After your baby reaches a certain stage, nighttime breastfeeding may not be necessary. When this occurs, however, is different for every baby. Some babies will continue to wake for feedings until they are well over one year old. Others gradually wean themselves from night feedings by three or four months. If you’re wondering how to stop breastfeeding at night, here are some strategies to consider to assist in your mission:
- When your baby sleeps through the night, it doesn’t mean she needs less breast milk, but rather she is mature enough to go for a longer period of time without being fed. Therefore, you’ll have to ensure she’s getting enough milk throughout the day to compensate for a few less feedings that you will eliminate at night. Feed your baby more frequently during the day, especially as you approach bedtime. This is known as cluster feeding. You can even wake your baby for one last feeding before you go to bed to tide her over through the night.
- Another feeding tip: Encourage your baby to feed as much as possible on one breast so she’s getting the fatty hind milk before switching to the other side. This will satiate her for longer.
- Often babies wake at night for comfort more than food. Moms are mistaken about their babies’ needs and feed them unnecessarily. A smooth way around this is to increase daytime touching and interactions as much as possible. If your baby gets enough of you during the day, she may not feel compelled to wake up for your comfort, or if she does, she can soothe herself back to sleep.
- If you do suspect your baby is waking for comfort rather than food, try other methods of soothing her than feeding. Daddies are helpful here since your baby doesn’t expect daddy to feed her. He can rock her, massage her and comfort her until she’s ready to go back to sleep.
- It is ideal to put your baby to bed drowsy, but not fully asleep. This will help teach your child how to fall asleep on her own. It won’t be immediate but with practice, she will learn. Also, putting your baby to sleep before she is overtired is essential. When babies are too tired, they will be fussier and less likely to settle quickly or stay asleep. If you can help your baby achieve good sleeping habits, you will have an easier time weaning at night.
- If you are sleeping in the same room as your baby or co-sleeping, you may want to consider separating yourself from your baby. If your baby is keenly aware that you are present and available for feedings, she will be more likely to take you up on the offer. Separation may be the key to your success.
- Some pediatricians and sleep experts recommend pulling the plug on nighttime breastfeeding once babies reach a certain age and weight. Their theory is that babies that have grown consistently on breast milk can go 10 to 12 hour stretches without being fed. And babies of a certain age can self-soothe if they are given the opportunity. This method may involve some crying but usually babies adjust within a week’s time. It is not for everyone, but it is something to consider. Ask your pediatrician if this is appropriate for your baby’s stage before trying it.
- Night weaning may not work if your baby is going through major changes such as teething, starting solids, being sick or at the beginning of a new childcare situation. Consider holding off on the process until your baby has adjusted to these transitions.
We hope these tips for how to stop breastfeeding at night are helpful. Remember, your goal is to achieve the sleep that everyone needs for happy tomorrows while also having compassion for the needs of your baby. Sweet dreams!