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Annette Faamausili, May 16 2022

Is It Time To Drop Nighttime Feeds? How To Tell If You’re Ready

Is It Time To Drop Nighttime Feeds? How To Tell If You’re Ready

Nighttime feeding can be a magical time for you and your baby. It’s a quiet time when you feel incredibly close to them - in a dark, hushed house it can feel like you are the only two people in the world.

Yet, sustained nighttime feeding can start to get pretty exhausting for you.

If your child is still waking multiple times per night for feeds, you might be thinking about weaning them.

But, how do you know when it is the right time?

Are they, or you, actually ready for it?

And how do you make the transition?

Let’s answer all those questions now.

Does Your Child Need Nighttime Feeds?

Once toddlers are fully established on solid food and have three meals per day, they should no longer need to be fed overnight. However, by this stage, many children have become accustomed to regular breastfeeds and may still wake during the night for feeds and comfort.

Often they are not really hungry but are simply waking out of habit. The smell and taste of breastmilk are comforting, as is your proximity, warmth and touch. All these comforting factors act a bit like a sedative, helping them drift back to sleep with ease. That’s why you might notice your toddler wakes every two or three hours during the night seeking that same comfort from the breast as they wake and drift in between their sleep cycles.

If you are happy feeding throughout the night and you feel that your child benefits from it, or that they really won’t sleep well if you stop feeding, then carrying on is perfectly fine. As long as your child is eating enough during the day and getting the nutrients they need, and you are not suffering from a lack of sleep, it’s your choice to decide when to stop. You will know when the time is right for you to stop feeding - your child will guide you.

If, however, you are beginning to struggle and the lack of sleep is impacting your physical and emotional wellbeing, then it might be time to consider night weaning.

Signs It’s Time To Think About Weaning Nighttime Feeds

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

•  You feel mentally ready to tackle 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 are starting to feel resentful towards your toddler for the amount of time it takes to settle them overnight and lack of own physical 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 eating enough solid food for their age and therefore not getting enough nutrition or filling their tummy up properly.

•  Another baby is on the way, and you know you will not be able to cope with breastfeeding two children.

Top Tips For Weaning From Nighttime Feeds

If you choose that now is the time to wean your toddler off night feeds, it is important to go slowly. Don’t rush the process. Be gentle with your child and yourself, and don’t push things faster than either of you are comfortable with.

If your child is very reliant on breastmilk at other times too - for example, you use it to comfort them during the day if they are upset, then weaning them will take a very gentle and gradual approach.

Here are some tips to get you started:

•  Be kind to yourself. This will be a tricky and emotive journey for you both. Remember, that your little one will NOT feel abandoned by you simply because you stop nighttime feeds. There are plenty of other ways to experience love, closeness, and affection together.

•  Try reducing feeds during the day before you start night weaning so that your toddler gets used to not being fed every time they want to.  Wear tops that make your breasts less accessible and therefore make it harder to feed. Have things on hand to distract your child. If your child feeds for comfort, then offer a cuddle or another soothing activity where the two of you can be close instead.

•  To start with, feed every other time your toddler wakes up during the night. The other times offer your proximity, touch, and voice with no feed instead.

•  Give your toddler a comforter to take to bed with them. Something that can be made to smell like you, like a blanket or a Cuski comforter, is great as it will offer a feeling and the comfort of being close to mum.

•  If your toddler has been co sleeping with you in your bed, remove the side of their cot and push it up against your bed to create their own special sleep space. This way, they are still close to you but with a bit more separation.

•  Get your partner involved in settling your child at bedtime or when they wake during the night. This not only helps to share the load and allows you time to rest, but it also helps your child associate settling without access to breastfeeding.

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 hundreds 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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