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When can I night wean?

I often encounter this question, and I have two answers for you.

Firstly, from a clinical standpoint, if your child is six months or older, gaining weight as expected, and your doctor approves ending nighttime feeds, you can give it a try.

However, I understand that this answer may not fully address your question because you can easily find this information on numerous websites. If that were all you needed to know, you would already be aware of it.

Most likely, what you truly want to know is, "Why does my baby refuse to stop night feeds?" If you had already weaned your baby off night feeds successfully and they were sleeping through the night, you wouldn't be seeking information online. You would either be enjoying uninterrupted sleep for eight hours in bed or sharing with other moms at the playground how effortlessly your little one gave up night feeds, making parenting seem like a breeze!

(Although, I advise against sharing that with other mums because it tends to annoy them.)

So, let's delve into the real question: Why does your baby keep waking up at night and demanding food if they are supposedly ready to give up nighttime feeds?

The reason is actually quite simple—feeding is how they soothe themselves to sleep.

Using feeding and/or nursing as a sleep aid is one of the most common sleep associations I come across as a sleep consultant.

People usually don't consider it a "sleep prop" because it is natural and necessary.

However, a sleep prop refers to anything external that your baby relies on to fall asleep.

If you are still feeding your baby to sleep at bedtime, it's likely the area where changes need to be made.

"But I'm not!" I can hear you saying. "I put him to bed while he's still awake, and he falls asleep independently! No props, nothing! Yet he still wakes up three times a night looking for food!"

Although it's less common, I do encounter this scenario fairly often. The mother does everything correctly at bedtime but still feeds the baby to sleep when they wake up during the night.

Some babies simply become habitual nighttime eaters. It's not that they are hungry or in need of calories. They have simply associated bedtime sleep with waking up at night, and if Mum is willing to provide some breast milk during those awakenings, all the better!

The bad news is that you will need to break this association by discontinuing night feeds. This will involve some resistance, which won't be enjoyable for anyone.

The good news, however, is that since your baby has already learned to sleep without sleep props at bedtime, it means they possess some strong sleep skills, and the resistance should subside within a few nights.

So, what's the strategy for this? It's the same as quitting most other things—cold turkey. Stop tonight and refrain from starting again.

The sooner your little one learns these skills, the sooner they will sleep through the night.

This is wonderful news for you and your partner, but even more importantly, it benefits your baby.

With more uninterrupted sleep, their mind and body can experience the restorative effects that occur during the night, leading to a happier and healthier tomorrow!

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