During our Free Q&A Wednesdays, I often receive questions in our DMs that I don’t end up having time to answer. So since this is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, I thought it was only fitting to answer this common question for all nursing mothers out there.
“My daughter is just over 8 months old and I want to start some form of sleep training with her. She still nurses during the night (it’s the only thing I can do to get her to calm down and go back to sleep) and for the last week, an hour or so after nursing she would be up again. Should I continue nursing her throughout the night? I know nursing is a crutch, but how do I begin dropping her feedings? Thank you for the help!”
Being a mother of three, I have always enjoyed that special (quiet) time during the night with my little babies. My current little one is 5 months old and definitely didn’t need the night feedings anytime after 4 months old. He weighed 19.2 pounds at his 4 month checkup…yes, big boy!! My pediatrician actually told me at his 3 month checkup that I was able to drop all night time feedings, but I just wasn’t ready.
So, the most important reminder is to start weaning your baby off any nighttime feedings only when YOU are ready and your pediatrician gives the green light.
If your child needs more calories than what you are giving them in the day, by all means continue to feed them throughout the night. But with this above example, if your baby is healthy and doesn’t need the feedings in the night…begin one of the following two options.
Option 1: Nurse for gradually shorter periods
Gradually reduce the amount of time baby gets on the breast by one minute every one or two nights. For example, if your baby nurses 12 minutes on each side (for a total of 24 minutes), start reducing his time by one minute each night. The second or third night you would feed him for only 11 minutes on each side, 10 minutes the third/fourth night, nine minutes the fourth/fifth, etc. By the time your baby is only nursing for 2-3 minutes, he may stop waking up all on his own. However, if your baby is still waking to be nursed, then it’s time to begin sleep training.
With a week of consistent sleep training — which entails providing reassurance such as comforting him for a few minutes and stepping back a little (still staying close by) or letting him cry for two or three minutes and walking into his room to reassure him — he’ll understand there are no more feedings being offered in the middle of the night.
Once you have weaned your baby from a feeding, don’t bring it back! If you do decide to nurse him again for whatever reason once you have weaned him, you will need to start all over again.
Option 2: Go cold turkey
If your baby is taking one, maybe two feedings in the night that you know he doesn’t need, you might want to go cold turkey and sleep train throughout each waking. Yes, your baby will want to nurse, but it’s two or three nights of letting them settle back down without a feeding. You may find that he/she will nurse/eat more during the day.
By the way, your breasts will adjust – you can always pump before bed or during the night, but they will eventually get the idea as long as you’re consistent!