Weaning at Night: How and When to Start
When are babies ready for weaning? From the age of 4 to 6 months, your child will be consuming enough calories during the day to sleep through the night. What’s more, some smaller babies often sleep for several hours without getting up to eat. Here we’ll provide tips for weaning at night.
In case the mother is less available during the day, the baby might request the breast or bottle at night in order to have more contact with her. It is also very common for him to wake up at night because of a cold, a change in development or an erupting tooth.
Therefore, it is important to approach weaning little by little, taking into account that your baby needs you in order to feel safe.
How to know if your baby is ready for weaning
From the time your baby is 4 to 6 months old, you can gradually begin to implement nighttime weani ng. At this time, although he doesn’t need to eat at dawn, your baby may wake up simply because he is used to it. It isn’t easy to change this routine, because babies are used to waking up after midnight in order to eat.
If it is more comfortable for the mother to feed her baby during the night, she has no obligation to change this routine. However, it is also important for mothers to take care of their well-being and health.
Lack of sleep can cause various problems in our bodies. If you are tired and you feel that your baby is ready for a change in routine, you can start. In case of any doubts, your pediatrician can guide you in the process.
Tips for weaning at night
Weaning at night will not cause your baby any harm. On the contrary, it will help you to establish a routine that helps him sleep through the night. If you are sure that you can start weaning at night, here are some useful tips:
- Approach the process of weaning at night gradually. Put your baby to your breast for less and less time or put less milk in his bottle at night. Prolong the intervals between feedings and caress his back to help him sleep again.
- Make sure that he eats enough during the day. Take scheduled breaks during the day to bottle feed or breastfeed.
- It is not recommended to wean during a transition period. For example, if you start working during the day, it is better to wait a while for your baby to adapt to this new change before beginning to wean.
- It is important for the father to comfort the baby when he cries at night. Because of your smell and the smell of breast milk, the baby will want to eat when you comfort him.
- Reduce feedings one at a time. Reassure your baby when he wakes up to eat and explain to him that it is time to sleep. Talk to him firmly, but also with affection. Little by little, the baby will understand and will adapt to the new system.
- Give extra feedings at the end of the day. When he falls asleep with a full stomach, he is less likely to wake up during the night.
Babies cry one or two nights before adapting to the new system.
What do the experts say?
In his book “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems,” pediatrician Richard Ferber indicates that unnecessary nighttime feedings can cause sleep problems in children.
He explains that if a baby wakes up several times during the night to eat, waking up for other reasons, such as digestive problems or a wet diaper, can also become excuses to want to eat more.
On the other hand, pediatrician William Sears talks about nighttime feedings as a positive way to strengthen the bond between parents and children. For that reason, he recommends that parents do not accelerate the weaning process during the night as long as it does not cause great problems in the family.
In his book “The Baby Sleep Book,” he offers strategies such as sleeping with the child or feeding him in the parents’ bed so that nighttime feedings are more comfortable for both of them.
The decision to start the weaning process depends on the parents and how comfortable they feel with the system. When they are ready to start, you also must be very sure that your baby is ready.
In case he is not completely ready, your pediatrician will be the one who will be able to determine whether or not your baby is prepared to begin nighttime weaning.
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Brown A. Breastfeeding as a public health responsibility: a review of the evidence. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2017 Dec;30(6):759-770
- D’Auria E, Bergamini M, Staiano A, Banderali G, Pendezza E, Penagini F, Zuccotti GV, Peroni DG; Italian Society of Pediatrics. Baby-led weaning: what a systematic review of the literature adds on. Ital J Pediatr. 2018 May 3;44(1):49.