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Night weaning tips

By Kaya Thorpe IBCLC, Revised May 2022.

Night weaning can be difficult with toddlers and it is not necessarily guaranteed to improve sleep. It also doesn’t mean they will be happy settling for someone else at night time either. There are many ways to night wean a toddler, we never recommend leaving a toddler to cry however there may be some crying during the process of night weaning. As long as your toddler is safe and being comforted by someone they love then they are ok. There is a big difference between leaving a child to cry it out and holding them and comforting them while they are sad.

We don't generally suggest you night wean before the age of one. Some of these tips make some in useful if you are weaning onto bottles/cups at a younger age to stop breastfeeding.



Stopping feeding to sleep

Sometimes breaking the feeding to sleep habit can help stop night wakings or make night weaning easier. Tips are

  • End the feed before the toddler is fully asleep and cuddle to sleep, gradually making sure your toddler is ending their feed more and more awake.

  • Change your routine around to bring the feed earlier in the routine to stop feeding to sleep

  • Introduction of a cup of water or milk and a cuddle

  • Ask a partner to settle them to bed with a cuddle or by laying with them

  • Pushing bedtime to a later time can initially help as your toddler may be easier to settle when tired.

Night weaning

  • Some families will choose to end co sleeping to night wean, some may want to continue with the family bed. Go with what works for your family.

  • Cutting the feed shorter each feed can reduce the time spent feeding then cuddling to sleep

  • Gradually extending the time before you will offer a breastfeed. You can use a visual que for this by using a light that changes colour for example

  • Talking to your child to explain that feeding is stopping, some families will use the description of breasts or mum needing to sleep.

  • Allowing someone else to settle your child in the night

  • Co sleeping with a partner away from mum overnight

  • Offering a cup of water or milk overnight may help settle the child

  • Introduction of a special comfort item. This can help as a replacement for breastfeeding but should be combined with a cuddle/closeness with a parent


Habit stacking

  • Habit stacking is where you use several methods at once to get a child to sleep. You could breastfeed, play white noise or music and either rock or gently pat the child’s back.

  • When you feel settled into this pattern you remove one habit. So you could remove the breastfeed and continue with the other two

  • This may work better with younger babies.

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