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.
And if you’d like to learn more tips about an age-appropriate feeding and sleeping schedule, sign up for my newsletter!