S3E11: Amanda Answers Erica: What's the deal with night weaning? | Baby's Best Sleep

Voice Over: (00:00)
You’re listening to the Slumber Party podcast with your host, Amanda Jewson, a mom of two girls, a child and infant sleep expert and general sleep lover. If you’re a tired parent who is desperate for answers or just someone who loves sleep, this podcast was created just for you. Each episode is packed full of tips and tricks to help you maintain your sanity as well as your social life during the early stages of parenthood, so grab your headphones, it’s time to get comfy!

Amanda: (00:36)
I am super excited about this episode because today I got a chance to sit down with client Erica and talk to her all about night weaning. Why I don’t talk about it, all the things that you need to consider, what you need to talk about and think about with your doctor. I think we got to the nitty gritty here and I’m super excited that we did this podcast and I encourage you to take a listen. Okay, Erica, are you there?

Erica: (01:05)
Hi Amanda.

Amanda: (01:06)
Hi. How are you?

Erica: (01:08)
Oh, we’re doing okay this morning.

Amanda: (01:10)
Yes, yes, how, how are, tell us about your life!

Erica: (01:14)
Well, I have a seven month old little boy. Who has, you know, been awesome so far. I’m a first time mom. Um, and you know, we moved to our new home when he was like eight weeks old, so that was fun. So life is good, but it’s, you know, a constant, exercise of trying to get our new house ready and trying to take care of our dog and then, cause we’re very enthusiastic dog parents.

Amanda: (01:47)
Awesome! That is actually, I was speaking about this with another client that we like, we also have a dog and I remember having the baby and being like, yeah, so you know, we’re not going to worry about our dog walker anymore. I’m just going to do that. And then I found it so incredibly hard to walk the dog and I remember being like, I’m so embarrassed about this. Why is it so hard? But it is.

Erica: (02:11)
Oh yeah, it’s, it’s crazy. And everyone kind of jokes that the dog will take a back seat or you know, she becomes like second in line, but we are working really hard for that not to happen. So sometimes it’s stressful to balance both of them and she has a lot of, you know, high energy needs. So I’m lucky that my husband gets a good amount of time off work so we can sort of tackle that together at least.

Amanda: (02:33)
Oh, that’s so good. I had you on because you had reached out on Instagram about a topic that admittedly I have been avoiding. And I kind of wanted to just have a dialogue about it. I don’t know that people are going to turn off this podcast and be like, yes, all of the answers are here, but I’m going to give you some things to think about. So you, you reached out. Why don’t you talk to me about your question?

Erica: (02:59)
Sure. So basically, I thought, you know, because my baby kind of after the four month sleep regression, we worked on him falling asleep independently. So for months now he’s been falling asleep for all naps and bedtime, like totally by himself. So I thought, you know, because he did that, that I would start getting more sleep, but between night feeding and the fact that he’s an early riser, I’m finding I’m like more exhausted than I was in the first three months when he kind of had that great newborn sleep. Yeah. So despite having this baby who, you know, falls asleep independently, I’m still very, very tired seven months in and I’m starting to be like, “Oh my gosh, is this going to be my entire maternity leave? I’m just going to be exhausted all the time. What’s going to happen when I go back to work?” I read that you shouldn’t know between until nine months from a couple people. Um, one of my, my naturopath told me nine months, like I’m not positive where the number nine comes from. Yeah, but I’m like, when I start night weaning or if I, night wean, A) what does that look like? B) am I doing sleep training in that case? And then C) I mean, I have a whole bunch of other, like he nurses five or six times a day and eats solids three times a day. So I’m like, is he really hungry? All my maternity leave ideas about like working out or reading or having those nice walks and visits with friends have kind of gone out the window. Cause I’m just like rotating between being exhausted and trying to nap and housework.

Amanda: (04:33)
Absolutely. And how many times right now is your baby night feeding?

Erica: (04:38)
It’s one or two, and then typically awake for the day between 5 and 5:45am.

Amanda: (04:47)
Okay. So this is such an interesting thing because I think you have, you said something that I liked in your description that you said, I don’t know where the number nine came from. I always think about this as well, so I’ll, I’ll kind of, I’m gonna explain this in a really long way, but essentially night feeding is one of those things where its partly, it needs to be a biological thing. Like does baby need to eat? Do they need those calories? And then the other part of that is a preferential thing, I think IF your baby is healthy. So I’m really reluctant to ever give very descriptive advice about, you know, openly and I guess publicly about night feeding because my suggestions really do range from client to client. So I’ll, I’ll take you through the things that I’m considering when I’m thinking about night feeding or not. And then I guess we’ll start off with my personal experience. So with, with both of my kids, and I’ve said this on this podcast 50 million times, I am sleep obsessed. I was crazy about getting my kids to sleep pretty early on. And by three months they were falling asleep independently, napping independently and I want to say waking for maybe one feed between 4am and 5am and then at around five and, no, I want to say about four to five months, they just stopped night feeding. They just would get up at, you know, six, I would feed them and we would start our day. And then it just wasn’t a thing. Like we didn’t have to really think about it or, or you know, night wean as you’re talking about, or do sleep training in that way, because it just kind of happened really naturally. And so that happened with my first, it also happened with my second, and I didn’t really think about it a night weaning or a like ‘this is the time that we have to get rid of it’. That’s just what my babies did. Right? So I feel like when I, when I hear these suggestions like your baby has to eat till nine months, I think about my kids and I’m like, I couldn’t have, why would I have gone in there? You know, like if they were healthy and happy and sleeping, and when I’m working with four to six month old babies, we’re definitely including night feeding. We’re letting them lead the way in terms of that. So what I mean is like we always plan for the night feed, but if your baby sleeps through, we’re not, we are not going to wake them. Now obviously, in reducing night feedings, we need to take in consideration two things. Number one: is baby healthy enough to stop night feeding. In my experience, healthy babies don’t stop, like they don’t starve their themselves. Most doctors would agree with me. If your baby stops eating at night and you are worried and there are concerns, I always even for my clients, I’m not a doctor. You should definitely go and visit your doctor and have a dialogue and conversation about when to stop night feeding. I will say all of this as a caveat. My girls were big fat babies and anytime I talked to my doctor about feeding stuff, she would just laugh at me and be like, “I’m not worried about you.” It’s like fine, fine, fine, I get it.

Erica: (08:37)
Yeah so our little guy is 21 pounds now, like he’s definitely not, you know his weight. It’s not a concern.

Amanda: (08:46)
That’s a factor, right? That that would be something in your brain that you would have to, okay, that’s one factor. He’s, he’s gaining well, he’s eating well, all of that is good. So are you breastfeeding right now Erica?

Erica: (08:57)
Yes.

Amanda: (08:57)
Okay. So this is the other consideration that when we reduce the amount of night feeding your child is doing, there could be impact on your breast milk supply and that is a concern. So for some people, like again, I sound like an asshole ’cause I know breastfeeding is hard for many. I had a supply to feed my whole street that comes with its own set of problems, I assure you. But my supply was never an issue for me, and so it didn’t affect my daytime supply at all. There will be, there will be mothers who stop night feeding and their daytime supply takes a dip. For most it is temporary, and when I am working with clients, I am, I’m helping them with some strategies into increase or daytime supply. A lot of what’s going to happen is your baby’s going to get the same amount of calories. They’re just going to reallocate when they’re eating. So you might notice for the first week them kind of pulling out the breast a little bit and encouraging more milk production during the day and within, you know, four to five days it’s going to reallocate to the daytime. There are some tricks that I help my clients to make that a little bit faster. So one of which is pumping in the morning after you have finished feeding baby, your milk is more plentiful in the morning. We have more of it, so we want to encourage production at that time. And then before you go to bed at night just to pump and for the first little while, you’re not going to get a lot and we shouldn’t really be looking at our output or pumping output in being like, “this is how good or how bad my supply is” because your baby always is the most efficient, sucker basically. So we don’t really have to worry too much about that. And usually if you are night weaning, that can be enough to, like help speed up that reallocation. There are some clients where, you know, their baby is sleeping through and they get up and pump in the middle of the night or like early in the morning, like 3am or 4am in the morning, just because there are supply issues. Are there any supply concerns for you?

Erica: (11:21)
Well, I mean I think similar to you, like up until around six months. I had like a big oversupply. Um, and then right around, and I don’t know if it was connected or if my milk finally regulated, but kind of right around, you know, doing solids. I felt like it dipped. But my lactation consultant who I had worked with from the beginning, cause breastfeeding has been a whole other story… yeah, she had said, you know, like it, it does regulate eventually and I was probably fine. And I’ve always been a little obsessive about, so I already pumped before bed because we give a bottle at bedtime. So I always pump before bed to make the bottle for the next night. And I’m getting like six or seven ounces right now at that pump.

Amanda: (12:07)
Yeah. That’s awesome!

Erica: (12:08)
Yeah. So I think that’s okay. But definitely, I don’t know during the day I’m always a little worried about it becayse they don’t feel rock solid. I’m like, “they must be low.”

Amanda: (12:20)
Well, actually that’s interesting. So like, let’s say I have a client who does stop night feeding or the baby chooses to stop night feeding, and mom will be like, “Oh my, my breasts don’t feel as full anymore.” They’re not as, you know, but that would make sense. So your baby is, you know, for a lot of the babies that I’m working with when we are starting, they could be waking every hour, right, to eat. And so when they’re doing that, they, they probably don’t need to eat every hour unless, or is a supply concern. And again, these are the kinds of things that I suss out with a family. But they probably don’t need to eat every hour. So when they go down to like two feedings only a night, there will be a change in your supply and that probably makes sense, right? It’s always going to regulate to what your baby needs and your supply probably did dip when you went on solids and it was still okay. You know, like he’s replacing those calories with solids, so it’s okay to have those dips when your baby is eating extra food or not eating as often. So I guess, you know, with that being said, especially with breastfeeding, I am always reluctant to give directive advice about what to do for night feeding, so that we, you know, we were talking about like literally the biological and health related reasons about why that could be a concern. There could be moms who just can’t, there can be babies that can’t yes. Right? That they need those calories overnight and then who am I to go on my blog and be like, stop night feeding. Right? Like that’s tricky business.

Erica: (14:07)
And in your experience, does it matter really like the size of the baby or how many solids he needs or whether or not it’s an appropriate time or is it like some babies who are really large and really healthy and eat lots still actually need to eat at night and some who are really tiny and you know, healthy but smaller can forgo it really early.

Amanda: (14:29)
Yes. Like there’s no rhyme or reason. I once had a client who was I think 11 pounds at four months. This baby did not sleep at all at all and mom was really, really wanting some relief. And I was honestly like with this low weight, I was even worried about working with them and I said let’s this three days and if it doesn’t happen, I think that we should wait. Not only did that baby stop night feeding that night, he never ate again at night. He started gaining weight during the day, or from, or he started eating more during the day and gaining weight. So this is another thing that I’m, I’m often seeing in my work, so where I get, so okay, I’m going to pause there. So those are the health concerns that I have about night feeding and making those suggestions. So you’ll never find me giving direct advice about that and I’m not trying to like, “Ooh, you need to pay me for that secret.” Like I would never like {inaudible} Like, I don’t know, I want to be working with you, and even sometimes I’ll make a suggestion and we go back, right? Like it really should be a responsive and personalised decision. And even one that I say like, look, if you don’t want to work with a consultant, go talk to your doctor and have that discussion with your doctor. Or another healthcare professional, that can help advise you. So that’s my general advice there. One thing. So then the two other things that come up a lot with night feeding are, so number one, weight issues. So you talked about like, you know, I know that there’s a subset of, of babies who were slow to gain weight at the beginning and I really think that creates anxiety for parents going forward about their baby always being hungry and never having enough. Right? Like okay we gotta feed the baby or like my supply is not enough.

Erica: (16:30)
It’s funny you say that cause he was, he took forever to get back to birth weight and we like bawled our eyes out when like it was over two weeks and they were like, you need to go on formula now and quit.

Amanda: (16:41)
And it’s, I is so instinctual. Like you’ve created this and you want to keep it alive and make it the healthiest. And then you have doctors and midwives being like, “the baby needs to eat, the baby needs to eat” and you’re like, I’m doing everything I can!!! Like it’s the worst thing, right? And then someone comes and says, you know, don’t night feed, you’re going to be like, you’re nuts. I’m never doing that. So then, I’ll give you a great example. Yeah, this client is comfortable with me sharing about this cause she wrote it in her review. So I had a client who was over like a certain weight, I’m not even going to give numbers cause I don’t want to give anyone any ideas but over a certain weight, over a certain age. She was just about to turn seven months. And just with her profile I thought like, you know, she was still eating a lot at night and for some babies, not all, but some babies who are still eating at night, it reduces their drive to eat during the day because their body is like, “meh, I can have my calories whenever I want to have my calories.” So then what happens is we have babies who aren’t eating a lot during the day. Like so for this baby, at most, she was eating like a three ounce bottle or like half a bottle basically. And so they were like, you’re telling me now to remove these feeds and I know how much she eats during the day, like this seems totally crazy and I understand that anxiety. And I said, look, if this doesn’t work, we will definitely go back to your way cause I’m not in the business of starving babies or making babies unhealthy. So this baby, again, low birth weight, like lower weight in general, slower to gain weight, we removed a night feeds, she started pounding daytime time bottles and jumped her curve at the next visit. Like this, this happens so often to me and my clients that it’s, it’s just something that people should think about if down the road I would say between that seven and nine month time, you are having feeding issues during the day, it may be worth a discussion with your doctor, but moving those calories to the daytime to have more efficient eating, less drowsy eating. So when I’m, the other consideration about night feeding is in between that 7 to 10 month time, there are babies who if we continue to night feed, we’ll be confused by that. It doesn’t sound like to me in your case, Erica, that your baby is confused by those night feedings. You get one to two, they go back down, they sleep well during the day, they fall asleep independently and that’s working. So it doesn’t sound to me like you’re in crisis. There are babies who, if we feed at night, and we put them down to independently sleep during the day, they won’t want to do that because they feed and then sleep at night. Then they say, why can’t I do that before bed and why can’t I do that during the day? Right? And then we get a ton, a ton, a ton, a ton of crying. Same goes for things like dream these with some older babies. Not all. Disclaimer, disclaimer, there are some babies that can’t dream feed because they’re too aware of the dream feed happening and then they cry before bed. They cry during naps. And so when these things happen, it’s just a lot of crying that no one wants. And so in those instances, I would actually say, let’s wait to do any sleep training until you’re ready, until you’re ready to stop those feeds or baby is ready to stop those feeds because otherwise it can be really confusing. I’m not saying that as a blanket statement. I know there are lots of babies who dream feed successfully. I know that there are lots of babies like yours who night feed at night and are mostly okay. Right? So there’s that, there’s that to think about and then it comes down to, okay, like, and this is sort of where I think my philosophy in general about sleep training and life and being a parent in general is, “I am not enjoying my life. I am tired. I have to get up two times. I’m following this nine month rule. I don’t know why. I might want to ask more questions about that and feel better about it.” Everyone’s trying to make suggestions and decisions based on your best interest, right? Not theirs. It’s like I really, your natural path or your midwife is making that suggestion for a good reason. And so I would double check why, but if it’s not working for you and you have a healthy baby and everything is going well, you know, you might want to talk to someone about removing those night feeds. If everything else is going well, all those boxes are being ticked. You feel like you’re ready, then it might pay to remove those. How you would do that is up to you. There’s like when you are night weaning, you can do it slow and steady so you can say, “okay, I fed for 10 minutes tonight, I’m going to feed for 9, and a feed for 8…” Maybe every three days. You depending on, you know, how often or how much your baby is eating, you could do a cold Turkey solution if your baby is like kind of like suck, suck, pass out. They’re not really eating and you feel comfortable just not having that. With any of these changes, there will probably, it’ll be met with some resistance. There will be tears involved when they’re, when they’re waking, they’re expecting something. And so you obviously want to work with a professional or talk to your doctor about a methodology that works for you to reduce those, reduce the amount of tears.

Erica: (22:46)
Yeah and that’s what has me sort of anxious about it because for so long, we haven’t been able to soothe him except by breastfeeding in the middle of the night. Like my husband will be in there for 40 minutes for him, you know, shushing padding and then picking up and rocking and then trying to lay him back down and then nothing works. And eventually I just, you know, lay in the other room, listening to the screaming and eventually go in and feed him.

Amanda: (23:07)
Right. And what can happen when that happens, and I’m glad you brought this up and I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m being a bitch and shaming you. What can happen is, this happens a lot. This exact scenario happens. I, I’m positive I did it. I just have mom amnesia and everything’s amazing when I think back to it, but it wasn’t. But we all are like, “Okay, tonights the night. I’m not going to feed my baby. We’re going to do this.” And then they cry for an hour, we’re like “okay, I’m going to go feed them. It’s been an hour, I’m over it.” And then your baby learns, I have to cry for an hour before someone feeds me. And so it’s, it’s, it’s becomes a chicken or the egg thing, right? Where they’re going to cry for the hour. They’re never going to give you the response that you want, so you feed them and then it becomes a perpetuating thing. Like it becomes a behavioral thing. So, and I’m not saying I should, I want to be really clear. Like we’re not talking about this with like a four month old, like that four month old probably needs to eat. So that’s why it’s so tricky to give generalised advice cause I don’t want someone with like a 10 pound, four month old to be like, “okay, Amanda said no longer than the hour!” I’m doing it and then we have other issues. So, yeah, I mean obviously Erica, if we were to work together, I would do a deep dive with you and try to give you some strategies and some tips and tricks if you’re ready to do that earlier and when to know when it’s the right time. But sometimes we don’t necessarily know. And I bet if you were to wait until nine months, you would have the same reaction.

Erica: (24:48)
Yeah, exactly. I feel like it’s just, you know, like you said, a self perpetuating habit at this point. And I’m getting ready to like, I’d like to have a night out at some point. You know, last weekend we tried to go to a party, that happens every year and it was me and my husband and our baby and he rejected the third nap while we were there. So, you know, I came home early to put him to bed. But if we had a baby who didn’t feed through the night, I probably would’ve asked someone to babysit and I would’ve just stayed out and gone home at a you know, later time and got worst sleep, but still have had someone at home for him.

Amanda: (25:27)
Just like have, you know and this is where I think that this exact moment, this is the conversation that is missing from sleep conversations. It’s like, can we find a way to do something for baby that’s healthy and can we also find a way to help parents feel like human beings and go outside and be social and see their friends? Because that makes them really mentally well. And when you’re mentally well, you’re a better parent. When you’re not exhausted and fearing the nighttime, you’re a better parent. So I feel like it’s just such, it’s, it’s like baby, baby, baby, baby. Yes, of course, baby. Of course baby. But also parents!!! If you are just shells of yourselves, no one is, is thriving. I can guarantee that. It doesn’t sound like you’re a shell of yourself, but there are people that do drag themselves around in fear of like these things, you know? So you know, I’d like to circle back to the very beginning of my two children who chose, not tonight to night feed. No one made that happen. Asked me what I did tonight, ween and I was like, I didn’t night wean. And by the way, when you are working with me and I am including night feeds for your four to six month old, we do a strategy that allows them to self-select when they eat. And it’s very, very, very rare that a baby will not take those feeds out on their own when every other sleep situation is independent. There are some babies that, you know, do need a little assistance. I won’t lie. But generally in general, if you start early enough, your baby will also night wean.

Erica: (27:20)
Right!

Amanda: (27:23)
So there, there you go. That is all my thoughts on night weaning. Everyone, this is like my number one question. If I ask, you know, if I do a Q+a, if I do a takeover every time I’m on podcasts, everyone asked me to tell them how to Nate mean and I just don’t, I really don’t feel comfortable and I hope, does this make sense why?

Erica: (27:46)
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely.

Amanda: (27:48)
Like I’ve had, I’ve had experiences early on where I’ve said like, “Oh, so and so da da da…” And then like I have someone with a six week old trying to sleep train and I just can’t handle that responsibility.

Erica: (28:09)
Yeah. So, and then I mean, when if he, you know, when he starts teething, like I just, I guess for me it’s like don’t start feeding him again cause it’s easier.

Amanda: (28:18)
Well, can I then I want to also talk about, this is interesting because then it becomes like a preference thing, right? There are amazing people who think, you know, my baby’s in pain and I would prefer to feed them and comfort them. This is a very comforting thing and it’s my choice to comfort them that way. Or I bring them into my bed when they’re sick or I do these things and I’m prepared to deal with the consequences. So again, there’s no, right or wrong with that. And I’m sure this has pissed at least five people off, this whole conversation. But I’m, I’m trying to have space for those, those types of thinking as well. I’m not, I don’t want to say that’s wrong or you’re not doing the right thing by comforting your baby. I think it’s like you make your choice in how you would like to cover your child at that time.

Erica: (29:14)
Right. And I mean, if your baby does have good sleep habits, the idea is that once you’re over that hump, that getting back on track shouldn’t be the worst thing you’ve ever done. Right?

Amanda: (29:24)
No! And when I’m, when I’m working with clients and I’m talking about sickness, I don’t think that there’s any wrong anything wrong with going to your child and, and comforting them. In our house, we don’t help them back to sleep, but we sit with them, Pat them, love them up. I’ve definitely sat in a chair with my babies, you know, when they’re sad, I mean they get back on track. They do. And in those moments, they need you in whatever way feels right for your family.

Erica: (29:51)
Okay. Well that’s great.

Amanda: (29:55)
Awesome. I hope this answered some of your questions. I hope it answered a lot of my listener questions, and yeah, I, I know it’s not a magic bullet, but, if you are concerned, if you want, advice, definitely you can hire a consultant or go and talk to your doctor. Those are my two my two pieces of advice there when making that decision.

Erica: (30:25)
and maybe, maybe both in the near future.

Amanda: (30:32)
Yeah exactly! Thank you so much for coming on and asking your question!

Erica: (30:34)
Thank you for having me. This is so exciting.

Amanda: (30:37)
See you later.

Speaker 1: (30:40)
Thank you so much for joining us for another episode of Slumber Party. If you’re ready to help your little one get the sleep that they need and get your nights back while you’re at it, make sure to check out Amanda’s signature DIY sleep training courses or work with her directly. For more details, head over to babysbestsleep.com. Don’t forget to hit subscribe, like, and review! Happy sleeping everyone.