By Raising Children Network
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Sleeping toddler image credit iStockphoto.com/Sashi_Suzi
 
If you’d like to help your baby sleep longer at night, you can think about night weaning for breastfed babies and phasing out night feeds for bottle-fed babies.

Night weaning and phasing out night feeds: when to do it

From six months of age, if your baby is developing well, it’s OK to think about night weaning for breastfed babies and phasing out night feeds for bottle-fed babies.

On the other hand, if you’re comfortable with feeding your baby during the night, there’s no hurry to phase out night feeds. You can choose what works best for you and your baby.

Before you decide, it’s a good idea to talk with your child and family health nurse or GP. All babies and parents are different, so getting advice that suits your individual situation is a good idea.

When the time is right for you and your baby, our suggestions below can help you make the transition away from night feeds.

Whether you decide to keep feeding your baby at night or try night weaning, resting as much as you can will keep you in good shape for looking after your baby. Our article on how to sleep better has tips for getting more rest into your life.

Night weaning breastfed babies

If you’re breastfeeding your baby, the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) can give you advice about night weaning.

Some breastfeeding mothers decide to keep feeding at night to help maintain their milk supply. But if you decide to try night weaning, your baby can still get the benefits of breastmilk if you keep breastfeeding during the day.

If your baby’s night-time feed is short (less than five minutes), you can phase out night feeds by stopping the feed altogether and re-settling your baby with the settling techniques of your choice. Note that it might take several nights for you and your baby to get used to the new routine.

If your baby’s feed is usually longer than five minutes, you can gradually cut down the time you spend feeding over 5-7 nights. This will help your baby get used to the change.

Here’s how:

  1. Time the length of your baby’s usual night feed.
  2. Cut down on the time your baby spends feeding by 2-5 minutes every second night. For example, if your baby usually feeds for 15 minutes, you would feed for 13 minutes for two nights, then 11 minutes for the next two nights, then 9 minutes for the next two nights, and so on.
  3. Re-settle your baby after each shortened feed with the settling techniques of your choice.
  4. Once your baby is feeding for five minutes or less, stop the feed altogether.

If you choose, you can cut down the time faster – for example, by five minutes every two nights. 

It’s recommended that you breastfeed exclusively until your baby starts eating solid foods, which usually happens around six months. Once you introduce solids, it’s best for your baby if you keep breastfeeding along with giving your baby solids until your baby is at least 12 months old. After that, it’s really up to you and your baby how long you keep going. For more information, check out our breastfeeding articles and our breastfeeding videos.

Phasing out night feeds for bottle-fed babies

If you decide to try phasing out night feeds and your baby is having 60 ml of milk or less during a night feed, you can stop the feed altogether and re-settle your baby with the settling techniques of your choice. 

If your baby’s feed is more than 60 ml each night, you can gradually cut down the amount your baby drinks over 5-7 nights.

Here’s how:

  1. Reduce the volume of milk by 20-30 ml every second night. For example, if your baby usually drinks 180 ml, you would give 150 ml for two nights, then 120 ml for the next two nights, and so on.
  2. Re-settle your baby after each smaller feed with the settling techniques of your choice.
  3. Once you get down to 60 ml or less in the bottle, stop the feed altogether.

You might notice that your baby begins to feed more during the day after you stop the night feed. This improvement in daytime appetite could take another week to settle in.

For more information on settling techniques, see our article on changing your baby’s sleep pattern.
 
 
 
  • Last updated or reviewed 11-03-2016
  • Acknowledgements This article was adapted from the Infant Sleep eLearning Program (2012-2016), produced by the Centre for Community Child Health, Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne.