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What is night weaning?

In the early days, it can seem like you’ll never know a full night of sleep again. Surely 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 Baby to other sources of nutrition while slowly phasing out breast milk or formula. Night weaning is similar, except you’re just weaning 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 Baby is 5 or 6 months old, he 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 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 Baby is eating less frequently during the day, this probably means that he is eating more during each meal, and may be able to sleep through the night without stopping to snack.
  • Eating solids: If he is eating solids, it’s a pretty good sign that he is ready to cut down on the nighttime feedings.
  • He seems to want you at night more than the milk: When he cries at night, it’s entirely possible that he just wants you to reassure him that you’re there, rather than that he 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 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 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 Baby before you go to bed is a great way to help him stay soundly full throughout the rest of the night.
  • Let him 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 his room to keep him company might do the trick.
  • Pay attention to the results: If 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 – Baby will sleep through the night sooner or later. It’s just a matter of time!

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