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Should I Night Wean?

Well-meaning loved ones and medical professionals often suggest to parents that, if their babies are nursing at night, it’s time to wean them. “Babies” may refer to any age from six months to one year and beyond. Why wean? Reasons given include anything from the promise of uninterrupted sleep for parents to better sleep habits for baby. But is night weaning necessary – or even good for the breastfeeding relationship?

Parents – both those currently on the journey with their night nursing little ones and those who can look back at that time in their parenting journey – share their thoughts and experiences. There is also a list of resources at the end of this post about nighttime parenting and weaning.


Shannon W. nursing her baby

“Night nursing is the easiest way to calm my baby and get him back to sleep. Plus, you get lots of baby cuddles!” – Shannon W.

“I never set out to night wean. My oldest and youngest just liked to sleep all night and nursed heavily before they zonked out for the night. (Night was seven to 10 hours.) My middle munchkin never ever slept more than four hours. She is 23 and still doesn’t sleep for more than four or five hours at a time.” – Genia B.

“Night weaning doesn’t necessarily mean more sleep; it just means when baby wakes up you offer other ways to meet their needs (rocking, cuddling, water, maybe even a small snack, etc). My oldest had night wakings long after night weaning. Do what you feel is right. To be honest, (I think) nursing back to sleep is usually the path of least resistance and ultimately gets you the most sleep.” – Tiffany H.

Amber A.’s baby nursing

“I was told I should start night weaning at our six-month checkup when I stated that she was still nursing every two to three hours. I just can’t bring myself to do it, so it’s comforting to see others still night nursing! I would love some unbroken sleep for a change, but I feel like if she needs (nursing) for hunger or comfort, I should provide that to her.” – Amber A.

“Babies wake up. Night weaning won’t guarantee any more sleep. They may sleep longer; they may not. If you are perfectly happy to nurse as you have always done, then nurse on! My little one still woke every three to four hours at eight months. She’d stir, I’d latch, we’d sleep. We did it that way until she weaned at 2.5 years old.” – Samantha V.

“I’m still night nursing my 11 month old. I also work full time so I like night nursing. Some days I don’t get to see a ton of him in the evening – maybe an hour or two – so I enjoy the night snuggles.” – Britton W.

Stephanie M’s daughter

“(I’m) currently nursing my ten month old. I nurse to sleep and whenever else she likes even if that’s in the middle of the night. I will continue till she weans. I did the same with my older children.” – Stephanie M.

“I’m a nurse practitioner, and even though we are supposed to be educated more on health promotion/disease prevention than doctors, we still (received) no real information on species normative infant/young child nursing and sleep behavior. We had a brief lecture once on breastfeeding – approximately 30 minutes. This was from a Top 5-ranked Family Nurse Practitioner program. Trust your instincts. Don’t listen to people tell you what you or your little one ‘should’ be doing. Babies and children don’t need to be taught to sleep. It’s 100% normal and reasonable for your son to be waking at night at 8 months. My daughter is nearly four years old and still wakes occasionally at night and most certainly needed to nurse frequently at night for at least the first couple years. You’re listening to and fulfilling your baby’s needs, which is awesome. All the times that you are sensitive and responsive to his needs help build his sense of security and trust.” – Stephanie G.

“My two youngest sons didn’t night wean until they were both about 25 months. I think it really helped them cope with their molars coming in.” – Gwenn W.

“Our doctor recommended this at her six-month appointment and I was shocked. We nurse on demand and that wasn’t a concept that doctor was familiar with. We changed doctors and chose to continue nursing on demand. My daughter is 16 months old and nurses whenever she wants. I finally realized no one knows what’s truly best for our family except us. Do what you feel is best for yours.” – Kathleen

“My son is eight months old. He’s on the go all day, full of energy and curiosity. His little brain is growing so much! Plus, he’s trying to stand – all that energy exertion. Why would I take those meals away from him? (Night nursing) also keeps my supply up.” – Sami T.

“I remind myself that my milk production is highest in those wee hours, and the demand helps to increase and maintain my supply. Increased nursing usually means big developmental progress!” – Anna S.

“My 13 month old still nurses multiple times at night and so did his brother, up until 18 months. It’s my opinion that babies/toddlers typically don’t sleep through the night until their molars come in. And if they’re suffering, even in the middle of the night, I’m there for them.” – Randee K.

Catherine N. and her family

“Night weaning does not guarantee sleeping through the night. Babies wake for various reasons: thirsty, hungry, cold, hot, scared, missed mommy during the day because she works, etc. The best comment I ever read that made it ‘click’ for me was, ‘I’m 30 years old and I still don’t sleep through the night!’ How true! Most adults don’t sleep all night so how can we expect tiny babies to do it?” – Catherine N.

“My son is 10 months old and usually sleeps through the night but periodically wakes up, and the fastest way to get him back down is to nurse him! I will nurse him back to sleep as long as possible because it means I get to go back to sleep.” – Haley F.

“My son was still feeding every three hours at eight months. Do what you think is best for your baby.” – Lisa M.

“My son is 11 months old and still nurses at night. Night nursing serves as comfort, pain relief, etc.” – Yaritza R.

“I was told at my son’s nine-month appointment that ‘he shouldn’t need to wake up every two to three hours at night to eat. That I could try letting him cry it out.’ I didn’t do that. I nursed him when he woke up, and now he is 2.5 years old and sleeps like a teenager.” – Bethany H.

 “You ‘need’ to night wean when you are ready. I was ready with my first when she was 2 ¼ years old. My second had to be away for a medical issue, and he transitioned at 2 ½ years old without issues. My daughter continued limited a.m. and p.m. nursing until her fourth birthday. So yes, absolutely wean…when you are both ready.” – Eva B.

“Around that age, older babies tend to nurse more at night because they’re so busy exploring and learning during the day. My 19-month-old has really been exclusively nursing at night for months now. My older two did the same.” – Gareth H.

Resources


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