Night weaning is not an easy decision to make. Or maybe for some it’s the easiest one… I guess it depends on who you ask. For me, I knew it was the right time when our breastfeeding relationship became one sided. My child wanted to nurse more than I could handle (whether physically or emotionally), and I needed a break. Breastfeeding is like any relationship, and with that, both sides need to be on board. When one isn’t, it’s time to make a change. Night weaning is a good way to make a positive change for you and your child, especially if something isn’t going right, but there are a few things to remember before doing this.
First thing, do not night wean your child until they are at least a year old. Secondly, please note that this is NOT the same as the cry it out method (CIO) which I do not recommend at any age. Lastly, this isn’t easy in the slightest, it can take about two weeks, but in the end it can make a very drastic (and positive) change in your nursing relationship.
The most important part of night weaning is maintaining our own composure and mental stability. Like I mentioned above, this won’t be easy and will cause you and your child some intense discomfort. I mean, who likes change? Especially the removal of something that causes comfort to a person. Understand that this will cause some discomfort to your child, but it won’t last long, you just have to have the heart to push through it. And you can. I promise.
Another important aspect of night weaning is finding another comfort type item. This can be milk of some sort, a special cup, or an easy snack. For some a brand new cup can be enough, but others need something they’re already used to and love. Keep in mind this won’t be a forever thing, like most things here, it’s only temporary. My oldest child preferred bananas, my middle liked blueberries, and my youngest her straw cup with hemp milk. Every child is unique and has a specific thing that they’d be (eventually) willing to take instead of nursing. It’s like a distraction. Also wear a turtleneck if you can… kidding.. but not really.
If they are old enough to understand, I would prepare them with the new item. For example, I’d say to them “for the next for nights, when you wake up and want (mom milk, whatever you call it) we will have a few sips of your milk in your new cup (or a few bites of banana whatever you choose) and then go back to sleep! I’ll still be here, and will snuggle you all you need!”. I would try to make it exciting, but tread lightly. They may already get upset, I would allow those feelings and all the feelings that come up through this, again, this is a big change.
Once it gets to bedtime I would bring the item with you to bed. It’s up to you if you want to nurse to sleep if you already to that. Personally I would not cut that feeding first, if you do want to cut it, that would be the last. Let them see it in their bedtime space, and do bedtime as you usually do. If they ask for one of the items to try, I would absolutely give it to them, so they can have a positive experience with it. Now with with said, once they wake up at night and you offer that item instead of nursing. It may be a screaming disaster (It may not, but it may). Remember what I mentioned above, you are NOT harming them, you are NOT using CIO, you are RIGHT THERE. When they are lost in this and don’t want the item, snuggle them, hold them, rub their back as they as upset. Anything they need, besides your milk. They will fight it and cry and scream and it will literally break your heart, but I promise it will be okay. They may do this for hours, eventually they will fall asleep.
Side note: Some people are very aware of when the night feeds happen and choose to remove one at a time through the night. This is similar to normal weaning of breastfeeding in general, but I find it was easier for my kids to understand the concept at night when I did it all at once. Please also remember that if you need to maintain your supply and also want to avoid mastitis, that you try to pump or express your milk during the night. This will also be a drastic change for your body (and hormones) too. You can slowly do less and less every few days.
They will wake up a lot through the night, just do the same things. Offer the item, cuddles, snuggles, offer again. And repeat. Use everything within you to remember this is all temporary. It will end at some point, but it will be hard AF. (Pardon my language). My son attacked me, fought me, screamed for hours. But eventually he realized that cuddles were just as good, the food was filling enough, and over the span of 2 weeks, he forgot he nursed at night. Eventually you will slowly stop the food, or sips, or whatever you chose, but in a very similar way. Slowly through the night remove it and snuggle or rub their back, my kids actually did this naturally. They usually don’t have the same reaction as when you stopped nursing.
This whole process is exhausting…You’re going to be absolutely exhausted, emotionally and physically drained, and just beyond done. Night weaning isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s hard, weaning in general is hard. It will be so difficult to not just give in and nurse them, I was there, I remember. A lot of people have their spouse try this, and if they can handle that, it can make it go faster. Personally, my kids DID not accept this AT ALL and it was somehow easier for me to do it.
By continuing to offer the new option to them instead of nursing, and always showing them you’re there for them physically and emotionally, eventually it will click. They will sleep, they won’t wake up for the snack, and for my kids, this is when they finally slept through the night. They knew I was always there for them, they knew I’d be there if they needed me, and they were okay.
You got this!!!
As always, please feel free to message me on the contact page if you need any support or have any questions!
**Please keep in mind I am not a doctor, and all of this information is based on my life experience. Any medical decisions should be made between you and your primary care physician.**