The Nestery's Guide to Night Weaning a Formula Fed Baby
Last week, we talked about how to get started with formula feeding. This week, let us tackle how to night wean - how to stop formula feeding your baby at night.
The ideal age to night wean a formula fed baby is when the baby reaches 12 months of age. Beyond that formula feeding overnight can lead to baby bottle tooth decay. The reason for this is that formula is very sugary and clings to the baby's teeth. Combined with the bacteria in the mouth, it can cause tooth decay in the baby's front teeth.
However, night weaning is definitely not a quick and easy process. After all, babies feed at night not only out of hunger, it is also a source of comfort for the baby that usually helps them go back to sleep. This is a habit that has been formed over the course of 12 months, so giving it up will be very difficult for the baby. And to be honest, it is very hard on the parent as well. But there is a way to night wean your baby from nighttime bottles and stop formula feeding at night that is gentle and slow paced and also very effective.
In this blog, you will learn:
- How to stop nighttime bottles
- How to comfort your baby who is used to night feeds
- How to help your baby sleep without milk at night
How to stop night time bottles
STEP 1 - Figure out how much milk your baby consumes at night and when
Note down how many bottles of formula milk your baby drinks per night. Also wrote down the quantity of formula per bottle - how many ml of milk is the baby drinking in each bottle? You will also need to figure out roughly when each feed happens.
STEP 2 - Start the weaning process
Going cold turkey might sound easy but it is tough on the baby and will be tough for the parent to manage as well. It would be better to use a slow and steady approach to taper off and then fully stop night time formula feeding.
You can start with just one bottle at a time. Start reducing that one feed 30 ml at a time. You could either reduce 30 ml nightly or every other night if you want to go slower. When you get to the last 30 ml, drop that feed. And move on to the next bottle! You could again give a gap of a few days before tackling the cutting down of another bottle.
STEP 3 - Complete the weaning process
When you get to the last bottle, slow the process down completely. You can reduce 30 ml formula milk every 3-4 nights. That will help ease the transition to no bottles at all. Again, when you get to that last 30 ml, drop that last bottle as well.
How to comfort your baby at night
Remember that even if you follow the steps mentioned above perfectly, your baby will be upset, because they are giving up the nighttime bottles of formula that they have been used to.
If the baby wakes at feeding time and is crying and distressed, they could be thirsty, try offering water in a cup.
If that doesn't work, use whatever means you can to comfort your baby and get them back to sleep - cuddling, patting, rocking, singing.. you know your baby best so pick a method and stick with it. It may even help to get your partner to do the nighttime comforting if you are the one who usually feeds at night time.
Over time, the baby will realise that there will be no formula milk offered when they wake at night.
Help your baby to sleep without milk at night
Offering comfort will definitely help your baby sleep without drinking formula at night time. However, it is very important to make sure your baby's nutritional intake does not go down. Make sure that you are offering more solid food during the day to make up for the lack of nighttime formula feeds. Give your baby a filling and nutritious dinner and in case they don't eat very well, don't shy away from offering a bedtime snack as well. This will help keep your baby's tummy full and help them sleep, along with the methods of comfort mentioned above.
Things to remember:
Go at your baby's pace - if you instinctively feel that your baby needs a slower pace, go slow while reducing and cutting down bottles of formula milk at night.
Do not dilute formula - A lot of people recommend this as a method to stop nighttime feeds. However, this is dangerous. Formula is not meant to be diluted as that reduces the overall nutritional value. Just focus on reducing the formula itself.
Be gentle, loving and patient - This night weaning process can get tiring for parents and caregivers. But don't forget that this is a very difficult transition for the baby. Be patient while the baby becomes accustomed to the lack of nighttime bottles. Be as gentle and loving as you can when the baby gets upset at night without the comfort of the bottle. It is a tough process but it will pay off long term.
We hope that you find this guide to night weaning formula helpful! Watch out for the last post in the formula feeding series - switching from formula to milk and transitioning from a bottle to a cup.
Don't miss the first post in this series which is a beginner's guide to formula feeding in India - (https://thenestery.in/blogs/journal/the-ultimate-guide-to-formula-feeding-in-india)
If you have any more questions or suggestions regarding formula feeding, let's chat on The Nestery's Facebook group The Nest.
- Aparajita Kumar
Aparajita Kumar is a mother of two who is passionate about gentle, respectful parenting. She loves sharing information and ideas about gentle parenting in an endeavour to support and inspire her fellow parents. She has also been a formula feeding mother.