Stopping night breastfeeding means that you stop nursing your baby at night, but during the day he can continue to breastfeed freely. Which means that the baby may wake up at night, but he will not suck. This process of stopping the habit of the child to nurse at night may help many families do a little more order at night. It can possibly allow you to sleep more, but not necessarily.
In this article, I will talk about the reasons for stopping night breastfeeding, to whom it fits, and how you should do it.
Breastfeeding at night
Babies nurse according to their needs. These vary throughout the day, at various times, as they grow. This is a natural and normal process, but not all of us live in a completely natural world.
Most people are forced to respond to dictates of daily life, work, studies, and emotional needs. And therefore often I hear about mothers who have difficulty waking up many times at night for breastfeeding. Some babies sleep well at night and there are babies who wake up a lot – that too varies from baby to baby and from period to period.
The expectation of parents for the baby to sleep a whole night is almost never grounded in reality. Sleeping a whole night is a developmental stage that most children come to at one stage or another of their development (as most of them get out of diapers and learn to go alone to the toilet). Every child will be ready for a whole night’s sleep at his own time, even if you’ll do nothing for this matter. This is an important point to remember because sometimes the parents find themselves putting a lot of effort into getting a whole night’s sleep, while the baby still does not show readiness.
After the age of three (3) years, children should sleep a full night without waking up. Anytime before this age, this is completely normal if the kid wakes up at night. And I know how hard it is because my first child was waking up 5-8 times a night (!!!) every night, until the age of three. I really don’t know how did I survive this period, but I did :-D. Then, suddenly, just in one week after his third birthday he started to sleep a full night. Like a magic. I was waking up myself and checking that he is breathing.
Now, back to our breastfed babies – we know that babies nurse at night not just for feeding. They need to know and feel that there is someone beside them, that they are not alone. They need this security. Lactation at night also has health and immune functions. Sometimes babies will wake up at night during teething, or during illness or growth spurt. Sometimes they wake up for reasons like nightmares, cold or heat. Although nursing is not necessarily the cause of waking up at night, for many babies it can really help get back to sleep.
When can we stop nursing at night?
It is commonly considered that infants up to one year of age still need to be fed at night at the nutritional level. Some babies develop by themselves a sleep pattern in which they sleep for hours or even a whole night. In this situation, when the baby decides by himself, he probably does not need nursing at night to get energy and makes sure to supplement it during the day in different ways.
Around the age of one year, some babies can also begin to understand concepts such as separation, or patience until they can nurse again, or any reason the mother and her partner decide to explain to the baby. Therefore, the recommendation to parents who think about stopping nursing at nighttime is to wait at least until after the age of one year to start the process.
It is possible, of course, to delay this process to an even later stage, or to give it up. Many mothers do not stop the night breastfeeding at their own initiative and allow the baby to stop on his or her own initiative. Some mothers continue to breastfeed their children until late during the day but find that breastfeeding at night is difficult for them. These are definitely situations where you can think about stopping the night breastfeeding, in order to maintain a positive and enjoyable experience throughout the day and years. For example, women may raise difficulty with breastfeeding at the age of 18-24 months, and stop breastfeeding at night can help them continue breastfeeding for the rest of the day, easily and with pleasure.
In practice: how to stop breastfeeding at night
The most important thing about stopping night breastfeeding is the decision. You should dwell on it for as long as it takes. If possible, the decision should be taken together with your spouse, since you will need the greatest support you can get from your family.
Naturally, stopping night breastfeeding is not an easy process, because it requires changing habits. If an adult has a hard time changing habits in all sorts of areas, the baby, who is not yet communicating, will find it even more difficult. In order to succeed in the process itself, it is important for the mother to remember why she chose to stop nursing at night, and not to give up. She needs to remember the reasons during the moments of difficulty and maintain the line she decided on. Therefore, it is worthwhile for the mother to spend some time before she begins the process with herself to see what she wants to do and how important it is to her. Confusion and indecision of the mother tend to interfere with the implementation of the decision, so it is advisable to convey a consistent and clear message to the baby.
You can set a due date to start the process. This will help prepare for this emotional. If the child is big enough, he can be prepared by words.
Although babies do not seem to understand, they can certainly understand and even benefit from such preparation. Especially since it may help the mother to prepare emotionally. The next thing, no less important, is to go through the process while giving respect and love to the child. It is clear that he will go through difficulties and will want to express them. That’s his right! The mother must understand that she must gather her forces and be there with him, and for him. She, too, is going through a stage where she will learn to communicate with her child in a different way than she has been used to so far.
It is best to be prepared for the baby’s difficulty and crying, and to know that the stage of difficulties may continue. Here the mother must prepare a support circle for herself that she can use when she needs it. If there is a father or a spouse in the picture, there is room to allow the father to integrate into the process. There may be a new and meaningful relationship between the father and his child, which is certainly welcome.
You should think ahead of time about a sensible schedule. If you don’t work on weekends, start the process on Friday, so by Monday you will have already easier nights.
Most of the stories heard from parents talk about how the difficulty of the baby changes in the process. The crying gets shorter with the days and decreases with its frequency until it disappears and the child adjusts to something new. There are situations in which this is not the case, which may indicate that the baby may not be ready for ending the night nursing, and that he may still need it. It is important to be flexible and honest and not to force it. Don’t go against the baby’s needs. If you feel that it is too early, you can stop the process and start again at a different time.
Make sure that you are not creating new patterns for the child, that you will need to end later on. To do this, when thinking and deciding on the process, it is worth thinking about the way you want to relate to the matter of sleep later: Is it right to sleep the infant on your arms instead of in bed? This is already a toddler, probably already quite heavy… Where will he sleep from now on? What is the desired method of putting him to sleep? It should be suitable for the parents, their way of life, and the family’s daily routine. Maybe you can think of a lullaby, a touch, a laying down the child in a certain way. You can use a special story or ceremony that you create for your baby.
It is also worth remembering that sometimes there are “methods” that suitable only for the transitional period, for the period of change, and then you can move to something else. So that this intermediate method of putting the baby to sleep in a stroller/ car / baby carrier / arms does not have to remain from now on. Perhaps when the emotional bond of breastfeeding is cut off, it will be easier to make another change in making the baby sleep.
Allow yourself a transition period to the stopping night nursing process. Know that it may take a while and that things will change. But eventually, you will find peace again within the new day order created after this process is complete.