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What You Need to Know About Sleeping Through the Night Part 3

January 18, 2012 |  by  |  1 YO, 2 YO, 6-9 Months, 9-12 Months, featured, parenting
cute baby sleeping through the night

By 6-8 months your baby is fully ready and capable to be completely done with eating at night. Dr. Sears suggests that some parents really enjoy feeding their babies at night and will happily continue offering night feeding sessions until the child stops waking up on their own. If you are one of these mythical “I love waking up in the middle of the night” parents, best of luck to you. Personally I don’t know any people like this. And I think they’re really rare. Like unicorn rare.

But my point is that by this time your baby no longer needs to consume lots of food at night and is fully capable of getting all their calories in during daylight hours. And while a few babies will organically drop all their night feedings without any assistance from you, the vast majority of babies will continue to wake up routinely for a nursing session or bottle for years. So you can live with night feedings for the next 3 years, or you can take some simple and effective steps to gently wean your baby off their night feeding habit.

If you think you’re ready to stop night feedings you must have already read and done your homework from Sleeping Through the Night Part 1 and Sleeping Through the Night Part 2. Otherwise my no-fail night weaning strategy will fail miserably!

Start by choosing the feeding that is the least fun for you (typically this is the “dear God why are you awake it’s freeking 2:00 AM” feeding). Use the relevant process outlined below to completely wean off one feeding. Repeat.

Night Weaning for Breastfed Babies

  • Gradually reduce the amount of time baby gets on the breast by 1 minute every 1-2 days. For example if your baby nurses 10 minutes a side (for a total of 20 minutes), start popping him off at 9 minutes, 8 minutes, etc.
  • By the time your baby is only nursing for 2-3 minutes he may stop waking up all on his own. WHOOPIEE!
  • If your baby STILL wants to nurse then you have a few options on how to handle it:
  • A) Send daddy in for 1 minute of low-key soothing. Daddies are miraculously good at this. Also? They don’t smell like food. Babies are much more adaptive at getting the “no more food for you buddy” message from Dads.
  • B) Let him complain. This should NOT be a nightmare CIO scene. Most babies who have been gently decreasing their milk consumption are now USED to not eating at this time. Left to their own devices they typically complain for 5-10 minutes and then fall back to sleep.
  • When you are done feeding your baby at X time of night you are DONE. Don’t let teething/colds/travel get you back on the night feeding menu. If this happens you need to start over again. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200.

Night Weaning for Bottle-fed Babies

  • Offer 2 oz less of formula. So instead of an 8 oz bottle, offer a 6 oz bottle. Then a 4 oz bottle. Etc.
  • -OR- Dilute the formula by reducing the amount of formula in the bottle by 1 scoop but leave the amount of water the same. So instead of 8 oz of water with 4 scoops of formula you would offer 8 oz of water with 3 scoops of formula.
  • Continue decreasing the dilution of the formula until the bottle is 100% water. (Or continue offering less formula in the bottle – 6 oz, 4 oz, 2 oz). After 1-2 days of “only water” bottles, no more bottles.
  • At this point your baby will probably stop waking up for this feeding all on their own. If not read the tips above (for breastfed babies) on how to proceed.
  • When you are done with a given feeding you are DONE. No more bottles at that time of night. The kitchen is closed.

I’ve done this with many families over the years and it works shockingly well. Don’t believe me? Try it. Then come back next week and share your success story in the comment section!

There are a few small caveats to night weaning that I want to share….

The Dreaded Early Morning Feeding

It’s really common for babies to wake up to nurse in the early morning, say 5:00 AM, and then fall back to sleep for another 1-2 hours. When starting the night weaning process I suggest that this is the LAST feeding session you tackle.

Why?

Because babies often respond to giving up the 5:00 AM feeding by deciding instead to start the day. I think the problem is that a) it’s close enough to their normal wakeup time b) they’re used to waking up at that time already and c) they’ve gotten enough sleep that basic exhaustion won’t just whisk them back to dreamland.

I have no magic solution to this dilemma. Try weaning off the early morning feeding and see what happens. Your baby may continue to sleep happily until their normal wakeup time. Your baby may figure out how to fall back asleep at 5:00 am with a little gentle soothing encouragement from you or your partner. Or your baby may flatly refuse to go back to sleep without being fed.

If the latter then you can decide if you want to simply concede defeat and continue with the 5:00 AM feeding rather than wake up in the early dark of the morning. Personally I think an extra hour or two of sleep is worth dealing with the 5:00 AM feeding. If you’re nursing I would strongly encourage you to give your baby a bottle instead at this hour so you and your partner can take turns.

Baby is Too Young

You are welcome to try to gently night wean when your baby is younger than 6-8 months old. Sometimes it works. More often it doesn’t. But there is no harm in trying to drop a feeding or two in the 4-6 month time frame. If things go smoothly, great! If not your baby may simply be too young and may not be physically ready to go for longer stretches without eating. Wait a few weeks and then try again.

Using CIO to Stop Night Feedings

Cry it out is a lousy way to stop night feedings. For starters, a baby who is used to eating a lot at night will cry A LOT if asked to stop eating at night all at once. I guarantee you many of those CIO horror stories you can find on baby forums were caused by misguided parents who had a baby used to drinking 24 oz of formula at night and then was cut off cold turkey. I get cranky when I skip a meal. If I didn’t eat all day I’m almost ready to eat my own young. Don’t ask your babies to do this.

Cry it out is a useful technique and it has a very specific purpose. But it’s not useful for night weaning.

So if you’ve taught your baby how to fall asleep on their own, you are ready to get started on night weaning!

Share a comment below. What worked/didn’t work for you? Any advice for handling the dreaded 5:00 AM feeding/wakeup? If so drop me a line. We’ll write a bestselling baby sleep book and become billionaires!

{photo credit: DonkeyHotey and Stephen Heron}


960 Comments


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  1. I’m confused do I let my lil man CIO first then wean from night feeding or wean from feeding first then start CIO, he’s 9 months on the 5/29 just getting over his 3rd back to back double ear infections since he selfweaned from being EBF when I went back to work 2 months ago. I work twice a week 12 hour shifts Monday and Friday and occasionally fill in when needed, I’m exhausted when I go to work. His crib is in our room right next to my side of the bed, how’s the best way to start training I’ve read through all the steps 3 times and I’m still confused on where to start maybe it’s cause I’m tired I don’t know. I’m a nurse doing home health care with Peds patients on trachs, g-tubes etc I need to be alert. I’m a busy mom of 6 ages 16-almost 9 months I should know how to do this my youngest was a surprise there’s 5 years in between him and his only brother I guess I forgot everything in 5 years. Please Help

    • Hi Kiana – did you figure this out? You should start with bedtime (CIO) and getting baby to sleep on his own at bedtime. Once that’s established, then look at these steps for night weaning. Notice that this blog page is labeled “part 3” – search the site or the links at the bottom of the page and make sure you read and do parts 1 and 2, first.

  2. Hi, my LO is 10 months old and just like your article stated, slept like a rock from 2 weeks old to 6 months in his crib. After 6 mo, on the mark, he started night waking and has every since and its only gotten much, much worse. He was breastfed and still nurses only for comfort as I am pregnant with child #2, and takes a bottle of donated breastmilk through the day. I continued to nurse him to sleep and when he awoke in the night. Now that he is waking 4-8 times a night I am trying hard not to let him comfort nurse every time, but he screams bloody murder for up to 30 minutes if I let him, if he doesn’t get the boob (my fault, I know). At 7 -8 months he cut 4 teeth at once, so I attributed his sleep problems to that and at 6 months, I attributed his sleep problems to the normal developmental leap stuff, but now at 10 months it’s only getting worse, and Im a zombie! So my biggest question is, since he only comfort nurses, what can I do to wean him from that? He still sleeps in his crib, so that is a plus. He also will wake up a lot when I place him in the crib and my process for getting him to sleep (nursing) has to start again. I don’t mind nursing, I just want him to sleep through the night. Thanks!

  3. I have tried slowly weaning my baby off his night time bottles. He is 6 months old. He eats a lot through the day. He is 18 lbs. He was having 2 lots of 4oz bottles a night. I slowly cut them by an ounce. But when I completely dropped the first bottle he s reamed for an hour. We soothed him at 10 min intervals and he still screamed and screamed. I finally caved in and gave him 2 oz. He wasn’t happy and cried for more, but after 2 mins of crying he went back to sleep. I don’t know what to do since I’ve done everything the literature tells me to do with gradual weaning. Do I have to go back now to feeding him twice a night, since he screams the house down for so long now his bottles have been taken away?

  4. Hi there! I have a 6 month old (23 pounds and 28 inches – big boy) who used to sleep well, but since the 4-month regression (where nursing only got him to sleep), he is sleeping horribly. He will usually sleep about 4 hours, then wakes up every hour. Sometimes its the other way around. I recently started work full time and he is only drink about 3 ounces per feed (every few hours) with some solids. Sometimes I feel like he is genuinely hungry, however I never know until he is done nursing. He currently naps about 1 hour four times a day. I have tried everything to get him to sleep longer. After he wakes from his last nap I nurse, feed solids then start bedtime routine – bath, diaper, pajamas, nurse again, book, put down awake. He will fall asleep great on his own but when he wakes up he can’t put himself BACK to sleep. Is this a nap issue? hunger issue? comfort/separation anxiety issue? Help!

  5. Great articles and I love your tone…super encouraging. My baby has been falling asleep on her own since she was 7 months. Now 14 months, she still does not sleep through the night but wakes frequently. We’re going to try CIO but I’ll still nurse and use the reduction method you describe. She naps like an angel, her bedtime routine has been the same (literally) since she was born. This has been really frustrating!! I feel like I’ve done most things right and it’s still going so wrong!!

  6. My 10 month old still gets up once at night to eat. It is never at the same time and sometimes(!) he will actually skip that feeding, so my doctor thinks he is actually hungry. What do you think?

  7. Dp I get rid of the pacifier before night weaning or after? She falls asleep with the pacifier and doesn’t actually eat at bedtime. She just wakes to eat throughout the night

  8. I was wondering about the night weaning. When you offer a bottle-fed baby a diluted bottle or decrease the ounces, is it each night? Or weekly?

  9. I need help :/ my baby was born premature at 4lb she is bf and now at 6 months Wakes every 45 minutes through the night and will only settle being breastfed. I think the issue has come from the fact that 1 she was premature and 2 she had reflux. She stayed sleeping through for longer periods of time but we would wake her for feeds because of her size so I’m scared this has ruined her pattern and secondly because she developed quote bad reflux we had to hold her up for half an hour after each feed. So now we have a baby who feeds every forty five minutes followed by being held up for thirty minutes and then sleeping for 15 minutes in her cot. ..we’ve been living on 3 hours of broken sleep. ..but sixmonths of no sleep has stated talking is toll 🙁 what should we do? She isn’t hungry every 45mins but she wants to feed! !! Any help would be appreciated! ! Thanks so much

  10. If baby wakes 2 hourly instead of 4 hourly overnight do I CIO every second wakeup? What do I do if they’re still crying when the 4 hour mark hits? I don’t want to confuse her by feeding her if she’s been crying for ages.

  11. My baby is almost 14 months old and doesn’t know how to fall asleep in his own. I tried to sleep train earlier but my husband insisted in me rocking him in a hummock. Now he is waking for hours at night and is only quiet when laid in the hummock. He seems totally asleep but the moment he is put in the crib he starts crying like they’re killing him. How do I wean him of that hummock ? Please , please , help!

  12. Chantelle Noble

    My little guy is almost 14 months old. And he wakes around 4:30am to nurse…and start the day. He used to fall back asleep for an hour or two after this feeding but nope. Not anymore. 🙁 I can’t get on board with starting the day that early. Even 5:30 would be reasonable…ish but would be in heaven if he could stretch it to 6. I’ve just accepted that I don’t have a 7am – 8am baby waker. He still has two day naps (45 – 90 minutes each) and his bedtime is between 7 – 7:30. Any suggestions?

    • Check out the podcast on snooze button feeds (https://www.preciouslittlesleep.com/reader-mailbag-snooze-buttons-sleep-training-and-crib-slats-ep-9/).

      My daughter is 9 months old. She was going down at 7 – 7:30, waking at 4 to nurse, going back to sleep, and waking at 6:00. We were able to phase out the snooze button feed using the method in the podcast (decrease the feeding time gradually over a few weeks, then send in husband to soothe). There were a few hellish nights, but now she’s done with the 4 am feed and sleeps solidly until 5:30 or 6.

      Your situation is a little different because baby isn’t going back to sleep after the 4 am feed anymore, but I bet if you phase out the feed he’ll go back to sleeping longer. At 14 months it could also be that he’s ready to transition to 1 nap.

  13. How does this work for breastfed babies who will not take a bottle? My 11 month old is in daycare during the day…8 hours total…and will drink just enough milk to knock the edge off–usually 2-4 oz. We’ve tried bottles, sippy cups, etc. and nothing works. So, since she’s barely getting milk during the day, she nurses a lot at home.

    Our nights go like this: start nighttime routine by 6:45. Baby in crib by 7:15 and usually asleep by 7:30. She then wakes to nurse around 11:30, 2:30, and 4:30. How do I wean from nighttime feedings and make sure she’s getting enough milk during the day??? We’ve had issues w her slow weight gain and don’t want to cause anymore. Thoughts??

    • You poor thing, it’s so incredibly stressful especially because you’re stressed to be leaving them already even without this issue!
      My first child was like this. We tried every bottle/cup, person and scenario you can imagine and she wouldn’t take any liquid from anything except me. When I went back to work at 7 months she just had tonnes of breastmilk or formula mixed into each solids meal during the day and I gave her a long feed before work and at bedtime. She still got all the fluids in her food so the nights didn’t need to change. She started sipping water from my Camelbak water bottle at 10.5 months thankfully but never took milk.

      • Thanks for sharing! We were adding breastmilk to her food, but now that she has teeth and is getting more solid foods, we can’t even do that. She will drink water from a cup, so I figure I’d try milk. She took a sip, looked me in the eye, spit it out and crawled away! Lol!! A friend told me her son self-weaned once his 4 front teeth were fully in. I’m praying my daughter does this!

        • If you’re able to give him a breastfeed morning and nightly then that adequate milk at his age, he’s almost 12 months and my paediatrician told me that from 12 months they don’t “need” milk, it’s more a thing you give them to sip when they want it after that, because they get enough dairy through solids like yoghurt. So the milk just becomes another food in their diet.

  14. My son is 9 months.. He goes to sleep at 7 pm and wakes up a few times a night because he wants me to hold him or just be in my bed( he falls asleep in my bed and then is put in packnplay in my room) and at 12 am every single night he expects a 6 oz bottle which isn’t too bad but my pediatrician said he no longer needs night feedings at this age and should be sleeping in his room by now so she recommended this site to me. He is also a huge paci sucker ever since I stopped brestfeeding at 6 months.
    Any suggestions to get him to sleep in his amazingly adorable nursery I spent months decorating and getting ready for him?

  15. I am a 48 yr old mother if 17 children (ages 28, 22, 21, 20, 19, 18, 17, 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 9, 7, 4, 2, 1), so by number 17, you would really assume I have experienced it all, right? RIGHT? I’ve breastfed all but the first 3 and until the very last child, they all basically slept through the night (6 hrs +), even when I was nursing them. The baby, who is now almost 13 mos, weaned from the breast (on his own) around 8 mos and started on bottles of formula. He has NEVER been a good sleeper, except naps. He takes one nap per day and easily sleeps 3 hrs. I put him down awake with a 3-4 oz bottle and off to sleep he goes. At night, however, it is a different story. I’ve tried all sorts of things to get him to sleep longer at night (except taking away his nap, which I don’t think would do either of us any good!). I use cereal in his bottles in the evening to “fill him up”. Doesn’t help. I do solid food before bed. Doesn’t help. I let him cry.. and cry… and cry… doesn’t help. He has to sleep in our bedroom because quite simply, I have no where else to put him. He is in a crib, and I have the 3 exposed sides of the crib covered so he can’t see out. It doesn’t seem to matter if I put him down earlier or later, he wakes up all night long. 99% of the time, he wants a bottle. It used to be small bottles (5 oz) but now he has worked up to 6-7 oz bottles and still wakes up 2-3 times a night. He does sleep longer once 7am or so comes around, as long as his diaper is changed. Then he will sleep til 9 or even 10am sometimes. It is driving my husband and I insane. He is my last baby and I am really feeling my age with no sleep! At what point might it be a medical issue vs a behavioral one?

  16. This doesn’t quite make sense to me – if my baby doesn’t fall asleep in a swing, but doesn’t cosleep and is 3 months, I don’t see an option. How do you wean from bouncing and rocking to sleep if a swing doesn’t work?

  17. My daughter is nearly 8 months. Currently, she takes bottles during the day but she’s breastfed when I get home from work and until I go to work the next morning. We bed share and I nurse throughout the night but lately it’s excessive (5-7 wake ups for nursing a night) and I’m not getting any sleep at all.

    I’ve read parts 1-3 of “Sleeping through the night” and I’m wondering if I’m past the “night weaning” stage (where you suggest decreasing feeds by a minute). My daughter doesn’t really wake to eat at night. She usually grumbles and proceeds to thrash around looking for my breast until she finds it, nurses for a couple of seconds and then falls back to sleep. If i don’t give it to her (like I’ve been trying not to for the past couple of nights) she’ll thrash more and grumble louder until I can’t bear it anymore and give in. Do you still think I should be decreasing feeds throughout the night? Or do you think I should skip to sending dad in &/or letting her complain for 5-10 minutes? I should note that her complaining very quickly escalates to her screaming her head off.

    Thanks in advance.

  18. My LO is 7 months old and I am ready to sleep train her using CIO. My only concern is that her milk intake while I am at work is very less and I started solids a month ago so I have a feeling she makes up for the milk at night. How would I know if she is really waking up to eat or just out of the habit. Will appreciate a response.

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