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Sleep Training vs Night Weaning: why they aren't the same

Updated: Mar 18, 2023

If you are still feeding your baby through the night, have you said "I can't sleep train because then I will lose my supply or I will have to pump"? If you answered yes, then read more about how sleep training and night weaning are not equal.

I have been exactly where you are! Thinking "no way can I sleep train my baby - they still need to eat through the night!" In case you don't know, I am a mom to 4 girls - ranging from 21 months to 7 years old, I have spent the last 8 years being pregnant or nursing, with short gaps in between. (85 out of the last 96 months, respective gaps are 4 months, 1 month, 5 months -- but who's counting 😅) I have had different feeding and different sleeping journeys with each child. I have also sleep trained each one of my girls at different ages and using different methods. I see you mama, this decision is not easy to make! We know we are exhausted. But we also know we cannot sustain waking up 3, 4, 5, 6+ times a night. We want and need to be the best version of ourselves; not only for us, but for our children and our partners.

What is sleep training?

Sleep training is the process of training young children to fall asleep on their own.

What is night weaning?

Night weaning is getting a baby/child to stop breastfeeding, chestfeeding, or bottle feeding overnight.

Now that we have the technical definitions, why do we associate sleep training and night weaning so often? Short answer: when children learn to self soothe, they don't have the feed-to-sleep association. Click here to see my Instagram post about sleep training while night feeding. While you are there - follow along to get more tips about sleep training.

Let's unpack that a little more.

The fourth trimester is hard. It's hard for everyone, first time parents or fourth time parents. It's hard for each baby. We are learning about our new selves and about life with a new little one. Our babies are learning life outside of a cozy womb. Does it get easier with each child, no. You just learn how to cope more, and get more support, with each child. When we are up with our newborn during cluster feeds or because they are gassy or we don't even know why -- it's hard to see the light at the end of tunnel. Every. single. parent. has felt that. You are not alone.

Now, during the fourth trimester, it is 100% normal for newborns to fall asleep eating. Their bellies are tiny, their wake windows are short. As we start to close out the fourth trimester and wake windows lengthen, it becomes easier and easier to move feeds away from right before sleep. We might be good at mastering this during the day and following an Eat, Play, Sleep schedule but at night we are often so tired, and we know that nursing or a bottle will put them back to sleep so we resort to that.

We often associate sleep training and night weaning because our children learn to soothe themselves when they are sleep trained and when that happens, they don't need comfort feeds anymore.

That means, no more quick nursing sessions. That means no more thinking they may be hungry but they only take 1-2oz of a bottle. That means that they aren't "snacking" or getting a lot of calories overnight vs the daytime calories.

If you are considering night weaning, please consult your pediatrician first. Only your child's medical team can confirm they no longer need night feeds.

What if, instead of the vicious cycle of your baby waking during the night and you needing to feed them, you were able to break that cycle.

What if, instead of frequent night wakings, you were able to reduce them to 2 or 1 or 0.

What if, those less frequent night feeds were full feeds and you placed your baby back in their crib without them fussing.

What if, you started getting more and more uninterrupted sleep.

What if, you were less sleep deprived.

What if, you were happier during the day.

What if, you had more energy during the day.

What if, your child was well rested - getting sick less - napping better.

Can you imagine any of those above listed things? What would your life look like? What could you GAIN from sleep training besides more sleep? What would your evenings look like with your partner?

Would you be able to have more me time? Would you be able to actually sit and binge a show? Would you be able to have dinner with your partner? Would you be able to get that workout in you so desperately want? Would you be able to meet your girlfriends for dinner?

Bottom Line: If you want to sleep train, you can keep night feeds too! I sleep trained 3 out of 4 kids while still feeding at night, at different ages too!

If you are having trouble imagining a life without taking a vast amount of time to put your child to sleep or get them back to sleep, specifically with always needing to feed them to sleep - then sleep training seems like a good solution for you!

Book a free sleep assessment call with me here and let's talk about your struggles, your goals and how my 3 week, one-on-one, program will help your house! Let's make your house, a Restful Haus.

Wishing you restful sleep,

xo Danielle


Danielle Ubhaus, The Restful Haus, Pediatric Sleep Consultant

About Danielle: Danielle is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Coach and founder of The Restful Haus, where she helps families 1:1 with their children ages 0 - 6 years old. She is a New Jersey native and currently resides in Colorado with her husband and 4 daughters (ranging from 21 months to 7 years old). She enjoys spending time with her family, the Jersey Shore, music, traveling with her husband + kiddos and on the rare occasion, sitting down to read a murder mystery book.

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