• Kaylee Caldwell

How to Wean Night Feedings (including the dream feed)

If your baby is healthy, happy, and on the right track in the growth department you may have the green light from your baby's pediatrician to night wean or maybe your baby is waking 3+ times a night to eat and you KNOW they are not all that hungry because they keep falling asleep at the first few sips every. single. time. and you are just ready to get some sleep that doesn't involve periodically counting scoops of formula in the dark.


First things first, you need to set the stage

In order for night weaning to be successful you should eliminate any other causes for night wakings other than hunger. Check the list below to rule out potential causes for your baby's night wakings:

  • Overtired - Does your baby not nap well or maybe they nap but the times of day the naps occur aren't consistent?

  • Undertired - Do your baby get too much daytime sleep?

  • Waking out of habit - Are they falling asleep quickly at the breast or bottle? Or refusing milk all together? This could be a sign the waking is only habitual.

  • Uncomfortable - Is the room too hot or too cold? Do they seem restless (moving around frequently, tossing and turning, whining/fussing etc..)


Secondly, let's discuss when you can begin night weaning your baby

Most pediatricians will give you the okay to night wean when your baby is around 6 months of age, but does this mean they are really ready? No. Typically, infants will still wake in the night to feed until about 9-12 months of age. This is usually the time when solids have been established well enough that the child doesn't need to feed overnight to make up for lost calories.

Does this mean you can't night wean before then? Also, no. Night weaning can happen whenever both you and your baby are ready. That may not be until your baby is 5 months or 18 months, it is completely up to you because there is no magical number or age that will tell us when your baby will stop feeling hunger in the middle of the night. Now if you've ruled out potential causes above and your baby is still waking in the night to be fed and you've decided that you and baby are ready to night wean given that they are healthy and on track developmentally, let's dive in and talk about how to begin the process of night weaning!


Finally, let's talk about the process of night weaning

How you will go about weaning your baby's night feedings (including the dream feed) depends on how your baby gets their milk, either from a bottle or from the breast. Always check with a licensed lactation counselor before you begin night weaning to learn what you need to do to ensure your supply will not be effected negatively. I'll break down the process of night weaning for each feeding method below:


Breastfed Baby -

  1. Identify the pattern: Spend a few days logging your baby's overnight nursing sessions and note any patterns in their timing (i.e. waking every 3.5 hours) as well as their behavior at the feeding (i.e. nursing for a few minutes and then falling asleep, falling asleep immediately at the breast, nursing but getting distracted wanting to look around or chat)

  2. Start with one feeding at a time: Now that you have identified the pattern in your baby's night feedings you can begin weaning them. Start with the first nursing session of the night, if your baby takes a dream feed, I would recommend treating it as the first nursing session if your baby is over 6 months of age. So starting with the first session, reduce it by 3-5 minutes each night until it's dropped. If your baby continues waking at that time, you will implement a sleep training method until they fall back asleep. Once the first feeding is weaned you will move on to the second feeding, reducing it by 3-5 minutes each like you did the first feeding and sleep training through the waking if it still occurs. You will repeat this process with each nursing session.

  3. Increase daily nursing times/sessions: Night weaning may increase your baby's daily intake. This is totally normal and it's a good sign that night weaning is working as we are shifting baby from taking in calories overnight to taking them in solely during the day.

Bottle Fed Baby -

  1. Identify the pattern: Spend a few days logging your baby's overnight feeding sessions and note any patterns in their timing (i.e. waking every 3.5 hours) as well as their behavior at the feeding (i.e. feeding for a few minutes and then falling asleep, falling asleep immediately at the bottle, feeding but getting distracted wanting to look around or chat)

  2. Start with one feeding at a time: Now that you have identified the pattern in your baby's night feedings you can begin weaning them. Start with the first feeding of the night, if your baby takes a dream feed, I would recommend treating it as the first night feeding if your baby is over 6 months of age. So starting with the first feed, reduce it by 1 ounce each night until it's dropped. If your baby continues waking at that time, you will implement a sleep training method until they fall back asleep. Once the first feeding is weaned you will move on to the second feeding, reducing it by 1 ounce each night like you did the first feeding and sleep training through the waking if it still occurs. You will repeat this process with each night feeding.

  3. Increase daily feeding times/sessions: Night weaning may increase your baby's daily intake. This is totally normal and it's a good sign that night weaning is working as we are shifting baby from taking in calories overnight to taking them in solely during the day.


Need help and support?

If you are struggling to night wean, please reach out! I offer free 15-minute assessment calls to discuss your sleep struggles, goals, and recommend which sleep training support package would best suit your situation. I would love to help you through this process! Click the button below to schedule your assessment call.