Is It Time To Night Wean?

Many parents stress about night weaning as they realize it may be the only way they can “officially” sleep through the night. Unfortunately, I see many families rush into this too soon, not understanding that there are many other foundational day to day things that can be addressed before night weaning begins.

I personally don’t recommend any night weaning until 9-10 months old, though you will see this varies depending on what you read. Truthfully, I don’t feel fully comfortable helping with night weaning until the child is 1 year old, knowing that in the first year of life, breastmilk or formula is the number one source of nutrition. Generally, by about 9-10 months old, the child will also be on 3 meals a day so we can feel more confident in he/she not needing as many night feeds; HOWEVER, this is extremely variable per child and is by no means a one size fits all approach.

Some Red Flags to consider before thinking about night weaning:

1) Is my baby waking hourly for multiple weeks? If so, this is likely another medical issue that is causing the frequent wakes. Yes, this can happen during times of development or teething, but if it remains consistent, it’s time to get a thorough evaluation. Tethered ties, low ferritin levels, dietary issues, and more could be causing these wakes. It is not a good time to night wean.

2) Is my baby going through a developmental milestone or teething? If so, he/she may likely need more comfort at this time and it is normal for he/she to wake up more frequently. This is not a good time to night wean.

3) Has there been a big change in the family dynamics? Did someone go back to work? Have we been on-the-go a lot? If so, your child may simply be experiencing stress that the family is also experiencing. If mom has just returned to work and you’ve noticed more frequent wakes, it is also very likely your child simply misses you. Babies and toddlers have a hard time with separation. Being separate from you all day and night is extremely difficult. This is not a good time to night wean. I do have a mini course specifically for working moms (ideally breastfeeding/pumping who are returning to work) that may help you with the transition.

4) Are there more than 3 wakes consistently? If so, this may likely be something that needs to be addressed in the daily schedule/routine or play. This is not a good time to night wean. If you are having trouble specifically with naps and you feel they may be disrupting nighttime sleep, I have a mini course for that. Otherwise, I also have a comprehensive sleep and postpartum course in addition to consults to help you figure out what could be going on and how it can be addressed.

5) You resent breastfeeding and just want it to end? If so, night weaning is not the place to start. If you are having issues with breastfeeding, latch, or just feel completely exhausted – let’s try to fill your cup first and address any issues (maybe seek out an IBCLC or even a mental health therapist if you need to). Let’s make sure you are making the decision to night wean from a place of clarity and not a place of desperation. All of this fully said with love because I KNOW how hard it is. Please reach out if you need help.

So Jen… Is it ever time to night wean? YES! Of course. Do you ever have to “officially” night wean? NO! Of course not. If it’s working for you and your family, it’s not a problem!

You might be ready to consider night weaning if…

  1. You have built in other sleep associations. No sleep associations are bad, you just need to find the ones that work for you as a family. If you don’t want to nurse back to sleep, how about snuggling instead? Or singing? Or rocking? Find something that works for you! I never want you to leave your child alone. I ALWAYS want you to be there with him/her LOVING them through this tough time.
  2. You feel comfortable supporting emotion during the day. Toddler throwing a tantrum? How do you react? Do you let him/her express himself and let them know it’s okay to feel frustrated/angry/etc or do you hush him/her to be quiet? This was a tough concept to grasp for me for awhile – feel free to reach out if you don’t fully understand it!!
  3. You consistently are getting 1-3 wakes every night. Is your child simply looking for a quick boob sesh before heading back to sleep? It’s probably an okay time to night wean!

Night weaning can be a very emotional time – both because of big emotions from your child but also emotions from you. Breastfeeding is full of ups and downs and it is absolutely a difficult decision to wean for many. Just remember, if you don’t want to do it, you NEVER have to. If you are interested and aren’t sure where to start – reach out! I also have a list of children’s books that others have used to help with night weaning toddlers. This could be a good place to start for you.

Feel like you’re ready to night wean and need help? Reach out! Realized you’re not ready and you need help adjusting your days? Reach out! I am here to help whenever or however you may need 🙂

All consults and courses are listed in my Sleep and Parenting Help tab!

Email: thesleepdpt@gmail.com

Wishing you all the best,
Jen

Published by Jennifer Palmer PT, DPT

Instagram: @thesleepdpt Twitter: @thesleepdpt Facebook: The Sleep DPT Facebook Group: The Sleep DPT & Friends

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