A very common question among parents. I have been told this before myself and it is still a very common belief that it’s hunger that causes those frequent night wakes. But is it the case? I will go through weaning and sleep connection in detail in this blog.
Current guideline is to start introducing your baby to solids around 6 months of age.
However, if you have already started doing it or done it before, you might know, that their portion sizes are tiny to begin with. The main aim at this stage is more to introduce your baby to different flavours and textures, rather than to fill them up.
While being weaned, your baby will still heavily rely on milk for nutrition purposes. So no need to stress about balancing their diet just yet, it is more of a groundwork for their future healthy eating habits.
It is a good idea to start with more bitter flavours, such as broccoli, and move on to sweeter food later on.
As weaning doesn’t impact satiety much at 6 months of age, as an expert Sleep Consultant, I work with babies form 5 months old.
The reason being that from that age they can have long stretches of sleep without needing a feed. It might not be 12 hours just yet, but I always take family needs and preferences into account, and you can improve sleep with keeping a night feeding structure in place.
I don’t see a big difference in sleep patterns between 5 and 6 months old, and it might be easier to put good sleep foundation in place earlier on.
If you need help with the night feeding structure or daily routine my Online Course can help you with just that. Or if you feel that your baby and family might need a bespoke approach, check my 1:1 Packages here.
Will my baby reduce their night milk feeds once weaned?
While for some babies it might be the case, it might also not change on its own. Quite often I see parents, who still en up feeding their babies every 2 hours (similar to a newborn), but much later on it their life.
I have worked with toddlers, who still required as many as 4 bottles of milk per night. By that age, they were fully weaned and were eating full size portions (not as big as you’d expect at this age, due to them being too full from milk)
Why do babies and in some cases toddlers, still want this much milk at night?
The answer is because they are using it for settling. Babies can develop external sleep
associations and they can come in a lot of different shapes and forms.
If your baby uses milk to fall asleep at the start of the night they are more likely to need it to resettle in the middle of the night. In this case weaning is not going to resolve their settling issue.
Furthermore, in some cases their milk intake can have an impact on the whole weaning process. Ending up with you being in this circle of feeding at night because they’re are hungry (or need it to fall asleep), but not eating enough during the day because they’ve had to much milk at night.
If your baby if heavily dependant on milk to fall back asleep, you might benefit more from a bespoke approach. As every baby is different, and you need to be comfortable with the pace you move away from their night feeds. With my support plan I will guide you through the whole process for the duration of 3 weeks (or if you prefer, you can always extend my support period). You can check all my available services on my website here.
Another impact excessive night feeding might have is lower mood levels. When not getting a good night sleep your little one is much more likely to be tired with a shorter attention span. This can lead them to become frustrated and not want to experiment with new flavours and textures as much.
So how do you resolve this issue?
I work with families on various sleep issues and night feeding and wakes is a very common problem.
It is nothing to worry about, and takes between 1 and 2 weeks to resolve. You can check my Online Courses for 5-12 months old which has a separate section on “night feeding”, or if you need a more bespoke solution.
My baby keeps falling asleep on the bottle/breast , how can I stop it?
It can be a bit tricky making the first step to breaking the feeding to sleep association. You want to make sure your baby takes a full milk feed before going to bed. I suggest splitting the milk feed into two parts, one before the start of the bedtime routine and a smaller top-up during or after the bedtime routine. You can keep the lights on in the room and read a book while feeding your baby.
This way they have higher chances of staying up and not falling asleep while feeding.
The sleep stretch depends on many factors, such as the total amount of day sleep and wake windows throughout the day and before bedtime. Do you need a clear guide on wake windows and routines? My Online Course if skull of relevant information and downloadable materials such as sleep routines for different ages. You also get an instant lifetime access to the whole course. More information about it here.