Night-Weaning: Is Your Baby Ready?

It’s the middle of the night and you are barely awake. But your little one is still breastfeeding and it’s time for another feeding. We know YOU are ready for the night feedings to end, but how do you know when it’s time to wean your baby off late-night feedings. Here are some signs that your little one is ready:

Appropriate growth and weight gain

If your baby is gaining weight well and feeding effectively, and you want to stop night feedings, collaborate with your IBCLC or lactation consultant to create a feeding plan for your infant. It is acceptable for some babies to gain 4-5 ounces per week. The average breastfed baby doubles birth weight by 3-4 months. By one year, the typical breastfed baby will weigh about 2 1/2 – 3 times birth weight.

Babies, even older ones, typically feed 1-3 times during the night. This pattern continues for at least the first 18 months of age. However, with exclusive breastfeeding, we generally do not recommend night weaning before 1 year of age due to its impact on infant nutrition and milk supply.

Baby’s Age1Average Weight Gain2
0-4 months5.5 – 8.5 ounces per week
4-6 months3.25 – 4.5 ounces per week
6-12 months1.75 – 2.75 ounces per week ‡
We advise against weaning from middle-of-the-night feedings before your baby’s breastfeeding or bottle-feeding skills and milk supply are well-established, typically around 3-4 months after childbirth. At 4 months old, babies begin developing potential sleep skills. However, most babies cannot self-soothe until they are around 6 months old. 

Considerations for Night Weaning

Reflect on your infant feeding goals, considering age, developmental stage, and temperament. If desired, working with your IBCLC to ensure night weaning does not negatively impact your baby’s growth and weight gain is important. This can happen if the baby is not yet well-established in eating solids or if they are not getting enough milk throughout the day when breast or bottle feeding. Night weaning will likely cause a drop in milk supply, which depends on how much milk is removed from the breasts during the day, whether by breastfeeding or pumping.

Sleep Patterns

Sleeping through the night is often considered about a 6-hour stretch of sleep. As babies get older, they can sometimes sleep for longer consolidated stretches. While there are certain sleep expectations based on age, there is a wide range of what is normal. Most babies are getting the sleep they need. By age 2, regular night-waking that needs parental attention becomes less common. Understanding your baby or toddler’s developmental stage can be helpful, as they won’t be this little or need this much support for long. 🌙

Normal Sleep Totals

Age3Recommended hours of sleep
Newborns/ 0-3 months14-17 hours (including naps)
Infants/ 4-11 months12-15 hours (including naps)
Toddlers/ 1-2 yrs11-14 hours (including naps)
Preschoolers/ 3-5 yrs10-13 hours (including naps)

5 Signs of Self-Soothing

Newborns and babies require support to settle and fall asleep. Some babies find comfort in motion, enjoying being rocked or swayed. Many prefer contact naps, sleeping in a parent’s arms rather than their own sleep space. Initially, it’s natural for babies to feed to sleep. But how do you know when your baby needs less support?

Around 6 months of age, you might observe signs of self-soothing. These behaviors can help you achieve longer stretches of consolidated sleep if your baby exhibits them independently:

  1. Rubbing Their Eyes
  2. Rocking on Hands and Knees
  3. Rolling in the Crib
  4. Picking Up and Dropping Legs
  5. Sucking on Hands, Pacifier, or Soothie/Blanket

Getting Support

If you’re considering night weaning for your baby or toddler and need guidance, connect with one of our certified IBCLCs from the Child Sleep Institute. We offer virtual sleep consultations, covering various sleep training methods. Keeping your goals in mind, we’ll tailor a plan that suits you, discuss realistic expectations, and address any concerns. We’ll explore age-appropriate sleep expectations and offer tips for better sleep habits. Additionally, we’ll discuss how night weaning may affect your milk supply if you’re lactating.

Support Takes Different Forms

Support can come from a spouse, partner, family member, or friend. It also involves self-care—simplifying what you can and seeking help when needed.

For Additional Assistance

If you’re managing interrupted sleep, postpartum depression, or anxiety, consider reaching out to local healthcare professionals or mental health services, including IBCLCs, Ob/Gyns, primary care physicians, counselors/therapists, or local support groups.

Sources for the article

  1. Kelly Mom Weight Gain Chart
  2. World Health Organization Child Growth Standards
  3. National Sleep Foundation’s sleep time duration recommendations

Lisa Smelek, RN IBCLC