How to Stop Breastfeeding a 1-Year-Old at Night

How to Stop Breastfeeding a 1-Year-Old at Night

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Is your 1-year-old still waking up at night for feeds? If you want your baby to sleep through the night, first thing that you need to do is stop feeding at night. Read on to learn how to stop breastfeeding a 1-year-old at night.

If you are reading this article means that you are exhausted from your baby keeping you up all night. Mama, you are not alone!!

Did you know, that during first year of baby’s life, new parents will sleep 59% less than the recommended 8 hours a night. Which is equivalent to losing 44 – 50 nights of sleep in a year.

Yikes, so many nights without sleeping!!

No wonder why you want to stop breastfeeding your 1-year-old at night!

Getting a 1-year-old to stop breastfeeding before he gives it up himself is a big challenge. But if you want your sleep back as well as encourage independent sleep in your baby, your first step would be stopping breastfeeding at night.

Today, we are going to talk about when to stop breastfeeding at night and how to stop breastfeeding a 1-year-old at night and much more.

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Why my 1-year old wants to Nurse a lot at Night?

Breastfeeding is much more than nutrition for babies. It provides them comfort, warmth and security.

He may just want to feed at night for comfort. It is called comfort nursing. It has nothing to do with toddler being hungry. You have responded to his needs with breastfeeding at night till now, so it is normal for him to wake up and expect feeding.

If your 1-year-old has started waking at night a lot and asking for feeds, you many have to rule out physical causes for the waking such as earache, reflux or teething.

Toddlers depend on their mother to regulate their emotions. You may have noticed feeding your toddler, that breastfeeding helps calm him when he is emotionally disturbed.

So when your toddler wants to breastfeed often at night, it’s likely that your toddler is going through normal developmental stage, illness, starting childcare or moving house.  During this time, he might need extra comfort or reassurance in form of breastfeeding.

When you continue to respond to his early sign of distress in timely manner, he will eventually learn to calm his emotions.

Responding to your toddler’s need is important when you are trying to wean your toddler from nighttime feeding. If your child is not ready to give up feeding at night himself, it can be very difficult, and you may need to find substitute to help your toddler get back to sleep.

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When can I Stop Breastfeeding my Baby at Night?

How to stop breastfeeding a 1 year old at night

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months, with the addition of solid foods continuing up to a year.

It is important to know that when you go without feeding your baby at night for 8 hours, it may lead to weaning altogether.

For this reason, it is important not to night wean until at least six months. Some babies need nighttime feeding for much longer if they are not growing well. If you suspect that your baby is not meeting his developmental milestone, talk to your pediatrician before weaning at night.

 If you want to night wean your baby before six months, you need to pump at least once at night to keep up with your supply for day-time feeding.  

I chose to stop breastfeeding at night when my babies were 1-year-old. They started sleeping through the night once they were night weaned.

That being said, its up to you and your baby to decide when is good time to night wean.

Do keep in mind though, it is normal for babies and toddler to wake up at night. So if you are weaning your toddler at night just to get a 8 hours of sleep at night, it may not be the case.

Yes, it can be a first step to achieve the goal.

Weaning night feeding when your baby is ready to give it up himself, works best. But if he is not ready, it will be challenging. In this case, you will need to prepare yourself and your baby for it.

So, let’s look at how to prepare for night weaning your toddler.  

How to Prepare for Night Weaning a 1-year-old?

When you are ready to night wean your 1-year-old, you DON’T want to go ‘cold turkey’. It will be a big shock for him, and you will struggle for few days. But instead, take a few days and prepare yourself.

First thing that you need to do is, stop associating sleep with breastfeeding.

When you are breastfeeding a baby to sleep, he thinks that this is the only way to go to sleep. You need to teach your baby about the other way of falling asleep.

It may take you a long time to break this association. But do take your time.

Here is what you can do to break the association of sleep with breastfeeding.

  • Feed your child in rocking chair – Not on bed if you are bed-sharing
  • Put him drowsy but awake in his bed
  • If your baby refuses to go back to sleep – rock him, sing to him, carry him around in the room until he falls asleep
  • You can offer a pacifier if you wish to. But this will be a habit that you need to break again in few months. ( I didn’t offer pacifier when I weaned my baby)
  • You can also start putting your baby in separate bed than yours. It’s much harder to night wean your toddler if the boobs are right there, in easy access range.

This step is going to take a week or two. But if you are consistent, your baby will learn to fall asleep without feeding.

Next thing that you want to do is, prepare yourself for a change. You will have many sleepless nights going through this process. Your baby is going to cry a lot at night for feeding. You may need to rock him continuously to make him fall asleep.

During this process, you need to be patient and keep yourself from getting upset. If you are not prepared mentally, you will give up in a night or two. So, get your support system in place. Ask your partner to help you out during this process.  

Also, start talking to your toddler about the change. Talking to him several times a day will help make it a little easy for him to accept the change (may be!!).

How to Stop Breastfeeding a 1-year-old at Night?

When you are starting a night weaning process, make sure that you have eliminated any other means of discomfort (teething, earache or any illness) in your baby.

This method took us two weeks to wean my 1-year-old at night. But it does not mean that it will take two weeks for you as well. Every baby is different, and it may take longer or shorter than two weeks to wean your toddler at night.

The First Stage of Night Weaning – First 3-4 nights

First stage of night weaning start with disassociating sleep with breastfeeding. As mentioned earlier, you are teaching your baby to fall asleep without breastfeeding.

You want to start first night with doing nighttime ritual as usual and put your baby to sleep.

You should also try to go to bed early to catch some sleep as you will spend more time awake at night.

Here what you want to do is, just before when you go to sleep, feed your baby to sleep if he asks for it. So, if your bedtime is 10 pm, breastfeed your baby to sleep just before 10. In between, 10 pm to 5 am, you don’t want to breastfeed your baby to sleep.

Feeding your baby to sleep while you are awake is the last feeding to sleep you are offering to your baby for rest of the night.  

During the first night, when your baby wakes up for feeding, take him away from the bed to rocking chair, feed him and lay him in his designated sleeping space.

You will need to rock him, sing to him, talk to him, gently pat his back to comfort him to go to sleep.

Remember, your goal is to teach your 1-year-old to fall asleep by himself so make sure to put him back in his bed awake after breastfeeding him.

Your baby may take several days, and it is a big learning curve for your baby so don’t rush it.

You can continue to breastfeed your baby after 5 am as usual. I kept doing this for 3-4 nights before moving to next stage of night weaning.

This first few nights were not as bad as I thought it would be (for him). After couple of minutes of rocking him in my hand, he went back to sleep in his bed.

Although, I didn’t like the part of taking him to rocking chair to breastfeed. And keeping him awake while feeding was hard, he started dozing off as soon as initial letdown subsided. I literally had to keep him in an uncomfortable nursing position to keep him awake.

Second Stage of Night Weaning – Following 3-4 nights

During this stage of night weaning, you are not feeding your baby when he wakes up for feed during your sleeping time.

This stage is harder. You baby will cry for milk when he wakes up, and it will be hard for you to see him crying. At this stage, you need to be calm and support his needs in other way.

When your 1-year-old wakes up at night crying for milk, you want to be there for him. Try to calm him by hugging or carrying him. Tell him gently that he can not have a milk at night, and we will get it in the morning.

He may cry and cry at night for milk, but you need to be calm and responsive.

You may need your partner to console him. For my baby we both took a turn to comfort him at night. We had to constantly rock him to sleep. First night he was inconsolable, and I had to let him sleep in my arm for couple of hours.   

He fought for breastmilk for almost a week before he gave in. It got better every night and gradually he got more sleep.

Last Stage of Night Weaning – Following 3-4 Nights

You keep on doing what you are doing but you wouldn’t pick him up at all to comfort him.

If he wakes up, you go in and gently pat his back, gently run your finger over is his forehead and talk to him but do not pick him up.

Continue doing that for 3-4 days and eventually he will learn to go back to sleep.

If needed, offer him sippy cup filled with water to comfort him or give him his favorite stuff toy to cuddle .         

My 1-year-old started to hold on to his favorite teddy bear as a support to fall back to sleep.

This gentle method of night weaning worked well for us. We did have several nights of crying, tantrum or no sleeping at all, but finally he was night weaned.

After two weeks of using this strategy, my son was completely off the breast at night but for following several nights, he needed a constant reminder that there won’t be any milk at night. Slowly and slowly he accepted it and went back to sleep with his stuff toys.

If you use this method or any other method of night weaning, most important part is being consistent with your night weaning strategy and staying calm and responsive to your baby’s need.

No matter how prepared you are, you will have few nights of crying and/or screaming, and not loosing your calm is very important. Otherwise your own overwhelm will cause you to give up after one or two night.  

Need a Night Weaning Help?

Stopping breastfeeding or bottle feeding at night can be tricky, especially when everything you try seems to fail. There are many reasons why night weaning is not working for you.

  • Your baby might have a strong association of breastfeeding to sleep
  • Baby does not know how to fall asleep independently
  • If you are a working mama and only available to your baby at night for breastfeeding- it will be hard for baby to night wean. (your baby will wake up to breastfeed more often at night)

If you are still struggling for any reasons, check out this Weaning Night Feedings Guide by a Sleep consultant. In this detailed 3-step guide you will learn how to reduce or eliminate night feeds for your baby/toddler. This amazing, easy to follow, step-by-step guide was developed by Jilly Blankenship, a Neonatal nurse and a lactation consultant.

In this guide, you will learn:

  • What you can do during the day to help night weaning go easier
  • Pro feeding tips for distracted babies and toddlers
  • How to increase your toddler’s appetite for solids
  • Night-by-night guide to wean off breastfeeding or bottles
  • The #1 thing that will get your baby sleeping through the night and much more.

This guide is perfect for babies and toddlers. For less than $15, you can get step-by step guide from a sleep consultant. It can’t go better than that.

Consider buying this guide if nothing seems to work for your baby. This guide will ensure a smooth weaning from a nighttime nursing or bottle. You can get your Weaning Night Feedings Guide HERE.

Conclusion

I hope this method give you great ideas on how to stop breastfeeding a 1-year-old at night.

Going through this transition is hard for your baby so you need to be very calm and responsive in meeting your baby’s needs in other ways. Success depends on how committed you are in achieving your goal.

Stay strong, Mamas!! Good Luck!

Do you have any night weaning tips or questions? Share them below and let’s get the conversation started!

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4 thoughts on “How to Stop Breastfeeding a 1-Year-Old at Night”

  1. Thank you so much for all wonderful tips.
    My baby is 1 and 1/2 years old and still my baby asking for feed at night. I will try let all. Thank you,

    Reply

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