When can I begin to wean my baby from nightime feedings
A common question on almost all mothers’ minds. One can understand most parents cannot wait to get back their blissfully uninterrupted sleep, but still want to make sure their baby isn’t going hungry. This encouraged us to carry out a survey amongst young parents and the results were stark.
While there isn’t a “magical age” at which every a baby is ready for night weaning, there are some general guidelines for night feedings that seem to work for most babies. 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. It is difficult for even expert pediatricians to say exactly when babies are physically ready to go all night without eating. It is a process.
In our experience, babies fed on formula milk 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.
So 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 night-time feedings:
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.
Your baby is not eating much at night and treats nighttime feeds as playtime
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 for example if your baby is used to being rocked before she falls asleep), 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.
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.
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.