The thought that the time has come to wean the child from night feeding comes sooner or later to all parents. But when trying to transfer a child to a long “hungry” period from evening to morning many face difficulties. The main one is the baby’s restless sleep and frequent awakenings. And parents, tired of new problems, seem to return to night feedings to make their lives easier. But is it really so difficult to wean a baby from the breast or bottle at night, or are there ways to do it painlessly?
When Is It Time to Stop Night Feeding?
Doctors recommend that parents, under any circumstances, continue feeding at night until the baby is at least six months. An earlier transition to only daytime meals can sometimes affect the health and development of the baby negatively. Among pediatricians, 11-13 months is considered the optimal age when the child is ready for such changes. Besides, there is the opinion that night feeding in children over six months is not physiological but a psychological need.
Until the moment of stopping night feedings, the following conditions should be observed:
- the baby is healthy, is not teething at the moment, its weight gain corresponds to the norms, and no vaccinations are due soon;
- the baby’s nutrition is diverse enough to cover all the energy and nutrient needs;
- the frequency of daily feedings is reduced to 5-6 times or less.
Basic Tips for Weaning a Baby from Night Feedings
The recommendations below will help wean the child from night feeding:
- A filling dinner. The second last feeding before bedtime can be made lighter than usual, and the last one, on the contrary, more filling. This can help the baby to eat dinner more actively and densely and sleep peacefully until morning.
- Reduction of daytime sleep. You cannot completely give up daytime sleep in any case, but a small reduction in its duration may make night sleep stronger.
- The right microclimate. The air temperature should be between 20-22 C, and the air should not be too dry.
- Bathing later. In children who like water procedures, a long bath will provide healthy fatigue, which helps the baby to fall asleep quickly and peacefully.
The listed tips can help cope with the “transitional” period easier and faster. But remember, if the baby shows obvious signs that the lack of night feedings somehow harms it, consult the pediatrician and return to the previous regime as soon as possible.
Tips on Putting the Baby Asleep
When you are sure that all the baby’s needs have been met and nothing is wrong with your little one, but the baby still does not want to fall asleep, you can reach for proven methods. Remember that every child is different, and sometimes you have to try several methods before finding the one that works for you. Sometimes one method will work, and sometimes you need to use several at once or change them from time to time. Here are our tips for infants:
- Swinging and rocking. This is what most babies like best. Gentle rocking (but not shaking) in the parent’s arms or the cradle soothes, calms, and helps many babies fall asleep. Many parents admit their baby won’t sleep unless held.
- Wrapping up with a blanket. Some babies love a tight wrap. Such wrapping gives them a sense of safety because it resembles the environment known from the mother’s belly.
- Music. Some babies fall asleep to music. You can play it from the records or, better yet, sing yourself. The music should be quiet and calm. Lullabies, relaxing, or classical songs are great.
- Noise. Many babies love noise. You can “hum” yourself or turn on the dryer, vacuum cleaner, or kitchen hood. There are also humming mascots on the market with many convenient features, such as the ability to choose different types of noise or a sensor that activates a toy in response to a baby’s cry.
- Sleeping with the baby. According to William Sears and his philosophy of attachment parenting, sleeping with the child helps build close contact between the parent and the baby. Closeness at night, according to this theory, teaches the baby that sleep is a pleasant and safe state. Thanks to this, the baby feels comfortable and falls asleep faster.
Putting a toddler to sleep should not be a big problem if you follow the above recommendations from the beginning. A healthy, hygienic lifestyle, a regular daily schedule, and evening rituals combined with the calmness and closeness of the parent give good results. Here is an example of an evening ritual for a toddler:
- easily digestible dinner;
- bathing and brushing teeth;
- putting the baby to bed in pajamas;
- reading a book;
- falling asleep with a parent.
If you haven’t introduced the evening ritual so far, do it as soon as possible, and you won’t have to wait long for the effects.