I am asked this question a lot! When can I night wean? How do I know if my baby is hungry? How exactly do I do it?
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that for the majority of babies, six months of age is appropriate to night wean.
I have worked with many clients whose babies effortlessly night wean around three or four months of age.
So, how do you know when your baby is truly ready?
First of all, before considering fully weaning your baby off night feeds, I suggest your baby be a minimum of three months old and weigh at least 12 pounds. It’s also important to get the green light from your pediatrician.
For the next five days, begin to track how many times your baby wakes for a feed during the night, and how much baby drinks during each night feed. For breastfed babies, track how many minutes your baby is nursing.
You will probably notice a pattern as to when baby is waking and how much milk baby is taking. You may also notice that during some night feeds, baby is only snacking or using the breast or bottle as a pacifier.
Once you have this information written down, it’s time to determine your baby’s “personal best.” A personal best is the amount of time baby has demonstrated, recently and consistently, that he or she can sleep between feeds. I usually see this fall somewhere between three to six hours. Determine your baby’s personal best, and then build in night feeds based on this number, assuming a nighttime sleep duration of 12 hours.
For example, if your baby has a personal best of 5 hours and goes to bed at 7 pm, build in a feed at midnight at 5 am. It is very important that you arrive at your baby’s personal best from recent data (not the fluke night last month when baby slept for eight hours straight).
Now that you have determined your baby’s personal best and have scheduled in the night feeds based on that personal best, it’s time to focus on full feeds!
In order for your little one to be able to sleep 12 continuous hours, it’s very important that your baby is getting adequate daytime intake of breast milk or formula. For bottle fed babies, this will fall in the 24 oz to 32 oz range per day. For breastfed babies, you will want to ensure that your baby is satisfied at the breast and can stay comfortably satiated for around 2.5-3 hours between feeds.
It is also crucial that your baby take a full feed prior to bedtime so that he or she has a full belly to make it through the night.
Now, I know that some of you will tell me that your baby is eating so much at night, that daytime intake is nowhere close to 24 oz to 32 oz. That’s okay and will improve once baby drops night feeds and eventually completely weans. However, it is important that baby still take a full feed at bedtime so that there is no doubt baby can at least make it to his or her personal best or beyond.
Okay, now you have your personal best, your night feed(s) built in on a 12-hour clock, and baby is getting sufficient daytime milk and a sufficient bedtime feed. So, when baby wakes, you must hold baby to that personal best time before providing a feed.
How do you do that?
You offer other ways of soothing! This could look like increasing the volume on the sound machine, singing to baby, placing your hand on baby’s chest and gently rocking side to side in the crib, offering a pacifier, picking up baby and walking around the room – do whatever soothes your baby back to sleep (besides a feed).
When baby does wake close to or after his or her “personal best” designated feeding time, feed your baby until satiated.
In the above example, on night one, baby’s personal best was five hours. So, based on a 7 pm bedtime, mom built in feeds at 12 am and 5 am. Baby woke at 11 pm, but went back to sleep after 10 minutes of mom soothing her in the crib. Baby then woke at 1:15 am, so mom provided a feed since it met or exceeded her 12 am designated feed time.
Since baby exceeded her personal best on the first feed of night one, instead of 5 am as the next feed, mom will hold baby to that five hour feed interval and will provide the next feed at 6:15 am or later.
Baby will likely demonstrate a new “personal best” every couple nights. Track this number and use it moving forward. In the example above, since baby slept from 7 pm to 1:15 am, her new personal best is 6 hours 15 minutes. Mom will now use that on night two as the minimum time in which she will provide a night feed.
Continue this pattern, slowly pushing out feeds further and further until baby naturally drops all feeds and starts sleeping 11 to 12 hours overnight. Believe it or not, you will likely see baby weaned in ten days or less.
********************************************************************************************Caroline Pavlinik is a baby and toddler sleep consultant helping families in the Houston and Austin, Texas areas. Caroline helps little ones ages three months to five years sleep through the night and take age appropriate naps. Caroline splits time between Houston Heights and South Austin where she lives with her husband, daughter and revolving door of foster dogs. To schedule a complimentary consultation with Caroline to see if it might make sense to work together, email her: Caroline@bedtimeboss.com #AustinBabySleepTraining #HoustonBabySleepTraining #Postpartumdepression #nightweaning #maternityleave #sleepingthroughthenight #reducingnightfeeds