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Night Weaning a One Year Old

Updated on August 14, 2012

Nightweaning the Older Baby

Nursing is a beautiful thing. Many moms nurse into the third year of a child's life. As a mother myself and the mother of a beautiful 13 month old daughter, I know as much as the rest of us nursing moms that nursing can take a lot out of you! Especially, the night nursing. At some point, you will decide that you would like to stop nursing through the night and teach your baby that milk isn't needed to have a restful night's sleep.

This method of night weaning is a gradual 10 day process that you can adjust to your needs, but I can guarantee that it works. My daughter is sleeping the other room as we speak and I haven't nursed her during the night for two weeks!!!

Plus, this lens will give you access to wonderful baby blogs, weaning techniques, and resources to help you wean your little one off of the 24 hour nursing station.

Nightweaning Method

From Dr. Jay Gordon

Dr. Jay Gordon saved my life from pure exhaustion. I didn't want to make my baby CIO or extinction or whatever crap that the media sells as the only way to get your baby to sleep without nursing. This method is intended for older babies and no baby should be forced to make a transition he/she is not ready for...and any baby under the age of 12 months is not ready.

Dr Jay says,

"I’m assuming that you have a wonderfully healthy 12-, 15-, 20- or 30-month old baby who still loves to wake up every 2 to 4 hours to cuddle, eat or . . . whatever. I’m assuming that you have thought this through, decided you want to make changes and alerted the neighbors that it might be a little noisy for a week or so."

The First Three Nights

At any time before 11 p.m. (including 10:58) nurse to sleep, cuddle and nurse when he wakes up and nurse him back to sleep, but stop offering nursing to sleep as the solution to waking after 11 p.m.. Instead…..

When your baby awakens at midnight or any other time after 11 p.m., hug him, nurse him for a short time but make sure he does not fall asleep on the breast and put him down awake. Rub and pat and cuddle a little until he falls asleep but don’t put him back on the breast (or give him a bottle if that’s what you’ve been doing). He must fall asleep with your comfort beside him, but not having to nurse to feel comforted enough to drift off.

Now, he will tell you that he is angry and intensely dislikes this new routine. I believe him. He will also try to tell you that he’s scared. I believe he’s angry, but a baby who’s had hundreds of nights in a row of cuddling is not scared of falling asleep with your hand on his back and your voice in his ear. Angry, yes. Scared, no, not really.

During these first three nights, repeat this pattern only after he has slept. He might sleep for fifteen minutes or he might sleep for four hours, but he has to go to sleep and reawaken to get cuddled and fed again.

The Second Three Nights

Again, the nursing to sleep stops at 11 p.m. When he wakes up, hug him and cuddle him for a few minutes, but do not feed him, put him down awake. Putting him down awake is a crucial part of this whole endeavor because it really does teach him to fall asleep with a little less contact and then a little less. Not feeding is the big change during these three nights. One-year-old babies can easily go for those seven hours (or more) with no calories. Theylike to get fed a little through the night, but physiologically and nutritionally, this is not a long time to go without food.

The Next Four Nights

Nights seven, eight, nine and ten. Don’t pick him up, don’t hug him. When he awakens after 11 p.m., talk to him, touch him, talk some more, but don’t pick him up. Rub and pat only. No feeding either, obviously. He will fall back to sleep. Repeat the rubbing and talking when he reawakens. By the end of the ninth night, he will be falling back to sleep, albeit reluctantly for some babies and toddlers, with only a rub and a soothing voice.

Nightweaning for the Attachment Parent


Before you being night weaning, step back and evaluate your baby's bedtime. If it isn't consistent, then you need to make it a consistent one. My daughter used to sleep whenever, but when I got her into a bedtime routine and a normal bedtime, everything else became very simple.

For example, we start our bedtime routine at 700PM. We do a nursing, a bath, story time, and then I nurse her down to sleep. She is asleep by 800-830PM.

I am able to get up and go do the things that I need to do.

The next thing you need to look at is the sleeping location. Does he sleep in your bed with you or is he sleeping in the crib?

If your baby is sleeping with you, that is okay, but it may be harder. Who cares, though =) If you are considering transitioning your baby to a crib, I would start with the night weaning, get through that AND then do the transition! Do not do too much because it will scare the child. No matter where your baby is sleeping, the nightweaning should take place there and nowhere else. One step at a time.

What is the right age to Wean a Child???

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Night Weaning Tips

To minimize night-nursing, consider a few of these tips:

Nurse more during the day. Or feed your older baby more food during the day, so that he/she is not waking up in the middle of the night to nurse. However, avoid feeding your child solids after 6PM as it may cause them to wake up MORE...due to indigestion, which is common with solid foods and babies.

Minimize distractions Let's face it, as soon as your child starts walking, everything becomes a distraction. Try nursing your older baby in a quiet, dimly lit room. This will enhance the amount of milk your child is consuming, thus minimizing the amount of nighttime wake ups. A study detailed that one year old's can drink up to 25% of their daily needs during the reduce this, nursing must be a distraction-free event.

Nurse A Lot Before Bedtime This rule falls in line with the nightweaning method presented above. There is nothing wrong with nursing your little one up to the point where nursing is off limits and it is sleep time. Nurse your baby LOTS before bedtime.

Try different sleep arrangements.

Perhaps where you are sleeping is making a difference. Toy with Full co-sleeping, partial co-sleeping, or having baby sleep in her crib.

Quick Tip on Nightweaning

Gradually eliminate feedings, one at a time. Gently soothe and comfort your baby when he wakes to feed, and explain that it's sleepy time, not feeding time. Tell him he can nurse or have his bottle in the morning, and now's the time for sleep. Speak firmly and gently while patting his back or tummy. Even though he's too young to understand your words, he'll gradually understand the meaning, and your presence will soothe him. In many cases, babies cry only a little for a night or two before adapting to the new system.

The Benefits of Breastfeeding Beyond One Year

I feel that it is important to note that breastfeeding your child beyond year is the best thing that you can do for your baby. Our westernized society frown on cuddling, nursing, and doing anything that seems affectionate beyond a need. I am here to tell you that the rest of the world loves to cuddle and nurse their babies well into their third year of life!

Here are some major benefits:

Your baby continues to get the immunological advantages of human milk, during a time when he is increasingly exposed to infection. Breastfed toddlers are healthier overall.

When he is upset, hurt, frightened, or sick, you have a built in way to comfort him. Often a sick child will accept breastmilk when he refuses other foods.

Letting your baby set the pace for weaning spares you the unpleasant task of weaning him before he is ready.

Many of the medical benefits of breastfeeding (lower cancer risk in mother and baby, for example) are dose related - in other words, the longer you breastfeed, the greater the protective effects (see article on "Why Breastfeed?" for more details). -Human milk offers protection for the child who is allergic.

Mothering a toddler is challenging enough - nursing makes the job of caring for and comforting him easier. There is no better way to ease a temper tantrum, or put a cranky child to sleep than by nursing.- Nursing provides closeness, security, and stability during a period of rapid growth and development.

Let's Talk About the Cry It Out Method

Many parents feels that FULL weaning is necessary t o get a good night's sleep...this is invalid. After you follow the Night weaning method described above, you will be on my side with this.

Sadly, however, many parents resort to sleep "training" their child. Why are we training them, beats me...especially, since many babies will do things on their own, when they are ready.

Sleep training comes in many forms, but the most common sort is Cry It Out, or the Ferber or Weisblutth methods. Both believe in letting a baby scream his/herself to sleep. Sounds fun. Why would you subject your baby to undue stress.


Cry it out can cause harmful changes to babies' brains

Science has shown that stress in infancy can result in enduring negative impacts on the brain. Prolonged cries in infants causes increased blood pressure in the brain, elevates stress hormones, obstructs blood from draining out of the brain, and decreases oxygenation to the brain. Excessive crying results in an oversensitive stress system (likened to a faulty burglar alarm in one book) that can lead to a fear of being alone, separation anxiety, panic attacks and addictions. Harvard researchers found that it makes them more susceptible to stress as adults and changes the nervous system so that they are overly sensitive to future trauma. Chronic stress in infancy can also lead to an over-active adrenaline system, which results in the child using increased aggression, impulsivity, and violence. Another study showed that persistent crying episodes in infancy led to a 10 times greater chance of the child having ADHD, resulting in poor school performance and antisocial behaviour.

Cry it out is harmful to the parent-child relationship

A child that is left to cry it out is less likely to turn to the parents in times of need. Being attended to as a baby is the most basic of needs and if a child learns at that point that she can count on her parents to respond to her needs, then she will also turn to them later in life when she needs their support.

Cry it out often doesn't work at all

Some babies will not give in. They are resilient or stubborn enough that they refuse to believe that their parents could be so cruel as to leave them to cry to sleep. So instead of whimpering a bit and then drifting off to sleep as some supposed sleep experts would have you believe happens, they end up sobbing and sobbing and sobbing for hours on end. Some end up vomiting. Many end up shaking so hard and become so distraught that once their parents realize that CIO is not going to work, the baby is shaking uncontrollably and hiccuping, too distressed to sleep and too distraught to be calmed down even by a loving parent.

Deep sleep from cry it out is often a result of trauma

Babies who are left to cry it out do sometimes fall into a deep sleep after they finally drop off. And their parents and sleep trainers will hail this as a success of the CIO method. However, babies and young children often sleep deeply after experiencing trauma. Therefore, the deep sleep that follows CIO shouldn't be seen as proof that it works. Rather, it should be seen as a disturbing shortcoming.

Cry it out can result in decreased intellectual, emotional and social development

At an American Academy of Pediatrics meeting, infant developmental specialist Dr. Michael Lewis presented research findings demonstrating that "the single most important influence of a child's intellectual development is the responsiveness of the mother to the cues of her baby." More specifically, other studies have found that babies whose cries are ignored do not develop healthy intellectual and social skills, that they have an average IQ 9 points lower at age 5, they show poor fine motor development, show more difficulty controlling their emotions, and take longer to become independent as children (stay clingy for longer).


Maybe you are thinking about transitioning your older baby into a crib. Just remember to do things in steps. Night-weaning, then weaning nap time nursings, and then consider the transition to her very own bed. I would suggest buying a crib that turns into a toddler bed.

Sleeping with Baby - Facts About Co-Sleeping

In Japan where co-sleeping and breastfeeding (in the absence of maternal smoking) is the cultural norm, rates of the sudden infant death syndrome are the lowest in the world. For breastfeeding mothers, bedsharing makes breastfeeding much easier to manage and practically doubles the amount of breastfeeding sessions while permitting both mothers and infants to spend more time asleep. The increased exposure to mother’s antibodies which comes with more frequent nighttime breastfeeding can potentially, per any given infant, reduce infant illness. And because co-sleeping in the form of bedsharing makes breastfeeding easier for mothers, it encourages them to breastfeed for a greater number of months, according to Dr. Helen Ball’s studies at the University of Durham, therein potentially reducing the mothers chances of breast cancer. Indeed, the benefits of cosleeping helps explain why simply telling parents never to sleep with baby is like suggesting that nobody should eat fats and sugars since excessive fats and sugars lead to obesity and/or death from heart disease, diabetes or cancer. Obviously, there’s a whole lot more to the story.

Sleep Tools

Babies love to cuddle, so why not try introducing a "lovey"...better known as a vice. Haha. Stuffed dolls and animals make great friends for younger babies. My daughter has a dolly which she carries around with her everywhere and is even bringing it to bed with us too.

Thanks for stopping leave me a comment =)

Feedback is Appreciated

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    • Rosetta Slone profile image

      Rosetta Slone 

      6 years ago from Under a coconut tree

      Thanks for writing such a sensitive lens about an emotive topic. Glad to see it worked well for you and your little one.

    • seedlingspublis profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      @Bluemoongoddess1: Thank you for your wise comment. I agree that too many mothers cannot keep up with the demand, especially during 7-9 months when infants go through a major growth spurt. We all have our breaking points =) Trust me I remember when Avery was nine months and I practically spent every waking moment, day and night nursing...but the difference is, I had no other responsibilities at the time. How old is your son now? I'll be checking out lenses. Thanks for stopping by =)

    • Bluemoongoddess1 profile image

      Lisa Musser 

      7 years ago from Kansa, USA

      I totally agree with your reasoning here. I nursed my son until he was 8 months old, I would have gone longer but just couldn't keep up with increased demand. We co-sleep now and he sleeps better with me than he does alone. I always sleep facing him and never with my back to him (no fear of rolling over on him). I agree that letting babies cry for long periods is not good for them, I will rock him or feed him or do whatever it takes to get him back to sleep without just letting him cry.


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