Dr. Sarah Mitchell
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5 Reasons Why Night Weaning of a Sleep Trained Baby Isn’t Going Well

5 Reasons Why the Night Weaning of Your Sleep Trained Baby Isn’t Going Well…..

There comes a time in a Mom’s life when you are thinking… okay kiddo, I know you can put yourself to sleep without me, you are gaining weight steadily, and you’re getting up there in age……so why am I still feeding you in the middle of the night?

5 Reasons why night weaning of your sleep trained baby isn’t going well.

When to eliminate night feeds is a very personal decision, and takes into consideration baby’s weight and weight percentile as well as how Mom feels about night weaning. I’ve talked to Moms of 10 months old who cherish the night time feed as a time of beautiful togetherness. I’ve also talked to Moms who have 6 month olds with babies in the 97% for weight, who are tired from chasing after a 2 year old all day and need a solid night’s sleep. Everyone’s needs are different.

Night feeding refers to feeding over the 11-12 hour of night time sleep. For example, 6 pm to 6 am would be a night time sleep stretch, therefore that dream feed that you are doing at 10 pm counts as a night feed. Different sources quote 1-2 night feeds (or more) from 4-6 months of age, and then often 1 night feed until the age of 12 months. Other authors quote 5 months and 15 pounds as their threshold for eliminating night feeding. There is a lot of variety in the literature. In the end, does anyone really know? This must be where mother’s intuition comes into play.

Many older babies still eat at night out of habit. They have become accustomed to consuming calories at a specific stretch of the evening. Imagine if one night you woke up at 3 am and had a bowl of cereal, and did the same thing the next night, quickly you have developed a habit causing your body to regularly wake up at 3 am grumbling for that bowl of cereal. If your baby wakes up at the same time every night for that night feeding, this represents a habit. The goal of weaning night feeds is not to eliminate those calories from the baby’s diet, but rather shift them into daytime consumption. When a baby drops a night time feed, you will notice that they will nurse or eat more at their first morning feed. Many Mom’s find that when they are feeding in the middle of the night for a baby past 6 months, that they baby isn’t really that hungry for the first morning feed. They are coming to the buffet and just having a salad.

So you’ve decided to take the plunge and wean off night feeds, and you’ve implemented the strategies you used to sleep train your child. However, you are finding things just aren’t going as planned and your baby is staying awake and not going back to bed as scripted. Perhaps she’s not crying but just staying awake. What is up with that?

5 Reasons your night weaning may not be going well….

1. Sleep Props

Your child doesn’t know how to fall asleep independently and still needs you to soothe her back to sleep. You may think you are putting her down awake, but if you’ve nursed her in the 20 minutes prior to laying her down, chances are that she’s not really “awake”. The nursing or feeding provides a rhythmic comfort which relaxes her and helps her drift off into sleep. You’ll have to first teach her how to fall asleep independently in conjunction with the night feeding elimination or reduction.

2. Age

Many experts recommend that babies under 6 months, who do not yet have solids well established, area not able to wean from night feeds because they can’t sustain themselves for long periods between feeds. You’re just ahead of the game trying to increase your nightly sleep hours.

3. AcuteTeething

From about 5 – 6 months and onwards, teething seems to pop up at the most inconvenient times. You may have just started your 4 day plan for night weaning and all of a sudden she’s in the midst of acute teething. The signs of this are hands in the mouth, rubbing her ears, and increased fussiness during the day. A child who is teething requires comfort of some sort to reduce the pain, so night weaning may not be the right time for this. Medication is always an option, but even Advil only lasts 8 hours so she may be susceptible to pain in the early morning hours.

4. Lack of a clear plan and consistency on your part

One night you let her squawk for 20 minutes and she fell back asleep but the next night you were really tired and couldn’t take it and you caved and fed her after 7 minutes. That’s a confusing message for a baby. Is the buffet open tonight or not? 5. Overtired If she’s not getting enough good naps in during the day or her bedtime is too late, this can lead to baby being overtired. The result of that is more frequent night waking and difficultly falling back to sleep.

5. Overtired

If she’s not getting enough good naps in during the day or her bedtime is too late, this can lead to baby being overtired.  The result of that is more frequent night waking, and difficultly falling back to sleep.

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