Try These Methods On How To Stop Nursing Baby To Sleep And See Results
Breastfeeding can be an amazing gift in helping babies settle at night. I personally found it to be an efficient way to getting my kids to sleep, as well as helping them get back to sleep when they woke up at night for whatever reason. More importantly, it resulted in more sleep for everyone in the house.
There is no fixed schedule for weaning your child from sleep time nursing, but you will eventually have to do it at some point, especially if it has become an unhealthy sleep association. If you feel that it’s already time, your next step is to find out how to stop nursing baby to sleep.
Questions To Consider Before Night Weaning
It’s no guarantee that weaning your child will result in improved sleep. In fact, it can even make situations worse for some families. For this reason, it’s important to really think about weaning your baby and its potential impact on you, your child, and the rest of your household. Here are some questions to ponder:
Why are you considering night weaning in the first place?
- If the only answer you can think of is, “because it feels like it’s the right thing to do,” what you’re probably really saying is, “it feels it’s going to be convenient for me.” It’s not the case all the time, but for many moms, their main reason for considering night weaning is that a seed of doubt has been planted in their minds either by a family member, a friend, or even by their doctor.
- If this is the case, don’t proceed any further and rest assured that your child is normal and that it’s okay to feed him at night. If you’re worried about what others think, rest assured, too, that your child is not going to feed at night forever. Don’t ever let guilt be your motivation and just continue doing what you believe is best for your family.
Is exhaustion your main reason for considering night weaning?
- Again, weaning your child from nighttime feeding is no guarantee that you’re going to experience improved nocturnal sleep. It may even cause your baby to wake more. The process takes a lot of work and can be physically and emotionally draining.
- If exhaustion is your only reason for proceeding, you might want to pause first and instead look for other creative ways to deal with it. Perhaps there are daytime activities you can put on hold for a season. Or maybe you need to consider taking more time for pampering yourself. Only get back to considering the idea of ending your baby’s nighttime feeding after you’re done dealing with your exhaustion.
Is going back to work your reason?
- Work is a very common reason for moms to want to consider weaning their baby. If this is also your reason, keep in mind that night times may be the only time for you to bond with your child, and taking that away may not be good for the both of you.
- Moreover, study shows that babies get melatonin from nocturnal breastmilk. This sleep-inducing hormone helps your child develop his circadian cycle and helps him eventually sleep longer stretches at night. Not only that, another study shows that breastfeeding helps moms get an average of 30 more minutes of nighttime sleep.
3 Signs Your Child Is Ready To Drop Nighttime Feeding
There is no exact age at which babies will magically stop nursing at night, but there are indicators that will tell you your child is ready to let go of nighttime nursing.
Your Child Is Not Eating As Much At Daytime
One common sign your child might be ready to drop nighttime nursing is his reduced daytime feeding. If you observe that he doesn’t eat as much anymore during the day, but still wakes up at night to feed, that could be an indication to stop or reduce nighttime nursing.
A good solution is to encourage your child to feed more during the day. He’ll be ready to get rid of eating at night if he can get most of his calories from his daytime feeding.
Your Child Is Starting To Treat Nighttime Feeding As Playtime
Another sign your baby might be ready to quit nighttime feeding is his treating of his “dinner time” as if it was playtime. Some babies wake up at night to feed, but they would only drink a little and then stay awake wanting to play. If such is the case with your child, he may be doing it out of habit and not out of hunger, and there’s a huge chance he’s ready to drop bedtime nursing.
Your Child Has Already Started Eating Solid Foods
This is not always the case, but more often than not, your child might be ready to say goodbye to bedtime feeding once he has started eating solid foods. You may still need to continue giving him a couple of feedings at night during the early stages, but you should be able to wean him from it over time.
Tips In Getting Your Baby To Sleep Without Nursing
Weaning your child from nighttime feeding takes time, and there’s really no definitive step-by-step process to it. There are instead general guidelines you can follow that may be able to help your child learn how to fall asleep at night without first having to nurse from you. We’ll present you first with seven general guidelines, and afterward, we’ll show you three no-cry-it-out methods that you can try.
1. Establish A Nursing-Free Nap Routine
Routines are an excellent way to train a child to sleep on his own, but the key is to start early. One routine you can practice with your baby is putting him on a nap during the day that does not involve nursing. Over time, he will learn that it’s okay to sleep without feeling full. Be sure to establish your routine based on your baby’s internal clock. Strict routines may be useful, but they don’t necessarily have to be imposed on babies since different babies have different temperaments and needs.
2. Find More Time During The Day To Feed
Don’t be surprised if your child loves to nurse. Despite that fact, they can be so busy during the day that they forget to feed. This is particularly the case with toddlers. Sometimes, it’s the mom who is busy and forgets to nurse. Either way, it may be a good idea to tank your child up during the day and make sure his feeding times are not delayed. You’ll find it easier to deny your child feeding before bedtime at night if he’s been well fed all throughout the day.
3. Limit Activities Before Naps
Pre-nap time activities are crucial and will determine whether your child is going to settle down easily or have a hard time falling asleep. Limiting his activities before bedtime may help wean him from his need to nurse before sleeping. Instead of playing with him, you can try holding him in your arms and swinging him to a lullaby or any soft music. This will help calm him and encourage him to fall asleep quickly.
Here’s a video featuring two hours of very soothing music you can try to lull your baby to sleep:
4. Encourage Full Feeding Before Going To Bed
This may sound obvious, but many parents do not give their baby full feeding before bedtime. This causes the baby to be fussy and not want to go to sleep immediately. Even if you have to wake baby up from sleep, do it so you can give him a full feeding before you go to bed yourself. This will help you and your baby get an extended stretch of sleep.
By full feeding, we mean feeding your child until his tummy is full, and not feeding him beyond his capacity. A bigger meal, in addition to what he needs, will not help him sleep better, but will only result in the opposite.
5. Feel Free To Experiment
Training a child requires a lot of creativity, especially since not all children are the same. Some babies would readily respond to a certain method, while others wouldn’t. Don’t be afraid to try different things. For instance, you may want to offer a substitute to nursing such as giving your child a pacifier.
You can also take turns with your husband some nights so your child can learn that it’s not only Mommy that may comfort him to sleep. Offering substitutes may not be easy, especially for babies who have high needs, since they don’t readily accept alternatives. However, we always tell parents that it’s worth a try.
6. Don’t Be Afraid To Say No
If you’re dealing with a toddler who doesn’t necessarily need to be fed every couple of hours, saying no for once may help train him to stop being nursed to sleep. A firm but calm “no” almost always does the trick.
7. Reinvent Routine When Necessary
Newborns and younger babies may find it hard to stray away from routines, but that’s not always the case for toddlers and older babies. If you’re dealing with the latter, a good method would be to re-invent their routine. Start a new nap time routine that involves other activities besides feeding such as reading books or listening to music. It shouldn’t take long for your child to get the idea that he doesn’t need to nurse anymore to fall asleep.
3 No-Cry-It-Out Methods You Can Try
Cry it out of CIO is a sleep training approach that involves letting your baby cry himself for a short period before offering comfort. This is a method many parents utilize in training their babies to sleep on their own. This is also a method that moms love to use when weaning their babies. There are pros and cons to this approach, but if you’re not a fan of it, we’re offering you three no-cry-it-out methods that you can use to stop nursing your baby to sleep.
Gentle Release Approach
This is an effective way for training newborns to babies not older than eight months. As your baby begins to fall asleep at your breast, gently release your nipple and slowly press his chin to close his mouth. He may be startled at first and try to suckle again, but not as automatically anymore.
Let him suck for a while and as he is about to fall asleep, gently take off your breast again. Repeat the process until your child falls asleep without his mouth on your nipple (or bottle or pacifier).
No Nipple In Sight Approach
For babies older than eight months, the no nipple in sight approach may work very well. Babies at this age may already go an entire night without feeding, as long as they have already started eating solid foods. This approach is relatively straightforward. Let someone else attend your child at night.
It could be your husband, your mom, or any adult the child feels safe and comfortable with. Unless your child is really hungry, he’ll most definitely just fall to sleep if he realizes there is no nipple in sight. Your baby may be grumpy at first, but the rule of thumb is to let him be for about five minutes.
If he keeps on crying after that, that’s the time he can approach the nipple. This is going to take time, but for older babies, progress will easily be observed within three days. 10-month old babies, in particular, can learn quickly and don’t seem to put much effort into staying awake or waking up when not allowed to suckle.
“Without Preparation” Approach
Only use this method if the first two methods didn’t work for you after a period of trying. This is referred to as a “cold turkey” approach, which means you just stop offering milk to your baby before bedtime or when he wakes up at night to feed. Your baby will definitely be furious, but you can rest assured that he’ll eventually learn to sleep without having to nurse first.
However, instead of simply denying your child milk and letting him cry it out, find ways to soothe him using alternatives. This is a no-cry-it-out method, which means even if it would be hard for your baby to endure at first, he won’t be as stressed because you’re not leaving him alone to cry himself to sleep.
Nighttime nursing is not something that you should hurriedly put off. It has benefits that both mother and child could enjoy as mentioned early in the post. But then again, when the right time comes, you should be ready to train your child to sleep at night without having to nurse from you first.
If you want to go deeper on this subject, here are related articles you may want to read.
1. Breastfeeding To Sleep And Other Comfort Nursing (kellymom.com)
2.Normal Infant Sleep: Night Nursing's Importance (psychologytoday.com)
3. Feeding Your Baby To Sleep - Is It A Good Idea? (thesleepstore.co.nz)
4. When Nursing Becomes a Dependency (healthyhappysleep.com)
Meanwhile, why don’t you share your own night weaning tips with us? What methods have you tried that worked for you and what things would you advise that parents should keep in mind when training their babies to fall asleep without feeding? Feel free to drop your thoughts in the comments section below. Thank you!