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Annette Faamausili, May 16 2022

Is It Time To Night Wean Your Toddler?

"Nighttime Feeds: Balancing the Bond and the Need for Rest"

Nighttime feeds can create a magical bond between you and your baby. In the quiet of the night, with the world asleep around you, it often feels like you and your little one are the only two people in existence.

However, as these nighttime feeds become prolonged and ingrained, exhaustion can start to take its toll on you. If your child continues to wake multiple times during the night for feeds, you may be contemplating the idea of weaning your toddler off night feeds.

But, how can you determine if it's the right time? Are both you and your child truly prepared for this transition? And most importantly, how can you navigate this change effectively?

Let's explore these questions and find the answers you need.

Does Your Child Need Nighttime Feeds?

Once toddlers are accustomed to a full solid food regimen with three meals a day, the need for overnight feeds typically diminishes. However, by this stage, many children have grown accustomed to the comfort and regularity of nighttime breastfeeds, leading them to wake up during the night seeking both nourishment and reassurance.

Frequently, these nighttime awakenings are not driven by hunger but rather by habit. The soothing aroma and taste of breast milk, combined with your comforting presence, warmth, and touch, can act as a gentle sedative, helping them ease back into slumber with minimal fuss. As a result, you might observe your toddler waking every two or three hours, looking for that same nurturing connection as they transition between sleep cycles.

If you find satisfaction in continuing nighttime feeds, and you believe your child benefits from them or struggles to sleep without them, there's no harm in continuing with night feeds. As long as your child receives sufficient nourishment during the day and obtains the necessary nutrients, and you're not enduring severe sleep deprivation, the decision to continue rests with you. You will intuitively recognize when the time is right to cease nighttime feeds, as your child's cues will guide you.

However, if you're grappling with exhaustion and experiencing a toll on your physical and emotional well-being due to lack of sleep, it might be an opportune moment to contemplate the concept of night weaning.

Signs It’s Time To Think About Night Weaning

Here are some signs that it could be time to think about weaning your little one-off nighttime feeds:

•  You feel mentally prepared to embark on this journey.

•  You are beginning to suffer, either physically or mentally, from the broken sleep stemming from waking every few hours to feed. Perhaps you are finding it harder to complete simple tasks, or you are becoming more anxious.

•  You're starting to harbor feelings of resentment toward your toddler because of the time and effort it takes to settle them overnight, which may lead to a lack of personal space.

•  It is impacting your relationship with your partner. Perhaps you don’t have as much quality time together, or, if you are co-sleeping with your toddler, your partner may even have moved out of the family bed.

•  Older children are being disturbed and suffering from broken sleep during the night.

•  Your daytime routine is changing, and you need to reduce reliance on breastfeeding for comfort rather than just nutrition. For example, your child might be about to start daycare, or you might be returning to work.

•  Your child is not consuming enough solid food for their age, potentially leading to inadequate nutrition or incomplete satiety.

•  Another baby is on the way, you recognize that managing breastfeeding for two children simultaneously will be challenging.

Tips For Weaning From Nighttime Feeds

If you've decided that it's time to wean your toddler off nighttime feeds, it's crucial to take things slow and gentle. Avoid rushing the process, and ensure both you and your child are comfortable with the pace of change.

If your toddler relies heavily on breastmilk for comfort during the day as well, a gradual approach becomes even more important. Here are some tips to help you embark on this journey:

Show Yourself Compassion: Understand that this journey can be emotionally challenging for both you and your toddler. Keep in mind that discontinuing nighttime feeds won't make your little one feel abandoned. There are numerous alternative ways to foster love, connection, and affection between you two.

Reduce Daytime Feeds First: Before starting night weaning, consider reducing feeds during the day so your toddler becomes accustomed to not feeding every time they desire. Wearing tops that make your breasts less accessible can help deter feeding. Have engaging distractions on hand to shift their focus. If your child feeds for comfort, offer cuddles or other soothing activities to maintain that closeness.

Gradual Reduction: Start by feeding every other time your toddler wakes up during the night. During the alternate wakes, provide your proximity, touch, and soothing words without feeding.

Introduce a Comforter : Offer your toddler a comfort item to take to bed, such as a blanket or a Cuski comforter. These items can be infused with your scent, providing a sense of closeness and comfort.

Transition to Their Sleep Space: If your toddler has been co-sleeping with you in your bed, consider removing one side of their cot and positioning it next to your bed to create their own special sleep space. This arrangement keeps them physically close to you while allowing a bit more separation.

Seek Support: Involve your partner in comforting your child at bedtime or during nighttime awakenings. This not only shares the responsibilities and provides you with much-needed rest but also helps your child learn to settle without relying on breastfeeding.

By approaching night weaning with patience and empathy, you can ensure a smooth transition for both you and your toddler.

Need A Guiding Hand While Night Weaning?

Making any changes to your child’s routine can be hard. Especially when you are dealing with something that can be emotional, like feeding and sleeping. So, consistency is key to making the changes stick.

With this in mind, it can be hard to handle it alone.

If you’d like some support while you navigate these changes, please get in touch. I have helped thousands of parents gently and successfully wean their toddlers off night feeds. Together, we can create a plan that will work for you and your family. Contact me today.

Written by

Annette Faamausili


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