Night Weaning and Sleep Training: Not the Same Thing

Picture this:

A petite (and cute) little mama of a 13-month-old baby…

…climbing into her son’s crib to nurse him back to sleep at night!

It sounds crazy, right??

But, trust me, I’ve heard everything! 

The things we will do just to get our babies to sleep….

This mom reached out to me and explained her situation – “I’m 5’1” – I’m really petite!” – and I had to chuckle as I was imagining her maneuvering herself into the crib, feeding him back to sleep, then stealthily getting herself back out without waking him. It’s comical, right?!

Situations like these, while an act of desperation at the moment and certainly humorous to look back on, can quickly become unsustainable. They’re simply not a long-term solution.

And neither is night weaning. Night weaning to improve your child’s sleep is not going to fix your child’s sleep habits. While, yes, if they don’t need to feed at night and night weaning is a goal of yours, I can help with that, but it’s not THE THING that is going to get your baby to have solid sleep skills.

Night weaning and sleep training are two different things.

They can happen simultaneously. Or not. One process can complement the other. Or not. But, again, they are different things.

Sleep training is teaching your baby independence with sleep. You can still feed your baby at night and teach them to be an independent sleeper.

Night weaning is removing feeds from the nighttime.

How do I know if I should night wean?

First off, it’s always important to discuss feeding habits with your child’s pediatrician. They know your baby best. Likely, if there were feeding or weight gain issues, they’ll have specific recommendations for you.

The other stipulations I go by are:

  1. If your baby is a minimum of 15 lbs


  1. If your baby is at least 6-months old

So, once you’ve got approval from your child’s doctor AND they meet one of these other criteria, you then need to decide if this is something you want to do and are ready for…or, your baby may show you they are ready by dropping feeds on their own or by fighting sleep because they know no other way to fall asleep after a feed. If that’s the case, you would also want to sleep train.

3 Strategies for Night Weaning

  1. Cold Turkey – totally remove night feeds and respond with a sleep training method for any night wakings. This is the least confusing way for your baby to learn to sleep without night feeds. It’s also the quickest way to teach sleep skills because you respond the same way every waking. There are more opportunities for them to practice their new sleep skills, and practice makes perfect!
  2. Minimizing Intake – to do this, you phase out the feedings by giving fewer ounces in the bottle or minimizing the time at the breast. If your baby usually takes a 4 oz bottle at 1:30 a.m., you could do 3 oz at that time the first night, 2 oz at that time the next night, 1 oz at that time the third night, and then move on to the next feed and do the same thing. Repeat until all feeds are gone. It’s the same idea as breastfeeding. If you normally feed for 10 minutes at 1:30 a.m., start with 8 minutes the first night at that time, 6 minutes the next night, 4 minutes the following night, then 2 minutes, and then move on to phasing out the next feeding session.
  3. Pausing 10-15 Minutes – this simply gives your child a chance to go back to sleep without you intervening. Then, you can respond with your sleep training method or introduce or use another sleep association (like rocking or a pacifier) to help your baby get back to sleep without a feed.

Other Night Weaning Considerations

You might notice your baby’s caloric intake is shifting. They’re starting to eat more during the day because they’re making up for the calories they used to have at night. You may notice a few days of crankiness from your baby as they figure this out. It’s normal!

You may be engorged at night. If this is the case, you can pump. Pump a full bottle if you need milk for a freezer stash or for feeds at daycare the next day. Pump just to relieve pressure if you want to completely remove the “feeding” at this time (if you don’t need the milk). Because your baby will be demanding more milk during the day, your supply will shift to match their demand.

Because many moms also have the goal of night weaning when we work together, it’s often a goal that I write into their sleep plans. If you are looking for help with navigating the night weaning and/or sleep training process, I’d love to chat with you! You can book a free discovery call with me and we can talk all about what’s going on with your child’s sleep and how I can help you.

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