I get asked this question a lot.
Firstly if your child’s six months or older, gaining weight as expected, and your doctor says you’re okay to end night time feeds, then go ahead and give it a shot.
But this is easier said than done! Why does your baby continue to wake up at night and demand food if they’re supposedly ready to give up night time feeds?
Sometimes the reason is actually probably pretty simple. That’s how they get themselves to sleep. Feeding and/or nursing to sleep is just about the biggest sleep prop I see as a sleep consultant. People don’t usually think of it as a “sleep prop” because of how natural and necessary it is. They tend to associate the term with dummies and mobiles. But a sleep prop is really anything external that your baby relies on in order to get to sleep.
So if you’re still feeding your baby to sleep at bedtime, chances are, that’s where you need to make some changes. You would need to transition to putting your baby down awake and supporting them to get to sleep.
So what if your baby is not feeding to sleep? Although it’s a less common scenario, I do see this fairly often. Mum is doing everything right at bedtime, but is still feeding baby to sleep when they wake up in the night. Some babies are just habitual night time eaters. It’s not that they’re hungry, or in need of calories. They’ve just managed to associate waking in the night with feeding.
The bad news is that you’re going to have to break this association by giving up night feeds. That’s going to mean some protesting. But the good news is that, since your baby’s learned to sleep without props at bedtime, that means he’s already got some strong sleep skills, and the protesting should be over within a couple of nights.
So what’s the strategy for this? The same as it is for quitting just about everything else. Cold turkey. Stop tonight and don’t start again. The sooner your little one learns those skills, the sooner he’ll be sleeping through the night. That’s great news for parents, but it’s even better news for baby! More uninterrupted sleep means baby’s mind and body get more of those glorious restorative effects that take place during the night, making for a happier, healthier tomorrow!