Every child is different, and some babies stop their night feeds as early as 3-4months old. Others still need some milk until they are almost 12 months!
Is your baby ready?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Is your baby growing normally and putting on weight?
- Do you have any weight concerns?
- Are they feeding well in the day?
- If waking in the night, are they actually waking because they are hungry?
(Or are they just waking – and because you offer them a feed, they are comfort feeding)
If the answer to all of the above is ‘yes!’ then next you need to decide on an approach.
There are two ways to go either ‘Cold Turkey’ or ‘Gradual Reduction’.
How to go Cold Turkey
If you decide that this is the best approach for your child, then once you have decided to start, you MUST stick to it. Otherwise, it will not only send mixed signals to your little one, but it could potentially teach them to hold out longer and harder for a milk feed in the future.
To do this, you would make their last milk feed before bedtime, if they still have one. Then no other milk feeds before 6am or when they get up for the morning. This means you will need to give them alternative comforts such as a gentle ‘shhh’ing, patting/stroking or a quick cuddle to help them resettle in their cot without the feed.
Be consistent with this response you will find that they will pick it up very quickly, often within just a few nights.
This may be a more appropriate approach if your child is younger. With this approach, firstly you must decide how you want to give your night feed – is it going to be a ‘response’ feed or a ‘dream’ feed?
What is a Dream Feed?
A dream feed is when you give your child a milk feed before they wake. So, if you know roughly what time they would normally wake, you can set your alarm 10 minutes before and give them a feed. Even if they do wake slightly whilst you are feeding them, that is fine, the point to this is you are not feeding them in response to their waking. Then for every other wake, you can be consistent with giving alternative comfort.
What is a Response Feed?
This is still fine to give, but the key is to make a decision before you enter the room, as to whether you are going to give a feed or try to resettle. The worst thing you can do for your child is trying to resettle and THEN give a feed, as it is giving mixed signals. If you are going to give, for example, one feed after midnight instead of 2 or 3 feeds, then you must decide when you want to give that response feed and go straight in and give the feed. Then, for all other wake ups you can resettle with other forms of comfort.
If you are down to one feed, another option is to slightly reduce the milk in the bottle, or time on the breast, to gradually wean the amount of feed they are having. Once it gets down to minimal you can just cut it out altogether and use alternative comfort.
The key to any approach is to be consistent with your response. Decide what you are going to do and stick to it. Otherwise, you may inadvertently teach your child to hold out longer and harder, whilst slowing down their learning, by giving them mixed messages.
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