What is night weaning?
Age: 5 months 1 week
In the early days, it can seem like you’ll never know a full night of sleep again. Surely your baby will grow out of the late night (early morning) feedings some time, but what can you do to speed the process along?
What is night weaning?
You’re probably familiar with the concept of weaning, which happens when you gradually accustom your baby to other sources of nutrition while slowly phasing out breast milk or formula. Night weaning is similar, except you’re just weaning your baby off of feeding at night, both to help establish good eating habits, and to preserve your sanity by allowing you to sleep through the night. Additionally, some experts, like Dr. Richard Ferber, believe that night feedings may actually lead to sleep problems, so night weaning could help address those issues, as well.
When are babies ready for night weaning?
By the time your baby is 5 or 6 months old, she may be ready for night weaning. Night weaning is optional of course, and some parents who enjoy the midnight cradles and feedings choose to skip it altogether, while some babies reduce and eventually end night feedings on their own. However, even if your baby doesn’t take the initiative on night weaning, there are several signs that it might be right for both of you:
- Eating less often during the day: If your baby is eating less frequently during the day, this probably means that she is eating more during each meal, and may be able to sleep through the night without stopping to snack.
- Eating solids: If she is eating solids, it’s a pretty good sign that she is ready to cut down on the nighttime feedings.
- She seems to want you at night more than the milk: When she cries at night, it’s entirely possible that she just wants you to reassure her that you’re there, rather than that she is desperate to eat.
How can I get started?
There are many different ways to go about night weaning, but here are some tips to get started:
- Keep your baby busy during the day: A baby who is active and eating throughout the day is less likely to need to wake up for nighttime feedings.
- Feed your baby before you go to bed: Although there are many reasons why a baby might wake up in the middle of the night, being hungry is often a main culprit. Waking and feeding your baby before you go to bed is a great way to help her stay soundly full throughout the rest of the night.
- Let her know you’re there: Sometimes, babies aren’t waking up at night to eat necessarily - they just want their mom or dad or other caregiver around. Some soothing words, or even leaving an item of yours in her room to keep her company might do the trick.
- Pay attention to the results: If your baby’s behavior seems different after the first few days of night weaning, it might be time to try a different strategy. There’s no one right way to night wean, so you should ask your friends and family how they dealt with it. Just remember - your baby will sleep through the night sooner or later. It’s just a matter of time!
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