Night weaning your baby is a process that we keep in mind from the moment we start working with you. It's our goal to have your baby sleeping through the night by 3-4 months of age.
This is how we adapt to your baby's age and stage each night we are there.
1. When your baby is first born, they need to eat almost constantly. The first few days are about survival. Milk production is regulated by supply and demand so baby needs to eat often and around the clock to bring in supply and regain any lost weight. Whether you are breast/chest feeding or bottle feeding, wet and dirty diapers should be counted to make sure your baby is getting enough to eat.
2. Between day 4-7, Once your baby has begun to gain weight and is having plenty of wet and dirty diapers, we can try to get them to go 2-3 hours between feeds. Babies are born with a strong instinct to suck. It's usually ok to offer a pacifier for short periods of time after a feeding if your baby isn't hungry but wants to comfort suck.
3. For the first few weeks, Babies should be eating approximately every 2-3 hours or nursing 8-12 times in a 24 hour period. At night, we do our best to space feedings about 3 hours apart. Nursing babies don't usually have issues when given a bottle during the middle of the night feed.
4. Between 3-6 weeks of age, babies may begin to sleep one 4-6 hour stretch within a 24 hour period. We recommend waking them to feed at least every 3 hours during the day so they get used to sleeping that stretch at night. During this time frame, we are trying to increase the amount of milk they get at each feeding, day and night. Our goal is 4 oz of milk every 3 hours, with one longer stretch at night.
5. Between 6-8 weeks, we want to continue increasing daytime milk consumption while simultaneously decreasing night time milk. Babies should be eating 4 to 6 oz of milk every 3-4 hours with a longer night stretch.
6. At 8-10 weeks of age, babies have begun to develop a circadian rhythm and prefer a long stretch of sleep at night. We can can begin cutting nighttime feeding, one feed at a time. This is always done by dream feeding and slowly reducing intake.
7. At 12 weeks, We can expect babies to be sleeping anywhere from 6-12 hours at night. (We have had babies easily sleep 12 hours but ultimately it's up to them. We do not use any methods where crying is involved.) Having your baby sleeping really long stretches involves sticking to a daytime schedule. At night, it involves feeding your baby in a very sleepy state, before they wake themselves.
It's absolutely normal for your baby to wake up and move around, and/or make noise at night. It's ok to wait a few minutes to see if they go back to sleep themselves. You can offer a pacifier or pat on the back if that helps them nod back off.
Feeding is only one facet of what's involved to have your baby sleeping through the night. We have many more tips for setting up the ideal sleep environment and behavior cues. Drop a note in our contact form for more information!
Abbey is a birth and postpartum doula and placenta specialist in Dallas/Fort Worth and a mom to 4 children between the ages of 26 and 13.