The first step in how to wean off night feedings is making sure your baby’s pediatrician approves of the plan. A parent can ask, “Is it okay for my child to go 12 hours overnight without a feeding?” And, “Can I wean all feedings cold turkey?” Keep in mind it’s possible to wean to only 1 or 2 feeds – just make sure you have a clear sense of what the pediatrician recommends first before starting the weaning process.
Whenever I work with a client who is looking to wean off night feedings we discuss a few different methods…
The Gradual Wean (breast)
If you have an idea of about how long your baby nurses for each of their feedings simply cut down the amount of time you feed by 1 minute per feeding each night. Once you hit 2 minutes for a single feeding, you’re ready to stop that feeding completely.
The Gradual Wean (bottle)
To wean a bottle fed baby, reduce the bottle by 1 ounce each night until you hit 2 ounces. Once you get to that amount you’re ready to stop the feeding altogether.
This is always an option if a parent wants to skip the gradual process. Going cold turkey is especially good in situations in which parents realize baby is in fact taking in quite little throughout the night. Many times babies are waking to pacify and not to feed, and are thus not really taking in too many calories. When going cold turkey Mom and Dad must make sure baby has had a complete feeding within 30 minutes of bedtime, and then give no more feedings until the morning.
Some babies do NOT tolerate the gradual weaning of feedings very well. They become furious over the feeding being done before they are quite done eating. If you notice this is the case with your baby, consider the cold turkey method of cutting out night feedings.
The methods above can be used to eliminate just one or all nighttime feedings, depending on what Mom, Dad, and the pediatrician think is appropriate for their particular baby.
Keep in mind that babies take about a week to make up calories during the day for what they’re not taking in at night. Even if you don’t see an immediate appetite change the next day, give it a few days and your little guy or gal will be taking in more ounces to make up for the nighttime feeds in no time. Again, this is why conferring with your pediatrician is vital, before commencing the weaning process.
Nursing mothers, especially with babies younger than 8 months, should seriously consider pumping every night at bedtime once all night feeds have been eliminated. This will go a very long way in maintaining your milk supply. Moms should also check in with her own doctor to make sure this approach of pumping before bedtime will be sufficient to maintain her supply.
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First off, thank you! I love your site and Facebook page! I JUST ordered your book and can’t wait to get it!! Hoping it has information on how to help 8mo old baby go back to sleep after waking up at night. Falls asleep at bedtime on his own just fine. I tried your method of gradual weaning on one of his 3 feeding season and got down to 1.5min per side. Then took it away completely- I don’t go in to comfort him. He has slept through this feeding a handful of times but most of the time he wakes up & cries for 2hrs. He eventually falls asleep and wakes for a feeding at 1am. He eats really well at this feeding and sometimes wakes at 4am to feed again but he’s just using the nipple to pacify. Ugh… I’m wondering what to do… I’m thinking out loud here – sorry . I guess I’ll try cutting out ALL the night feedings…. he’s old enough, is a healthy weight…. I’m thinking it’s confussing to him to get the breast sometimes when he cries at night and not other times…. maybe if I take it away completely he’ll get the hint and just learn to fall back to sleep and eventually just not wake during the night. ♀️
Can’t wait for your book to arrive!!
Hi Becky! And thank YOU! I do think, if your pediatrician approves it, that cutting out all night feedings will help! Also, if you have not formally sleep trained, following the advice in the book will help – and so would either of my online training programs should you want additional resources or support! <3
After we weaned and cut off all night feedings, would you still suggest a midnight diaper change?
We plan to wean her off all night feedings but am worried about her full diaper (in her 12hour night sleep) which may wake her early or in the middle of the night. She usually has a heavy diaper when we give her her dreamfeed at 10:30pm and it gives us the opportunity to change her, and she would be good till the next morning at 6:30-7am.
I advise clients to change diapers only if baby has leaked. And once you wean night feeds, it’s less likely baby will be peeing enough overnight to leak out of the diaper. You can use these great Sposie pads if needed, plus I suggest going up a size in overnight diapers. You want to avoid overnight diaper changes as much as possible – they’re really disruptive to sleep.
Baby is sleep trained. How do I wean off night feeds cold turkey? Just do my usual check ins or just let her cry it out?
If your pediatrician okays/recommends cutting feeds cold turkey, then yes that is the best approach (cutting feeds and doing checks instead). Don’t take this approach without your pediatrician’s express approval.