Every baby is different, every Mama has her own style, and everyone has their own level of tolerance when it comes to night wakings and feedings. There is beauty in the late night and early morning snuggles as your little one feeds that can be so amazing. I always found night feedings calm and peaceful—but utterly exhausting at times. The harsh reality is those night feedings can get exhausting and turn into burnout for parents after a while!
So how do you know if your baby is ready to wean those night feeds?
The truth is there is no magical age or size that your baby should be to drop the night feeds. It is totally individual and dependent on your baby and your family. A general rule of thumb is that by the time your baby starts taking solid food they are generally ready for consolidated sleep at night. Some things to consider are whether your baby is meeting the appropriate milestones for weight, height, and overall development for their age? Does your baby need the extra calories? As parents, you need to do what feels right for your baby and you. If you are ever concerned about your baby’s development please consult your doctor.
One way to help baby sleep through the night without waking up hungry is to ensure she is getting enough calories during the day. Think about filling that “caloric cup” during awake times in the day, this, in turn, means the baby will not be in demand of calories during the night hours. A great way to do this is to use our MAMA method. The idea is that you use MAMA at each awake period during the day. So when baby wakes up they have Milk (breast or formula), this is the first “M”. Then they do an Activity – whatever is suitable for their age. Next is another “M” milk or meal if they are taking solids. This gives baby a second opportunity to “fill their tank” while they are awake, optimizing their caloric intake. Another activity provides a pause between feeding and sleep, so no feed-to-sleep associations can build up. This is an important step!
Along with ensuring baby is getting enough feeds during the day, it is equally as important to ensure that the feeds are effective. For a breastfed or a bottle-fed baby, a sign of an effective feed is nutritive sucking. Big sucks followed by obvious swallows. When the sucks turn to flutter this is a sign that baby is not taking in milk. At that time it’s a good idea to do hand compressions if breastfeeding to stimulate more milk so baby will start sucking again. If baby is still fluttering it is time to end the feed. Burp your baby and try the opposite side, or give another chance at the bottle.
If your baby wakes in the night to feed, it can be helpful to turn on a soft lamp. If you can, move the feed out of the baby’s bedroom. This will help baby to learn that feeding and sleep do not go hand in hand, and can help ease the transition from night feeds. Another way to create a pause between her night feed and sleep is to feed baby, then change her diaper, then put baby back in her crib for sleep. Ultimately there is no straight forward path to night weaning. It depends on your individual baby and their growth and development, and readiness.
As parents, we need to follow our instincts, and just as importantly reach out for help if needed. If you would like support with your baby’s sleep or dropping that night feed, reach out to the Mama Coach in your area. We can assess your baby and your family’s needs and help you come up with a plan to get your baby sleeping through the night.