3 Signs It May Be Time For Night Weaning Your Baby

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3 Signs Your Baby is Ready to Night Wean, from The Baby Sleep Site™

One of the questions we get asked a lot (via Facebook posts, consultation e-mails, and blog article comments), is “When can I wean my baby from nighttime feedings?” Understandably, most parents are eager to get back to enjoying nights of peaceful, uninterrupted sleep, but still want to make sure their baby isn’t going hungry.

Of course, there is no fixed schedule for night weaning; every baby is different, so every baby will be ready to wean from night feedings at different points. As we have shared in a previous post, even expert pediatricians disagree on exactly when babies are physically ready to go all night without eating.

This is one reason why we created our night weaning quiz, Is Your Baby Ready For Night Weaning? If you haven’t taken it before, why don’t you take it today – at only 5 questions, it’s quick, and it will give you great insights into whether to not night weaning is right for your baby at this time.

Night Weaning: Baby Night Feedings By Age

While there isn’t a “magical age” at which every baby is ready for night weaning, there are some general guidelines for night feedings that seem to work for most babies:

Newborns to 3 months old: Feedings every 2-3 hours, on demand
3-4 Months: 2-3 feedings per night or every 3-6 hours, on demand
5-6 Months: 1-2 night feedings
7-9 Months: 1, maybe 2, night feedings
10-12 Months: Sometimes 1 night feeding
12+ Months: Generally no feedings

Of course, growth spurts, illnesses, and teething will be factors to consider; during those times, your baby may need a night feeding, even though she would not need one under normal circumstances.

Nicole’s Note:
“In our experience, formula fed babies do tend to night-wean sooner than breastfed babies. Breast milk is digested faster than formula and is more concentrated, so baby tends not to eat as much volume of breast milk during the day. We tend to see most formula-fed babies night-wean around 6 months old. Of course, all babies are different and you know your baby best.”

3 Signs Your Baby is Ready For Night Weaning

Those guidelines are helpful, but how will you know when your baby is ready to night wean? Be on the lookout for these signs; they could be indications that your baby is ready to drop nighttime feedings:

  1. Your baby is not eating as much during the day. If you find that your baby is not eating as much as usual during daylight hours, but is still waking to eat one or more times during the night, that’s a good indication that it may be time to drop (or at least reduce) nighttime feedings. Encourage your baby to eat more during the day; if he can get most/all of his calories in during the day, he’ll be ready to wean away from eating at night.
  2. Your baby is not eating much at night, and treats nighttime feeds as play time. You may start to notice that even though your baby wakes at night and cries for you, she isn’t very hungry. She might nurse a little, or drink a little of her bottle, and then be wide awake and wanting to ‘play’. In these cases, your baby is likely waking out of habit (or due to her sleep associations), and not out of hunger. This may be a sign that her nighttime feedings are not really necessary anymore, and that she is ready to drop them.
  3. Your baby has started solid foods (at the appropriate time!) Disclaimer: there is a right time and a wrong time to start your baby on solid foods. For details on when to start your baby on solids, check out this post. Once your baby has started eating solid foods, it won’t be too long before he’s ready to wean from nighttime feeds. Your baby may continue to need one (or possibly two) night feeds after he starts solid food, but after a few months, you should be able to gradually wean him from nighttime eating. (Of course, if you are breastfeeding, you’ll need to make sure you can maintain a good milk supply once you drop nighttime nursing. For details about how to measure your breastmilk supply, check out this page.

*BONUS TIP* There is a wide variance in your baby’s nighttime feeding. This one can be trickier to diagnose. But if you notice a lot of variation in when your baby wakes for night feedings, that can be a sign it is time to night wean. For instance, if your baby wakes at 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. to eat one day, then wakes at 3 a.m. the next day, then wakes at 10:30 p.m. and not again until morning on the third day, that variance may mean it is time to start the night weaning process.

Feeding ScheduleKeep in mind that none of these signs on their own mean that your baby is ready to night wean. For example, a 3 month old baby may have a few nights when there are big variances in the timing of her night feedings, but that certainly does not mean she’s ready to stop eating at night! However, if you see two or three of these signs together, that is a good indication that you can begin the night weaning process. When doing consultations, we look at a variety of factors when giving our professional opinion about whether it’s “time” or not.

Still not sure whether your baby is ready for night weaning? In general, Nicole recommends an attempt at night weaning around 8 or 9 months, due to what she calls a “chicken-and-egg” problem that some families face around this time:

A baby needs a certain amount of sustenance during the day and if he gets some at night, he won’t eat more during the day and if he doesn’t eat more during the day, he needs it at night. So, sometimes, a baby really does feel hungry at night, but it doesn’t mean he can’t go all night without a feeding, it simply means he needs to adjust how much he’s eating during the day. The idea is to gently help him do this.

For more information about night weaning if you are breastfeeding, and how night weaning may affect your baby’s sleep, be sure to take a look at this post.

When did your baby start night weaning? How did you know your baby was ready? Share your night weaning experience with other parents, in the comments section below!

Need help with night weaning? We’ve got the resources and personalized help you need! Please be sure to pick up your FREE copy of 5 (tear-free) Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night, our e-Book with tear-free tips to help your baby sleep better. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep (babies) or The 5-Step System to Better Toddler Sleep (toddlers). Using a unique approach and practical tools for success, our e-books help you and your baby sleep through the night and nap better. Want immediate access to all of our e-books, along with unlimited access to tele-seminars, member chats, and case studies? Consider becoming a site member. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about! Sometimes it’s not that you can’t make a plan. Sometimes you’re just too tired to.

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20 Responses to 3 Signs It May Be Time For Night Weaning Your Baby

  1. Sarah says:

    Wow… my baby is almost 8 weeks old, and she’s been doing 11-12 hour nights with only one feeding for well over a week now. But she is still having her fussy evenings (though it’s been getting a lot better), and I just need to know how to shift her current night from 10pm-10am a little earlier! lol

  2. Emily DeJeu says:

    @ Sarah – enjoy it! Newborns do tend to sleep a lot. Some babies continue their long stretches of sleep at night after the newborn stage, and go on to sleep through the night quite early. Others, however, start waking up more at night once their sleeping patterns change around 4 months of age (called the 4 month sleep regression – read more about it here: http://www.babysleepsite.com/how-we-sleep/4-month-old-sleep-regression/) So if your daughter falls out of this pattern and starts waking up more at night, don’t be discourage – it’s normal. For your sake, though, I hope she sticks with her current sleeping pattern!

    Thanks for commenting, Sarah! :)

  3. Katy says:

    My daughter is 13 months old and still wakes twice at night to eat. I wish she would night wean herself, I’m tired! She usually wakes around 10:30 and 3 or 4. I don’t want to deprive her of my milk, but she’s obviously on lots of solids and drinks cow’s milk at daycare.

  4. KatM says:

    I struggled with this question a lot with my daughter. Different sources had different information. A consult with a sleep expert here was re-assuring that it was a personal decision and there was no need to force it at arbitrary time but also gave us some thoughts about how to proceed when we were ready. Gradually lengthening the time between feeds, etc. We more or less let our daughter lead the way. Around 12 months she dropped one of her two night feeds and by 14 months she had dropped both. A key was not going in right away when I heard peeps and if she re-settled I knew she wasn’t needing me. I do think for us and for her if we had tried to set a particular time line it would have been stressful. 14 months was late according to most books etc but it was the right time for us. Thankfully our pediatrician said after 12 months she didn’t necessarily need the calories at night but it was up to us if we felt OK with a slower pace. I truly believe nursing is not just about calories and that is evident in my now 2 year old still nursing at nap and bedtime.

  5. Aloka says:

    My 11 month old wakes at 1 am and 4 am to nurse.
    I know I can stop it and I know if we try for three days we will manage. I just don’t feel I want to do it yet because I am hoping he will drop it when he is ready.
    Incase he doesn’t then I plan to stop night feedings when he is older and can understand me when I tell him we are no longer going to nurse at night.
    My paediatrician told me at nine months that I should stop. I didn’t because I didn’t feel the need.
    Also none of the signs listed in this article apply to my baby.
    I love this site. Thanks so much for the kind take on sleep issues.

  6. Emily DeJeu says:

    @ Katy – typically, little ones don’t need to eat at night after about 12 months. So it’s likely that your daughter is waking out of habit at this point, and not necessarily out of need. As we like to say, that’s not a problem unless it’s a problem for you – but it sounds like that it most definitely is a problem for you! Have you tried any night weaning yet, since she’s not doing it herself? Also — see Kat M’s comment, right below yours, for some additional insights; sounds like she was in a similar situation.

    Thanks for reaching out, Katy! Keep us posted, and don’t hesitate to ask if you have more questions.

    @ KatM – glad to hear your consultation was helpful, and that your consultant was affirming of your choices! And you make a really good point here; it has to feel like the right team for YOU in order for it to be the right time :) Just because a baby can go without calories at night after 12 months doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the ‘right time’ to do so – especially if mom and dad aren’t comfortable with night weaning yet! And you’re spot-on in your statement about nursing; it’s about nourishment, yes, but it’s about more than that, too.

    Thanks for commenting, Kat!

    @ Aloka – good for you, for following your instincts (and desires!), and for not taking steps to night wean until you feel ready. There’s certainly nothing wrong with a little snuggle and nursing in the middle of the night – it’s not a problem unless it’s a problem for you. So if you’re comfortable, and your baby is thriving, then things are good!

    Thanks for taking the time to comment, Aloka! :)

  7. Kerry says:

    We have an 14-month-old who only recently started sleeping in his crib for long stretches at night. He has yet to make it through without a night feeding, which up till now has been alright with me. However, I’m starting to feel the need to wean him, especially during the night, in order to get him to eat more during the day. (He doesn’t nurse much during the day either, probably because he’s become accustomed to those night feedings.) I can’t deny that I’ve been prolonging the issue by continuing to nurse him in our bed when he wakes up; till now, it’s just been easier to offer him the breast instead of walking him around for 20 minutes to get him back to Dreamland – or worse -leaving him in the crib to cry it out. Since we room share as well, I’m very quick to wake and bring him in the bed with us when I hear the whimpers and see his little shadow standing in the crib. It’s not an option for us to give him his own room (space issues) but I wonder how I will be able to night wean him without a possible meltdown and several nights of no sleep for any of us. Sound familiar to anyone out there?

  8. Goli says:

    My 7 month old baby often nurses frequently at night. We co sleep and I wonder if my presence makes him want to nurse more. I nurse him to sleep around 7:00 pm each night and usually go to bed myself a few hours later. He seldom wakes up fully. I was fine with this arrangement since I never felt exhausted in the mornings. But now there’s been times when he wants to nurse so many times that I’m starting to feel tired. We’ve had problems with feeding during the day. But I’ve really tried to encourage him to eat more. He doesn’t settle for bf in the day unless he’s tired and sleepy. So I’ve been pumping and offering him a sippy cup during the day which he takes. I wonder how else I can encourage him to eat more during the day and less at night. I totally feel that 2 feeds is the maximum he needs at night.

    Thank you for you great website.

  9. Jen says:

    My big baby boy is 7.5 months now. When he was about 6.5 mo we used controlled crying to reduce his night wakings from 5-6 to 2. This was really successful for us and we’re thinking about “asking” the babe if he really just wants 1 feeding. He’s also waking up for the day at 5 with a dirty diaper (which is a bit early for our tastes!). I have a feeling if he eats a little less at night, he might not eliminate until a little later in the am. My question is if we were to attempt to go from 2 to 1 feedings, which one do we cut? The midnight or 4am feeding? Those of you who have a babe who only eats once, what time do they wake? Thanks! Love this site!!

  10. Wendy Kommany says:

    My baby stopped waking up at night at 8 months… He started decreasing his feedings at night on his own so I didn’t want to push it and just let him do it at his own time… One night it just happened! And then another night, the third night he woke up and fussed a little bit… Less than 5 minutes and went back to sleep again, I am quite surpised because he started teething soon after he was sleeping through the night and so far it hasn’t affected his sleep…

  11. Lisa says:

    My son is 9mnths old today! He has been waking to feed every 2-3 hrs at night since around 3mnths. He is on solids(a small jar per meal 3x a day) plus breast milk in between. We started to wean my daughter from 9-10mnths. By the time I stopped at 10 mnths she started sleeping through the night… Does my son need the extra calories or is this habit? What to do?????

  12. KatN says:

    My daughter is nearly 2yo. And we’ve just recently dropped her night feedings at around 19mos. But she still wakes early in the morn around 6ish (wakes up 7/730) to nurse. Reading the signs, I think its what causes her to eat less during the day, esp breakfast. She doesnt nurse much during the day either. Only at naptime & occasionally bedtime. If i dont nurse her at 6ish, she’ll wake-up so early & wont get enough sleep(9hrs). ????

  13. DAD says:

    My son is now 5.5 months old, he is waking generally 1-2 times a night. He is still on breast milk and this week we have started him on some solids which he loves. My wife is exhausted and needing more sleep and it is causing difficulties between us. She is trying to give him time to self sooth as well. She is keen to try sleep train and the cry it out method. I think hes making good progress and he even slept for 6 hours a few nights ago. We dont know if we need to purservere for another couple of months with what we are doing. Or to start sleep traing. She seems to think that he relys on my wife for settling. Isnt that normal for a baby of his age?. His routine is generally bath feed and down at 7pm (not cuddle to sleep).Feed at 10-11 back down feed at 2-3 then awake at 630-7.00. Its hard to know what to do and when to do it. I have found your web page really helpful.

  14. Joyce says:

    My 13-month-old son is sleeping 8-10 hours (8pm-5/6am) and then waking for a bottle and then usually staying in bed or sleeping for another hour or two. Is that considered night-weaned already since he sleeps 9-10 hours? Or isn’t it because he wakes for that bottle?

  15. Michelle says:

    I can attest that different babies will night wean at their own pace (or you can help them if needed). I have 15 month old twin girls, both nursed until 1 year old (no formula). One stopped night feedings at 11 weeks, the other forcibly at 11 months. They were obviously parented the same, but one has just always been a good sleeper and the other still wakes up most nights….

  16. Sonia says:

    My daughter is 15 months old and since about her first birthday she was waking only once per night (some nights not at all) for feeding. About a month ago she began waking 2 sometimes 3 times per night. She nurses for an hour or more before I can get her back to sleep in her crib. Some nights I lay down with her on the couch (too tired) and she will stay on my breast for 2 or 3 hours. She is teething, so I am hoping that is the reason for the frequent wakings I want to wean her off of the breast entirely but I do not want to use the “cry it out” method….. she acts like she is hyperventilating if she cries for too long- it scares me

  17. Emily DeJeu says:

    @ Kerry – You’re right in thinking that, by 14 months, night feeds are no longer necessary. And your observation about your little on eating less during the day because he eats at night, sounds accurate. In terms of what sleep training will look like – how much crying/melting down there’ll be depends on the method you choose to use. Some gentle methods keep crying at bay, but they can take awhile. CIO methods, on the other hand, involve tears (which may be particularly hard for you to deal with, if you share a room!), but they generally work quickly.

    Have you checked out our free toddler guide yet? If not, you can access it here: http://www.babysleepsite.com/toddler-sleep-training-secrets-free-ebook/ Thanks for commenting, Kerry, and keep us posted on what happens! :)

    @ Goli – you’re probably spot-on in thinking that all that nighttime eating is interfering with his daytime eating. The goal (as you point out) would be to gradually reduce those nighttime feeds, and make up for them in the daytime. In terms of how to do that – you can check out our free guide for sleep training tips (access it here: http://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep-through-night-free-ebook/) There are ways to sleep train gently, that will allow you to continue co-sleeping (if you want to). Nicole wrote an article about that, actually: http://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/attachment-parenting-sleep-training/

    Hope these resources help, Goli! Thanks for commenting, and thanks for your kind feedback about the site! :)

    @ Jen – hard to say for sure which one to cut. Hopefully, a few other moms will hop on and give you some insights here. You could always try eliminating one first (say, the midnight feed) and then see how your son responds.

    Thanks for commenting, Jen, and for your kind feedback about the site! Best of luck to you. :)

    @ Wendy Kommany – wow! This sounds like a dream situation. So glad your little one was able to figure this out on his own, and that it happened naturally and easily. :)

    @ Lisa – Do you feel confident that your son is getting enough to eat/drink during the day? If you’re not sure, you can use this chart as a reference: http://www.startbabyonsolids.com/baby-solids-how/solid-food-feeding-schedule/. If you know he’s getting enough to eat during the day, then one feeding at night should be more than sufficient. You could also try eliminating the night feeds altogether; that’s fine to do at this age. I think you’re suspicion that this nighttime eating is a habit is probably correct; by 9 months, your little guy doesn’t need to feed every 2-3 hours at night.

    For help in gradually eliminating these nighttime feeds, check out our free guide: http://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep-through-night-free-ebook/. Of course, if you’d like help with this process, you can always consider a consultation: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-toddler-sleep-consulting-services/. Hope these resources help, Lisa! Thanks for commenting, and keep us posted! :)

    @ KatN – Sounds like this might be a bit of a scheduling issue. What time does your daughter go to bed? You mention that if you don’t nurse her around 6, she stays awake, and that means she’s only getting about 9 hours of sleep each night. That would indicate a bedtime of about 9 p.m. – is that right? If so, then I’d suggest moving bedtime earlier. As odd as it sounds, an earlier bedtime can actually promote sleep and help with early waking. We have an e-book on this topic, if you’re interested: http://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-waking-too-early/

    Hope this helps, Kat! Thanks for commenting. :)

  18. Emily DeJeu says:

    @ DAD – So glad to hear you’ve found the resources on the site helpful! And glad to hear from a dad; we always love it when dads chime in and contribute in the comments section. :) As for what to do in your situation: I’d say that everything you lay out here is perfectly normal for a 5.5 month old. 2 night feedings is good (not excessive), and they seem to be spaced apart pretty well. Are you and/or your wife having to rock him to sleep for long periods of time, or getting up often to replace a pacifier, or anything like that? If so, then that’s what you’d want to focus your sleep training around – breaking those sleep association. The goal of sleep training in this case shouldn’t be to eliminate the nighttime feedings; at 5.5 months, he still needs those (although, for some 5 month olds, 1 night feeding is sufficient.) This sample schedule for 6 month olds may be helpful to you and your wife, as you figure things out: http://www.babysleepsite.com/schedules/6-month-old-baby-schedule/

    If you do want to work on sleep training, we have a free guide that can help with that: http://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep-through-night-free-ebook/. Hope these resources help! And thanks for taking the time to comment. Keep us updated on what happens! :)

    @ Joyce – I’d say that’s less a night waking and more an early rising. If you want to shift that schedule a bit, so that the morning wake-up time is later, you can check out our Shifting Schedules e-book for guidance on how to do that: http://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-waking-too-early/.

    Thanks for commenting, Joyce! Hope this resources helps. :)

    @ Michelle – interesting observations, for someone who’s in the unique position of being able to compare twin babies and how they grow/develop differently! Thanks for sharing this. :)

    @ Sonia – well, rest assured that by 15 months, a toddler doesn’t need any night feedings to flourish and thrive. And an hour of nursing is definitely excessive, so it’s understandable that you want to wean her away from this habit! This is likely due to her teething, and possibly to her growth and development (babies tend to have sleep regressions that coincide with developmental milestones, like walking and talking; read more about regressions here: http://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-toddler-sleep-regressions/).

    As for how to help your daughter gently break this habit, without having to resort to crying techniques, check out our toddler free guide: http://www.babysleepsite.com/toddler-sleep-training-secrets-free-ebook/. There are gentle methods you can use, so no worries about having to listen to your daughter cry! Thanks for commenting, Sonia; let us know how it goes! :)

  19. Lauren says:

    My little one started sleeping 8-9 hour stretches at 3 months but then started waking for an early-morning feeding again around 8 months I would say. We were in a great rhythm of going to sleep at 10:30PM, doing one feeding at 4:30AM and then waking up for the day at 8:30AM. I remember I couldn’t wait until he slept through the night, and then when he gave up that early-morning feeding at about 11/12 months, I missed it! I couldn’t believe it! Looking back, I don’t remember how exhausted I was–I just remember those sweet, quiet moments together.

  20. Emily DeJeu says:

    @ Lauren – you offer such great perspective here! Thanks for sharing a bit about your experience, and for reminding those moms who are deep in the metaphorical “trenches” of motherhood that the exhaustion and sleep-deprivation does get better. :) (And lovely blog, by the way – your little guy is a cutie!)