If you’re reading this, chances are you’re exhausted from months of middle-of-the-night wake ups for late night nursing or bottle feeding sessions. Believe me, I’ve been there! As much as you want to keep meeting your baby’s needs, you’re also desperate for a full night of uninterrupted sleep.
The good news is you can gently guide your little one to sleep through the night. With patience and consistency, you can ditch those frequent night wakings for feedings. This comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about dropping night feedings, from when to start weaning to tips for minimizing tears and tantrums.
When Should You Start Weaning Night Feedings?
The ideal timing for weaning those wee-hour feeds depends on your baby’s age and weight:
- 6 months+: Most babies are developmentally ready to sleep through the night around 6 months. Their tiny bellies can go 11-12 hours without food.
- 15-30 pounds: Your infant should weigh at least 15 pounds before dropping feedings. The extra body fat can sustain them through longer sleep stretches.
- Eating solid foods: Solid food intake provides nutrition for longer periods sans breast milk or formula.
- No special needs: Medical conditions like reflux, allergies, or special needs may require a modified approach. Consult your pediatrician.
If your baby is at least 6 months, weighs 15+ pounds, eats solids, and has no special needs, they likely don’t need to eat at night. Of course, you know your child best. Consider their unique temperament and nutritional needs when deciding the right time to wean.
Signs Your Baby is Ready to Drop Night Feedings
Here are some clues your little cherub is developmentally ready to ditch the late night feeds and sleep through the night:
- Sleeping for 6-8 hour stretches
- Doubling birth weight (typically by 4-6 months)
- Eating a wide variety of solids
- Showing the ability to self soothe
- No longer acting hungry after night wakings
If your baby already naturally goes 4-6 hours between feeds or puts themselves back to sleep without eating, they likely don’t need that 2 AM snack break! Use these cues to determine the optimal timing.
How to Gradually Wean Night Feedings
Okay, your adorable offspring seems primed and ready to sack out for blissful, uninterrupted slumber. Not so fast, parents! Dropping those night feeds is often easier said than done.
To minimize crankiness and disruption, take a gradual, loving approach:
1. Pick a start date
Choose your timing wisely, avoiding big life changes or disruptions in routine. Aim to begin when you can devote 2-3 weeks to the process.
Also consider what’s happening during the day. Work on weaning from pacifiers, swings, or other sleep associations first. You want baby’s only nighttime soothing habit to be nursing/bottles.
2. Cluster feed during the day
Increase daytime nursing and solid food intake for a few days before starting. This ensures baby gets sufficient calories while you slowly remove night feeds.
Aim for more frequent, shorter feedings versus fewer long ones. Your breasts or bottle supply will adjust to the change in 24 hours.
3. Offer water instead of breastmilk/formula
When baby wakes for their usual night feeding, don’t immediately offer the boob or a bottle. Instead, try soothing them back to sleep. Offer sips of water if needed.
Stay calm and loving, even if they resist or cry at first. With consistency, most babies will start naturally sleeping through within 2-4 nights.
4. Gradually increase time between feeds
If your little night owl still wakes out of habit expecting a snack, slowly stretch the time between feeds, increasing by 30 minutes each night.
Say you currently feed at 11 PM and 3 AM. Push to 11:30 PM and 3:30 AM, then midnight and 4 AM, working your way to no feeds.
Be patient! This gradual approach prevents engorgement or sudden starvation. Within 2 weeks, you should reach 11-12 hours overnight sans feeds.
5. Offer extra daytime feeds
To avoid crankiness, fussiness, or hunger strike, nurse or bottle feed more frequently during daylight hours.
Aim for smaller, more frequent feeds about every 2-3 hours. Make sure your baby gets all the hydration and nutrition they need, just condensed into daytime.
With this gradual approach, most babies will ditch night feeds with minimal complaints. Stay consistent, even if they protest for a few nights. The payoff of restful slumber will come!
Weaning Tips and Tricks for Each Feeding Method
Does your mini-me rely on breastmilk, formula, or a combination for nighttime fuel? Here are timing tips tailored to each feeding method:
Weaning from Breastfeeding
For nursing mamas, daytime feedings are key to painlessly dropping night sessions. Those first few mornings, express milk between 6-8 AM to avoid engorgement when your body expects a 3 AM feed.
Temporarily pump if needed. But avoid going longer than 4-5 hours without nursing or pumping until your supply adjusts, or you may risk issues like mastitis.
Once you’ve fully weaned overnight, take it easy for a few days. Back off pumping to let your milk regulate to on-demand daytime feeding only. Get extra rest, hydration, and calories as your body adapts.
Weaning from Formula Feeding
For bottle-fed babes, condense those 24 ounces into the daylight hours. Slowly offer less formula each night until you reach no midnight snacks.
To prevent tummy troubles, transition to water only for night wakings, not cold turkey. And stick to the same daytime bottle schedule. Just offer bigger portions at each feeding to compensate.
If using powder formula, you may deal with some waste as your tot adjusts to fewer ounces per day. Once you reach the ideal intake, switch from making full bottles to pitcher or on-demand method to save money.
Weaning from Combination Feeding
For babies doing both breastmilk and formula, you’ll modify both daytime routine and nighttime approach. Gradually replace night feeds with more frequent daytime nursing sessions and bigger bottle portions.
Slowly stretch the time between breastfeeds overnight, using formula or water to soothe for night wakings as needed. This prevents engorgement as your body adjusts to no nursing between midnight and 6 AM.
What to Expect When Weaning Night Feedings
Even with a gradual approach, expect some pushback from your sleep-loving baby. Here are some common scenarios and how to troubleshoot:
Protesting and crying
Some stubborn babes will simply cry or yell when you deviate from their habitual late night buffet. Stay calm and loving, but don’t give in!
Comfort them without offering the breast or bottle. Chances are, they will start sleeping through out of habit in a few days,
Multiple night wakings
You may deal with a short-term increase in wakings as you wean. Babies want that familiar comfort! Attend to their needs, but don’t feed at night.
With consistency, you’ll get through this extinction burst and they’ll begin naturally sleeping longer.
Hunger strikes or crankiness
If your cherub refuses daytime bottles or cuts back nursing drastically, try not to panic. Ride it out for a few days
Offer more frequent feeds and make daytime feeding fun and social. As long as weight gain isn’t impacted long-term, have faith they will adjust.
Illness or travel
Sickness or disruption may require temporary night feeds again. That’s ok! Do what you need to help them feel better, then wean again when recovered and settled.
Stay consistent with the new routine so they don’t backslide. The extra night feeding when sick doesn’t mean you have to go back to square one.
Develop a Soothing Bedtime Routine
A predictable, soothing bedtime routine is key to ditching night wakings for good. Aim for the same sequence of steps each evening:
- Calming activity like a bath
- Massage and pajamas
- Dim lights and white noise
- Story time and lullaby
- Kiss goodnight and lights out
Try to conduct the routine in baby’s room to strengthen the sleep association with the crib.
This cues your little one that it’s time to unwind and start producing melatonin for sound slumber. consistency is key, even after you’ve dropped all night feeds.
Encouraging Self-Soothing Skills
Once you’ve weaned those night feeds, you want your baby to drift back to dreamland with minimal help from mom and dad. Foster self-soothing skills:
- Put baby down awake but drowsy to practice falling asleep independently
- Avoid nursing, rocking, or feeding to sleep, which become crutches
- Allow your little one to fuss for 5-10 minutes before responding
- Comfort without picking up (shushing, patting crib)
- Use transitional objects like loveys or special blankets
- Maintain consistent sleep training once night weaned
Of course, tend to your baby if they are clearly distraught. But give them a chance to settle independently before rushing in. The ability to self soothe helps sustain long, peaceful sleep all night.
Managing Special Circumstances
Most babies adjust beautifully to dropped night feeds with the gradual weaning approach. But you may encounter special circumstances requiring some customized problem solving:
Reflux or GERD: Keep feedings smaller and more frequent to reduce volume on the stomach. Incline the crib, avoid tight clothing or diapers, and consult your pediatrician about medication.
Allergies or intolerances: If your baby has confirmed allergies or seems to react to certain foods, avoid those in the later afternoon and evening. Smaller volumes of hypoallergenic formula orbreastmilk may also help.
Illness: Short-term night feeds are fine if your little one is sick! Meet their needs, stay hydrated, and wean again once recovered.
Teething: Extra night wakings from teething discomfort are normal. Comfort without feeding and consult your pediatrician about safe pain relief like chilled teethers.
Growth spurts: Boost daytime intake to satisfy appetite if going through a big growth spurt. Extra night wakings should resolve in a few days to a week as the spurt ends.
Sleep regressions: Major milestones like rolling over, standing, and walking may disrupt sleep temporarily. Stay consistent with routine, extend bedtime, and ride out the regression.
FAQs About Weaning Night Feedings
Got lingering questions about dropping those late night feeds? Here are answers to some common queries from tired parents:
How long does it take to fully wean night feeds?
Expect the process to take 2-3 weeks from start to sleeping through the night consistently. Some babies may take only a few days, while more stubborn babes may need a full month.
Will my baby go longer between daytime feeds?
Over time, yes! As solids increase and growth slows, you’ll naturally shift from every 2-3 hours to every 3-4 hours between feeds around 6-9 months old.
What do I do if my baby wakes up screaming every hour?
Extinction bursts with increased wakings are common. Attend to their needs but don’t revert back to feeding at night. With consistency, this behavior should improve rapidly. If it persists beyond a week or two or you have concerns, consult your pediatrician.
How do I reset after illness or vacation throws us off?
Don’t despair if you feel like you’re back to square one after sickness or travel. Get back into your normal routine as soon as possible. Ride out the short-term protest, remain loving yet firm, and your baby will reset their biological clock quickly.
What if my baby is still hungry after eating more during the day?
Increase the frequency and volume of solid feedings, especially iron and protein-rich foods. Avoid filling up on snacks alone. If weight gain stalls or you’re concerned about nutrition, talk to your pediatrician.
When will I notice a difference in my milk supply?
Within 24 hours, your body will start producing less milk at night. But it takes several weeks for your supply to fully adjust to daytime-only feedings. Pump if needed for comfort, but your breasts will regulate.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
If you’re in the thick of the weaning process, take heart: This too shall pass! With consistency and lots of coffee, one day soon you’ll wake up after a glorious, uninterrupted full night’s sleep.
Ditching those night feeds requires short term sacrifice, but the payoff is monumental. No more stumbling around at 2 AM or dozing off during story time! You can finally reclaimadult conversation, routines, and activities.
While every parent-baby duo is unique, the gradual weaning approach works wonders for most. With time, patience and faith in your baby’s ability to adapt, you’ll be on your way to restful nights. Sweet dreams!