The first few months of a newborn’s life are an exciting and unique time experience for both mom and baby. However, as joyful as this time is, let’s be honest, it’s exhausting. I remember breastfeeding my newborn, who woke up every two hours around the clock to eat. Exhausted, sore, and a little grungy from not showering, I was relieved when my pediatrician suggested that my baby might be ready for night weaning at our four-month checkup. The possibility of sleeping through the night again was exciting! Our pediatrician did assure us that the night weaning process requires patience and not to expect overnight results, though.
What is Night Weaning?
So what exactly is night weaning? As a baby gets older, they reach various developmental milestones. A very significant milestone is the ability to sleep through the night, without waking up for a feeding. Achieving this milestone isn’t something that happens overnight. Instead, it takes time, patience, and consistency to establish a routine that benefits both mom and baby. Night weaning is a process, and there are many ways to help your baby get a full night’s sleep. It’s essential to keep in mind that different babies reach their milestones at different times. Even though you may be ready to wean, your baby may need a few more weeks or months to adjust to their new feeding routine.
How to Know If Your Baby Is Ready For Night Weaning
Before beginning the night weaning process, it’s wise to consult with your pediatrician or a lactation consultant if you are breastfeeding. Although you may be ready to get a full night’s rest, your pediatrician may recommend that you hold off. There are various reasons for this. Some babies may sleep through the night as early as four months old. However, don’t be alarmed if you find yourself feeding through the night past that age. There’s no hurry to phase out night feeding, every baby is different, and I personally recommend baby led weaning and introducing night weaning as your baby transitions into solid foods.
Reasons Why Your Baby May Not Be Ready
There are various reasons why your baby may not be ready for night weaning. Some your pediatrician may point out to you, and some reasons you may conclude on your own. Bottle and breastfeeding aren’t just physically nourishing. Babies appreciate the time their caretaker takes during these feedings, and it can be a bonding experience. If mom or baby’s primary caretaker has recently gone back to work or has placed baby is someone else’s care for the majority of the day, then the baby may look forward to this time spent and uses feeding time as a way to bond and reconnect.
Another reason why your baby may not be ready for night weaning is teething. For those of us who have survived the teething stage, let me tell you, it’s no fun for baby. Sore gums and normal teething pain can cause fevers and overall fussiness, and baby may wake up often during the night because of this. Growth spurts can also increase the number of times a baby wants to feed, even throughout the night. These and many other factors can contribute to why your baby may not be ready for night weaning. But be patient! Your baby will let you know when they are ready!
Before You Begin Night Weaning
Alright, so you’ve come to the conclusion that your baby is ready for night weaning. Now what? Again, I strongly recommend starting off by talking to your pediatrician. Your baby’s doctor can answer questions about your baby’s growth and development, providing guidance and sound professional medical advice If you’re breastfeeding your little one, consider also speaking to a lactation consultant; they can help you make sure you maintain your milk production, which is very important, even if you plan on night weaning your baby.
Increase Day Time Feedings
Now that you’ve gotten some advice on if your baby is ready for night weaning, it’s time to begin. Your baby is most likely not going to sleep through the entire night for the first few nights. Night weaning is a slow and gradual process, which requires patience. An excellent first step is to make sure that your baby is eating enough during the day, especially towards bedtime. The whole point of night weaning is for your baby to reach a point where they aren’t hungry throughout the night, helping them stay asleep. Increasing the amount of milk, formula, or solid foods in your baby’s day time feeding schedule can help ease the process of night weaning.
Patience is Key
As mentioned numerous times throughout this article, patience with your baby is necessary to ensure a smooth night weaning process. While you adjust your baby’s feeding schedule, allow a bit of flexibility, as your baby may not want to increase their food intake right away. Gradually increase the amount of milk, formula, or solid food that they have during the day, but try not to drastically alter how much they eat right away.
Night Weaning For the Breastfeeding Mamas
For moms who primarily breastfeed, night weaning is a transition that should be handled with care to make sure that milk supply remains consistent. Your body produces breastmilk depending on demand, so your body may slow down production when it realizes that your baby is no longer feeding throughout the night. There are two options for breastfeeding mothers who are night weaning. The first option is to pump throughout the night when your little one regularly eats. Although you won’t be able to catch up on some much-needed sleep, the upside to this is that you’ll begin to accumulate a nice supply of stored milk which could be used throughout the day if you’re away from baby.
The second option for breastfeeding mothers who are night weaning is just to pump or breastfeed in the morning. Personally, I don’t recommend this option for two reasons. First and foremost, this can drastically affect your milk production, and second, having a build-up of milk isn’t just uncomfortable, but can lead to clogged ducts and even mastitis, a painful infection. I highly recommend consulting with a lactation consultant, who can guide you in correctly night weaning your little one.
Night weaning is an exciting yet challenging transition. It will require a lot of patience from you. Pediatricians and lactation consultants are great resources for parents who have questions about when and how to begin. They can also answer questions about making sure milk production is adequately maintained or adjusted. You can find a lactation consultant near you here. Although night weaning can take some time, both parents and baby will benefit from a full night’s rest once the transition is complete!
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