we will make your dreams a reality.
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and certified life coach for parents. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.