Night Weaning vs. Sleep Training: Which Should Come First?

Night Weaning Sleep Training

For many of the exhausted families with whom we work, night weaning and sleep training are both high on the list of priorities. After all, constant night feeds can exhaust even the strongest parents, and a baby who can’t fall asleep independently is one who will wake too early from a nap, or wake during the night due to sleep associations, and not out of true hunger.

So yeah…when it comes to night weaning and sleep training, most parents would say, “Both, please!” But this raises an interesting question – should one come before the other? Our team of consultants discussed this question recently, and we thought you’d really enjoy getting a peek into their answers!

Keep reading to learn which you should work on first: night weaning or sleep training!

Night Weaning vs. Sleep Training: Usually, Sleep Training Comes First

Let’s cut right to the chase: typically, we recommend working on sleep training first. When our team of consultants create Personalized Sleep Plans® for the families with whom they work, they typically put night weaning after sleep training in the day-by-day section of the plan. Why? Because when a baby is able to fall asleep independently, without needing any help from mom or dad in the form of sleep associations, most families find that night waking decreases dramatically, and that some of the “night feedings” (that were actually just plain old night wakings) disappear on their own.

See, when a baby knows how to fall asleep without help at bedtime, or at the start of a nap, then he can go BACK to sleep when he wakes at night between sleep cycles (and doesn’t need a feeding), or in the middle of a nap. So if your baby is in the habit of waking frequently at night, odds are many of those night wakings will disappear via the process of sleep training.

Then, once you’ve worked on helping your baby learn to fall asleep independently at bedtime, and when you’ve worked on helping your baby fall back to sleep independently after night wakings, you can start to work on the process of night weaning, IF you and your baby are ready to drop feedings.

For more information on sleep coaching your baby, check out these resources:

Night Weaning vs. Sleep Training: 4 Times To Try Night Weaning BEFORE Sleep Training

While most families do best starting with sleep training and then moving on to night weaning, in some situations, it’s actually best to reverse that process and start with night weaning first. Those situations include…

    1. …medical reasons. In some rare situations, parents are faced with a medical scenario in which they have to wean from breastfeeding immediately. For instance, we’ve worked with moms who, after a cancer diagnosis, have to wean before undergoing chemotherapy. In situations like these (and depending on baby’s age), it usually makes sense to wean from night feedings while you’re in the process of weaning to formula (if your child is 12 months or younger and still needs formula). Of course, if your baby still needs 1 or more age-based night feedings, keep those – but this is a great time to work on reducing any unnecessary night feedings.
    1. …a toddler who wakes ONLY for 1-2 feedings a night. While some toddlers have serious sleep problems, we’ve worked with many toddler families whose only real problem was one or two night feedings that they wished to get rid of. In these cases, the toddlers usually fall asleep fine at bedtime, wake up to feed once or twice, go right back to sleep on their own, and then sleep until morning. In cases like these, since there are no real sleep problems aside from the night feedings, it makes sense to work on gradually night weaning.
    1. …families who want to continue sharing a bed. We see this fairly often – attachment families who want to continue to share a family bed want to reduce or eliminate night feedings, but don’t want to transition baby to a crib. In these cases, what the parents want is a period of sustained sleep without feedings, so it makes sense to start with night weaning, and to teach baby to fall back to sleep without going to the breast. To do this, we usually create a special bed-sharing day-by-day plan that teaches mom and dad how to gradually help baby fall back to sleep after a night waking without needing to nurse.
  1. …babies who are always fed during every night waking. Now, this one is less sure-fire than the other 3, as it can be hard to distinguish exactly when night feeding has become a deeply-ingrained habits. But simply put, if you ALWAYS feed your baby EVERY time she wakes, then you may want to start offering other forms of comfort during night wakings, before you start actually sleep training. As one of our consultants put it, “If a family has never, ever tried offering a pacifier at 2 a.m. instead of a feeding, or simply holding and patting the baby, instead of feeding, then we usually start off trying that.” Honestly, you’d be amazed at how just this small change to the usual routine can help decrease night wakings, and can provide a great start to sleep coaching!

For more information about night weaning your baby, take a look at these resources:

Hoping this answers all of your questions about sleep training and night weaning!

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18 thoughts on “Night Weaning vs. Sleep Training: Which Should Come First?”

  1. Hi, we are currently sleep training my 6.5 month old who was previously cosleeping with us. He was nursing 3-6 times a night, mostly for comfort. Now that we are sleep training, how do I slowly cut back his feeds without having him think the 1-2 times I’m picking him up to feed is comforting him and throwing off our sleep plan?

    • Hi Courtney, thanks for writing to us. It can be tricky to wean from lots of comfort feeding, but he will eventually get it. We often talk about “fixed points” in our articles, and I would suggest having the times you feed him as fixed points to make sure you don’t cave under pressure and go backwards in your progress. It may confuse him at first, but with consistency he will adapt and figure it out with time. Here is a link to a free guide with tips to help your child sleep better at night:
      I hope this helps but if you find you need more specific information, please let us know! We have a ton of resources that can help. Feel free also to email us directly anytime at [email protected]
      Hang in there!

  2. We have started sleep training with our 9month old. She falls asleep at night within a minute of being placed in the crib. Before sleep training she was a deep sleeper now it seems every sound wakes her. Is playing music while she sleeps ok?

    The other issue we are facing is she was sleeping through the night but now is waking up 2 or 3 times and not putting herself back to sleep. What is the best way to night wean? I don’t believe she is actually hungry but I cave to stop the crying as we are room sharing until renovations are complete.

    • Hi @Ali, thanks for writing to us. I’m glad to hear your daughter has taken to sleep training so well, but I know how nerve wracking it can be to tip toe around the house for the rest of the night (especially since it sounds like you’ve got house projects you’re working on that may be loud!). I personally use white noise with my kids (and myself, ha!) but if music works for you, there’s nothing wrong with that if it’s going well.
      At this age there is a 9 month regression some hit, so that could be the cause of the multiple night issues, and some babies do need that extra feeding – but at 9 months only 1 – just to hold them over until they are closer to 12 months. Here is a link to a free guide that will help give some extra tips on how to get her sleeping through the night again:
      If you need more help, let us know!

  3. If you do sleep training before night weaning, is the thought that you feed them (baby takes bottle once a night) with a bottle but put them right back down after feeding and burping and let them cry etc but also then so the 3 mins.. 5 mins… Waiting period etc?

    Same with diaper changes, I assume you can do a nighttime diaper change but then put them back down awake?

    • Hi @Stephanie, Thanks for writing to us! Yes! The goal would be to still feed and change diapers as needed, but to put the baby back to bed before they are asleep, so that they can learn to fall asleep on their own. Then you would proceed with the sleep coaching from there, whether that mean a waiting period or you soothing from crib-side, or however you choose to sleep coach.
      Good luck Stephanie! We hope it goes smoothly!!

  4. Hi! My son is 7.5 months and we attempted to night wean while bedsharing but it wasn’t working. We tried many things and ended up sleep training in the pack n play. He wakes only at 2 am now for a feed! Last night he woke for the feed but then cried for 2 hours after! He just wouldn’t settle with or without comfort. It was day 3 of sleep training in his own space. Is this just normal? I was told this means ‘he doesn’t really need the feed’ is this true or is it just a part of him getting used to the new setup? I would really rather keep the feed for my supply…

    • Hi @Felicia –
      Thanks for writing to us! It sounds like you have made some good progress with your little guy’s sleep and his night weaning! Great work! Waking for one feed is appropriate for his age! Hopefully the long period of crying was just a “one time thing” and he does much better tonight, and each night from here on out. Two hours is a long cry, so I understand your concern! If things do not smooth out, and you want to have a sleep consultant take an in depth look at his sleep history and help you with this, we would love to help!
      You can read about all of our sleep consultation packages here:
      Good luck Felicia!!

  5. Hello Janelle,
    My son is almost 14 months old and he still wakes up on a good night 3-4 times. The only way he will go back down is if I nurse him. He won’t take a pacifier and doesn’t want my cuddles or anyone else’s. He just wants to nurse. We are still rooming in with him and will for the next 2.5 months due to a houseguest being in our house

    • Hi @Galit Cohen, thanks for sending that information along, and I am so sorry to hear your son is waking up for you so many times at night. It sounds like you could use a little more specific advise to help with this, and I would highly recommend working with one of our expert sleep consultants so they can give you specific information for your situation. You can view our different packages here:
      Hang in there! We hope to be able to work with you!

  6. Hi,
    My son is almost 10 months old. He goes to sleep on his own for naps and bedtime without a fuss but is still waking 4 times a night almost like clockwork. Bedtime routine starts at 630 and he is asleep by 7. He wakes at 930, 12, 230 and 4-430 every single night. We have tried not feeding and rocking, soothing, sending in the husband…to no avail. I thought when we sleep trained at bedtime that the night wakings would decrease but they haven’t. Do we need to implement the same sleep training that we used at bedtime to every night waking? How do I determine if he is actually hungry or if it has just become routine? He is currently teething and I know the 9 month sleep regression is real but I need help I am at a complete loss!!

  7. Great

    Thank you Janelle.
    As soon as her ear infection clears will start with adjusting her naps.
    Will keep you posted on our progress.
    Many thanks again, truly appreciate the support.


  8. Hi Janelle

    Thank you so much for your prompt reply.
    As you can see I am awake and now cannot sleep…

    Just wanted to clarify : the fact she naps only once a day for 2-3hrs can this be an issue?
    She wakes so late that it s difficult to add another nap.
    Shall I avoid napping with her so she will sleep less and I can potentially add a second nap or put her to bed earlier?

    Many thanks for your help.

    Best Regards


    • @Amy, Thanks for replying. I apologize I didn’t address the nap in my previous comment. At this age, we would want her to have two naps, so that her wake times are not so long, but we also don’t want her to get overwhelmed with so much sleep training all at once. You may try to establish a different schedule with her naps first – a morning nap and then afternoon nap, and just try to get them to be an hour long. Once the schedule is established you may try weaning her from those sleep associations. You also may decide you want to focus on one part of sleep at a time so she does feel overwhelmed – so you may start with naps, or you may start with nights. I personally found nights were easier for my boys so I started there, but all babies are different and you can do what you prefer. 🙂

  9. Hi
    Our babygirl use to sleep trough the night from 2 to 6 months. Then she started theething and started to wakes 3-4 times a night. After the theething she got sick for about two months.
    During that time she coslept with us, and we would put her back in her cot when she was sound asleep.

    She’s now 10months old.
    Wakes at least 4times at night.
    She fall asleep while breastfeeding or her dad rocks her to sleep.
    She never fall asleep on her own.
    Now every time she wakes she cries until I give her the breast.
    My husband sleep with her once or twice a week so I can get few hours sleep. I express milk and he gives her the bottle or rocks her back to sleep.
    She naps only once a day as she sleep more than 2hrs most of the time. But I have to stay with her otherwise she wakes within 30min.

    Her routine

    – Wakes between 9 – 9.30am
    – breakfast around 10am she doesn’t eat much ( 3-4 tsp of porridge) + breastfeeding
    – lunch at 12.15 usually eat well.
    – nap around 1pm + breastfeeding ( if I stay with her in the bed she’s sleeps 2-3hrs sometimes)
    – 4pm snack, she barely eats
    – 6pm dinner eat well
    – 7pm Bath
    – 8pm bed + breastfeeding can takes up to an hour to get her to sleep.
    – between 9pm and 12pm:
    She wakes almost every 40min her dad usually rocks her back to sleep.
    Then she sleeps until 2am, has a feed. And she can wake up like this every 1h30 -2 hrs
    Having said that she’s been poorly with an infection and nocturnal cough.

    Needless to say I am exhausted.

    How do I get her to sleep on her own and wean her from night feeds?

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