Weaning from Night Feeds

It’s possible you dream of a time when you will get a full night’s sleep. It’s why the loaded question of ‘do they sleep through?’ feels so loaded. There’s pressure from people around you but also, probably, from yourself, because you’re exhausted.

Weaning baby from night feeds is by no means a guarantee of a full night’s sleep, as we’ve said before there are loads of reasons that babies wake up and hunger is only one of them. However, if and when baby and you are ready, night weaning can often be a huge step towards it.

We’ll also answer our listener Lynn’s question about whether she can night wean her baby when they’re still sharing a room.

1 – Be Realistic 2 – Stop, Look, Listen 3 – Look at your Day 4 – A Gentle Stretch

5 Night Weaning Hacks

[EP15 Weaning from Night Feeds Transcript]

Cat: [00:00:02] Midnight feasts, the dream of my childhood, I know big aspirations as a seven year old, all I wanted was a Kit Kat at a stroke of 12, not realizing I'd kept my parents up for multiple midnight feasts as a new baby. But when did they stop and how did they stop? This week we're looking at how to wean your baby from those midnight feeds. Hello, I'm Cubie TV presenter, podcaster and midnight snacker. And this is Sarah Carpenter, pediatric sleep consultant and podcaster. I feel like the more I say it, the more you're going to believe it. What was your nighttime snack of choice?

Sarah: [00:00:37] I'm an absolute sucker for a Wispa and a bag of salt and vinegar McCoys. And because of working nights. I get to indulge quite a lot.

Cat: [00:00:49] So actually midnight snacks are more like breakfast for you!

Cat: [00:00:52] After the novelty of being up with your baby in the night and having those cozy feeds wears off - and that could totally be on night one - you will likely be dreaming of a time where you get a full night's sleep. It's why the loaded question of 'Do they sleep through?' feels so heavy. There's pressure from both the people around you and probably from yourself because you're exhausted. And the thought of getting six or seven or even eight (what even is that?) hours of sleep seems amazing and at times totally unimaginable. Weaning baby from night feeds isn't a guarantee of a full night's sleep. As we've said before, there are loads of reasons that babies wake up and hunger is really only one of them. However, night weaning is often a huge step towards it. Sarah, I'm sure this must be one of your most asked questions.

Sarah: [00:01:45] It is, you know, people even before they've had baby, this is the question that they're asking, when will my baby sleep through or when will I get a full night's sleep? And it's so hard for them to understand that it isn't a one size fits all answer. But, you know, there's a lot of reassurance around it and a lot of explanation, which we're going to go into.

Cat: [00:02:10] Ok, so I mentioned the question that one hundred percent gives me the eye twitch 'Do they sleep through?' It's seen as some sort of badge of honour for baby and parents, like a mark of success, which is what makes it feel so rubbish if you answer anything other than 'Yes, of course!' It is a milestone, but as we always say, all babies are different and all parents are different. So our first thing is be realistic.

Sarah: [00:02:39] Absolutely, it's all about being realistic. It's so difficult when it's the topic of conversation at every catch up, every play date, every baby group. And so people get really, really hung up on that. They become obsessed with, you know, Bob next door is doing this and I worked for him, then it's definitely going to work for me. And it doesn't work like that. As we know from so much of the advice that we've given, you really have to look at your specific baby and your specific situation, and it's just so important to focus on that. And I know how hard that is. Like, if you're going to class where you think nine other babies are and yours is the only one who isn't then, of course, you're going to become obsessed with that. But you really, really can't. Like your baby is your baby. Your baby is not the same weight as the other babies, not the same age as the other babies, hasn't had the same type of delivery as other babies. You know, it's everything contributes to your baby being an individual.

Cat: [00:03:36] And also there isn't, like as you say, there isn't a specific date, or age, that you're like, oh, your baby should totally be able to do this by this point. It is a very flexible point. Some babies will not need feeds during the night from a really young age and some will need them for longer. You know, that's the whole point. There is big differences. So don't get hung up in the fact that, say, your buddies kid. And this happened to me. And I think anecdotally you probably got the same stories and all my friends do, you know, a baby that started sleeping through without a feed from like a month old or something like that. Like I mean, obviously it depends on how you term sleeping through, but going for a large chunk of time without having a feed. And you think, why is my baby not doing that? And, you know, it didn't happen for a lot longer for me. But so is is it age related?

Sarah: [00:04:32] Totally not. Of course, as they get older, they are going to change their day schedule, which means that they're going to be taking on more food during the day, which will contribute to them sleeping through. But it's not there's not a magic age where we're going to see, OK, when your baby turns twelve weeks, they are all going to be sleeping through. It doesn't work like that. You know, they're so, as I said before, like weight is a big contributing factor and your general routine and schedule contributes heavily to when they are going to start sleeping through, so you actually just touch on something really important as well as the perception of what sleeping through actually is . You know, a lot of people will term sleeping through, and when you actually say, so what hours has your baby sleep? It will be maybe 11:00 p.m. until five a.m. And for somebody else that isn't sleeping through because actually they go to bed at nine o'clock. So if they go to bed at nine o'clock and they're getting up at eleven o'clock, then they haven't slept through. Their baby hasn't slept through. So when I talk about sleeping through as from bed time, so six thirty to seven until between 6:00 to 7: 00a.m. in the morning, that's what I term as sleeping through. But, you know, it's really important. Again, if you are chatting to somebody who's saying, oh yeah, my baby has slept through for four weeks, they might be referring to 11 till five or 11 till six...

Cat: [00:05:51] And also to take it with a pinch or salt!

Sarah: [00:05:52] Exactly. And remember that some babies, you know, they might sleep through once and then they might not sleep through again for another X amount of nights or months or weeks, you know, and it could be anything. It could be that they've had their injections at eight weeks and they've slept through that night because of the injections.

Cat: [00:06:12] And also, I think, particularly if you're speaking to older generations, speaking as a parent whose firstborn is now five, you also forget you're like, oh, yeah, they totally slept through like from whatever point. If you talk to my mum and dad, apparently I was sleeping a full night from 10 days old, which I know is not true!

Sarah: [00:06:36] Ah dream baby, Cat!

Cat: [00:06:36] Wel... I definitely didn't produce them, so that can't be true! If we go back to talking about night weaning, when should you start to think, OK, this should be happening now, if it's not age related? At what point do you go, OK, babies X months old?