Preparing to night wean your baby can be a challenging yet rewarding milestone in both your little one’s development and your journey as a mother. It means a full night’s sleep may soon be on the horizon, fostering independence for your baby, and some long-awaited rest for you. Here’s how to gently guide your baby towards sleeping through the night, while ensuring comfort for breastfeeding moms during this transition.

Understanding Night Weaning

Night weaning is the process of gradually reducing nighttime feeds so that your baby can learn to fall back asleep without nursing. While some babies naturally drop these feeds, others may need a little encouragement. Typically, this process happens between 6- 9 months of age when the nighttime feeds may no longer be nutritionally necessary. It’s essential, though, to consult with your pediatrician before deciding to night wean.

How to Start Night Weaning

  1. Prepare a Routine: Babies thrive on consistency. Establish a calm bedtime routine with activities like a warm bath, reading a book, or lullabies. These consistent routines signal that it’s time to wind down.
  2. Gradual Reduction: Reduce the time spent nursing during each night feeding, such as just one minute less on night one. Or you can reduce the number of night feedings slowly over several nights or weeks.
  3. Increase Daytime Feeding: Make sure your baby is getting enough breast milk during the day to compensate for the reduced nighttime feeding. He still needs the same overall amount of milk, but is able to go longer stretches in between.
  4. Comfort with Presence: If your baby wakes up, try soothing him back to sleep with your presence, gentle pats, or soft humming instead of nursing.
  5. Exchange Duties: If possible, have your partner comfort the baby when he wakes up during the night. Babies won’t expect to be nursed by the other parent and may settle back to sleep more quickly.

Comfort Measures for Breastfeeding Moms

As you approach night weaning, your body will need to adjust to the reduced demand for milk during the night. Here are comfort measures to help breastfeeding moms during this transition.
  • Cabbage Leaves: Chilled cabbage leaves can be placed inside your bra to ease breast engorgement and swelling. Just be sure to remove them when they become wilted.
  • Express for Relief: If you become uncomfortably engorged, express a little milk for comfort. Try to express just enough to relieve the pressure to avoid stimulating additional milk production. The Haakaa is a great tool for expressing just a little, rather than encouraging a let down with a breast pump.
  • Breast Pads: Wear absorbent breast pads at night to soak up any leaks, ensuring you stay comfortable and dry.
  • Stay Hydrated: Keep hydrated during the day, but reduce fluid intake just before bedtime to reduce nighttime milk production.
  • Wear a Supportive Bra: A supportive, yet comfortable, nursing bra can help alleviate discomfort from engorgement during the night weaning process.
  • Pain Relief: If you are experiencing discomfort from engorgement or the early stages of mastitis, consult your doctor for safe pain relief options while breastfeeding.
  • Self-Care: Remember to prioritize your well-being. Relax with a warm bath or a favorite book once the baby is asleep.
  • Support Network: Share your experiences with other moms, join breastfeeding groups, or talk with a lactation consultant for support.

Every Mom & Baby is Unique

Night weaning is a personal decision and a natural part of your baby’s growth. While it might take patience and a few sleepless nights to accomplish, the outcome will be beneficial for both you and your little one. With the right strategies and comfort measures in place, you will not only ensure your baby transitions smoothly but also that you maintain your health and comfort in the process.
Remember that every baby is unique. What works for one family may not work for another. Be flexible, don’t rush, and don’t hesitate to seek help or adjust your approach if the initial plan doesn’t pan out as expected. Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny’s certified lactation consultants are just a phone call away, offering virtual or in-person support. Here’s to restful nights ahead for both you and your baby!

About The Author

Carole K. Arsenault is the founder and CEO of Boston Baby Nurse & Nanny. She has years of experience working with newborns as a lactation consultant, sleep coach, and of course an RN specializing in Obstetrics and Maternal Health. In addition, she is the award winning author of Newborn 101. She has three grown children and loves to share mindfulness tips to friends and parents.