A lot of moms ask me how night weaning a breastfeeding baby (or toddler) will affect their milk supply. Often, they’re worried that reducing or eliminating night feeds might result in accidentally weaning their baby off breastfeeding.
I get it! You work so hard in the first few months to establish your breastfeeding bond and milk supply. Now that your baby is feeding well and your breasts have adjusted, you don’t want to stop breastfeeding before you planned to.
(If you haven’t yet started weaning night feeds, you can get my step-by-step guide here!)
Just like establishing breastfeeding with a newborn, you have to pay close attention in the early phase of night weaning. This protects your milk supply and helps prevent mastitis.
I created this simple night weaning guide for the moms in my 21 Days to Peace & Quiet program. It has tips for reducing your baby’s night feeds, while maintaining your milk supply and preventing mastitis.
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I’m a firm believer that you can night wean and continue to breastfeed your child as long as you wish. Let’s get you there!
When do babies stop eating at night?
Determining when to night wean your baby isn’t always easy. Your little one may be waking several times each night, and feeding is the quickest and easiest way to get them back to sleep.
But you may be starting to wonder if baby is truly hungry each time she wakes, or if she’s ready to wean off night feeds and sleep longer stretches at night. How can you tell?
Your baby’s age plays an important part in night weaning.
WEANING NIGHT FEEDINGS
Is your baby ready?
Your baby’s age matters
0-3 MONTH OLD
Needs night feedings, but some can have a 3-5 hour stretch of sleep.
4-5 MONTH OLD
Needs night feedings, but some can have a 5-6 hour stretch of sleep.
6-8 MONTH OLD
Many babies can be night-weaned. Others need 1 night feeding.
9-12 MONTH OLD
The overwhelming majority can be night weaned.
13+ MONTH OLD
If otherwise healthy, does not need night feedings.
Now that you know how many night feeds your baby needs (if any) you’re probably wondering how to stop breastfeeding at night or wean off the bottle at night.
Night Weaning Tips for Breastfeeding Moms
Once your baby is sleeping through the night or down to 1 night feed.
To prevent mastitis and maintain your milk supply:
- Pump and empty both breasts before you go to bed each night.
- Clean the pump parts, then put in sterilizer to run overnight.
- If you wake feeling full in the night, pump. Just a quick 10 mins to relieve the fullness helps prevent engorgement, especially in the early days. Then quickly rinse your breast pump parts in hot water and leave to air dry.
- If you’re worried about your supply dropping, you can choose to keep a pumping session during the night so that your breasts don’t go longer than 4-5 hours before being emptied.
- Your breasts are fullest first thing in the morning. So make sure your baby gets a full breastfeed after waking in the morning. If baby empties only one breast, pump the other breast.
- It’s important that you fully drain both breasts in the morning. Some moms find that they have to eat before (or while) pumping because it helps with letdown.
Breastmilk storage tips:
- Freshly pumped milk stored in the back of your refrigerator (not on the door) can last 3-4 days.
- Freshly pumped breast milk can be stored in an insulated cooler with ice packs for up to 1 day. (Great for working moms.)
- Milk stored in a standard household freezer (separate from the refrigerator) can last up to 6 months. (Keep all frozen milk in the back of the freezer.)
- Try to freeze milk in small portions, like 2 – 5 oz or 60 – 150 mL. Small amounts thaw more quickly, and you’ll waste less milk.
- Once milk has been heated, it cannot be reheated.
- If you thaw milk in the refrigerator (& it stays cold while thawing) it can last 24 hours there before you need to throw it out.
- If you thaw milk to a warm temperature, it must be fed to your baby within the next few hours.
- When choosing frozen milk to thaw, feed the oldest milk first. Try using a bottle warmer to avoid breast milk from being overheated.
- Write the date on all of your milk bags! You’ll never remember.
Tips for pumping at work:
- Pump every 4 hours while you’re away at work.
- Drink a cup of Mother’s Milk Tea one hour before you plan to pump. And eat something too. Don’t pump if you’re hungry, better to eat first.
- Pump both sides, fully draining (after milk stops flowing, pump 2-3 more minutes. Make sure the pump is at the highest suction level that you can tolerate.)
- To help increase your output, watch videos of your baby while you pump. Or bring a shirt baby recently wore and smell it. This works! (I know Moms that had to close their eyes and picture their baby crying….5 seconds later….MILK!)
- Most importantly find a quiet, private place and relax.
- Feed your baby soon after coming home from work.
- When you’re with baby- especially in the first few weeks- spend lots of time together cuddling and nursing. Do skin-to-skin contact and/or have a bath together.
- Don’t worry about baby taking a bottle when you’re together (to practice accepting it.) Most babies quickly adapt to having the bottle at daycare and boobs with Mom. It’s more important to breastfeed when you’re together, to keep your supply up.
In the first 1 – 2 weeks, your breasts will be adjusting. If your breasts become uncomfortably full, pump or feed your baby right away.
Pay attention for mastitis symptoms or clogged milk ducts such as: breast tenderness, warmth, pain or burning sensation, redness, or fever (feeling like you have the flu.) These could be symptoms of mastitis.
Contact your health care provider or a Lactation Consultant right away.
Above all, try to not stress yourself out. Breastfeed your baby often during the day when you’re together so you’ll feel comfortable going long stretches at night without feeding.
Are You Going Back to Work Soon and Planning to Pump?
This info-packed, easy-to-follow online course walks you through all the essentials!
From choosing the best pump, how to build a freezer stash, increasing your milk supply, introducing a bottle & lots more!