Getting Ready for Weaning
There’s going to come the time when you’re going to want to wean your baby from nighttime feedings. Most babies are reluctant to give up these nighttime feedings. It’s not that your baby needs the nourishment at night, it’s that he enjoys the comfort of being close to you and the peaceful feeling he gets from dozing in your arms as he drinks warm milk. At about six months of age it’s okay to wean him from feeding at night since he won’t require as much nourishment. With a bit of know-how before you start weaning you’ll be able to make the experience easy for the both of you.
Getting Enough Milk During the Day
Before you start weaning you’ll need to make sure that your baby is getting milk and solids throughout the day so that he won’t be hungry at night. If he’s not getting enough milk during the day then it’s not a good idea to wean him from nighttime feedings. When your baby wakes up because he’s hungry, and not because he wants a cuddle, then it’s important that you meet his needs. Skipping the nighttime feedings is going to have to wait until his tummy isn’t empty at night and needing a top up.
Getting Plenty of Daytime Sleep
Make sure that your baby is getting enough daytime naps during the day so that he’s not overtired at bedtime. When babies are overtired they’ll often wake up during the night and need you to help get them back to sleep again. If this means nursing or taking a bottle then you can forget about the nighttime weaning. If your baby easily goes back to sleep at night without nursing then you don’t need to be so concerned about his daytime napping.
A Cozy Sleep Environment
You want to create a sleep environment for your baby that is familiar, comforting, and dark. He needs to feel safe and secure when you put down into his crib for the night. This way if he wakes up at night all you have to do is try to soothe him and then put him back into his cozy bed. Some babies also benefit from a bedtime routine so that they realize that they’re being put to bed for the night and that there will be no more nursing or bottle feeding until when it’s light out again.
Falling Asleep without Nursing or Bottle
Nighttime weaning can often work a bit better for you if your baby learns how to fall asleep without nursing or having a bottle. Many babies wake during the night not because they’re hungry but rather because they have sleep patterns that are still immature. Let your baby learn how to fall asleep by putting him down into his crib when he’s calm and its bedtime. Give him a favorite blanket or stuffed toy that he can use for comfort. Pat his back or tummy and try to soothe him to go to sleep on his own. This might take a bit of practice but just be patient and understanding.
Eliminate One Feeding at a Time
If you find that your baby is still waking at night then you might want to try eliminating one feeding at a time. To eliminate a feeding try to wait a little longer after he first wakes at night to avoid feeding him for as long as possible. Go to him and offer him reassurance that you’re there and everything is okay. Let him know that it’s time for sleeping and not for milk. The next time he wakes up you can feed him if he becomes more demanding. Each night try to push the feeding a little more and more. Eventually that one nighttime feeding should just naturally merge and become his first morning feeding.
Getting Dad Involved
Don’t feel that you have to deal with weaning on your own. Get your partner involved as well. Sometimes when Daddy goes in instead of you it can be easier to console your baby when all he wants to do is have some milk and get some comfort from you. Babies usually react differently to each parent. Dad can often comfort your baby in other ways that you can, such as offering a bit of water, holding him for a few minutes, or just using soothing words to ease him back to sleep. Where you might be the one who most often gives in to what your baby wants, perhaps your partner can be a bit more patient and stern. The trick is to find out what is going to work best for you and your own baby.
Your Baby’s Internal Timetable
Perhaps one of the best things that you can do when it comes to weaning your baby from nighttime feedings is to understand that every baby is different and is going to have their own internal timetable for sleeping. Many times this timetable isn’t one that parents like, however there’s little that you can do except continue to be persistent and try to establish a routine that you want to continue for some time to come.