babywearing

Helpful Tips for Gentle Night Weaning

Night Weaning Baby

If you’re a new mom, you’ve likely seen the acronym ‘STTN’ in all the mommy blogs, articles and Facebook groups alike. STTN or ‘sleeping through the night’ might seem like an unimaginable feat that could never possibly be accomplished by your baby. One of the biggest barriers to sleeping through the night can be frequent nighttime nursing. Night nursing is a perfectly normal and healthy practice for babies. However, if night nursing is interfering with your ability to get sufficient rest or function in your daily life, you may be considering night weaning. Here are some tips for gently night weaning your baby or toddler.

  1. Don’t night wean until your baby is ready: Although there are various schools of thought about when babies are ready to give up eating at night, it’s best not to try night weaning before six months of age. Young babies are not intended to sleep through the night and need the nutrition as their bodies undergo rapid growth and development. Talk to your pediatrician to see if they feel your baby might be ready for night weaning and as always, trust your motherly instincts first and foremost.
  2. Increase baby’s intake during the day: Often it can be a cyclical effect when babies don’t eat very much during the day and then love to snack all night long. Try increasing the frequency of nursing sessions or number of bottles and solid meals offered to ensure baby is getting adequately filled up during the day. If your baby is older and on the move, this may mean taking time out of their busy play schedule to add an extra feeding.
  3. Introduce a lovey: Quite often, if your baby is nursing frequently at night it may be for comfort and not because they are actually hungry. Begin the process of conditioning other comfort items such as a small stuffed animal or muslin blanket. Try sleeping with the lovey yourself for a while to get your scent on it and hold it in between you and baby whenever you nurse or bottle feed.
  4. Give more snuggles during the day: If your baby is nursing at night for comfort, increasing daytime touch may help reduce the need for those midnight snuggle sessions. Try wearing your baby in a carrier or sling during the day and giving lots of extra attention and cuddles.
  5. Break the eat-to-sleep association: Although feeding to sleep is a healthy and natural practice, many babies can ONLY fall asleep if they are nursing. Breaking the eat-to-sleep association by finding other ways to soothe baby to sleep can help with the night weaning process. Try rocking, patting, shushing, singing, snuggling and other forms of comfort to help baby help baby drift off to slumber.
  6. Get your partner involved: Getting your partner involved with the nighttime routine and with night wakings can help with the process of night weaning. Although your baby may protest this change at first, eventually your partner will develop their own routine and soothing techniques to help baby get back to sleep without nursing. 
  7. Feed your baby before you go to bed: As long as you’re still up, try sneaking in a dream feed before you hit the hay. A dream feed is when you feed baby late at night while they are still sleeping with the intention of filling them up. Adding a dream feed, particularly for younger babies, is a great way to get a few hours in before the next waking when you go to bed. 
  8. Shorten night time nursing sessions: Rather than cutting out night nursing cold turkey which can be distressing to your baby and cause engorgement issues, try gradually shortening your nursing sessions a little bit at a time. Cut back each session by one or two minutes over the course of a week and begin to break baby’s latch when his sucking slows but before he falls asleep. Then try using other forms of comfort (see #5) if he’s struggling to fall back to sleep.
  9. Create new sleep associations: If your baby is accustomed to nursing to sleep, they may have developed the belief that they NEED to eat in order to fall asleep. Creating new sleep associations can help teach babies new cues that it’s time for bed. Try incorporating some relaxing music, soothing scents like lavender or a nice massage at bedtime as part of the new routine. Be sure to use these new associations every night so that your baby learns when he hears the music or smells the lavender, it’s time to sleep.
  10. Create distance between you and baby at night: If you room share or co-sleep with your baby, adding a little distance between the two of you may help with the process of night weaning. Whether this means staying in the guestroom for a few nights while your partner works on their night soothing skills or simply moving baby’s crib a bit further away from your bed, a little distance between baby and his favorite snack may help with the night weaning process. 
  11. Stay calm if baby protests the new routine: It’s likely that baby will put up a fight over this change to his routine. Try to keep your cool and stay calm to demonstrate to baby that you are there to help him through this transition and you won’t be rattled. 
  12. When in doubt, consult the experts: Here are a few of the most knowledgeable experts on the process of gentle night weaning. They’ve done the research for you and have step by step plans for the process. 
  13. Talk to baby about the change: As silly as it may sounds, try talking to your baby during the day about the changes you intend to make. Your baby, and definitely your toddler, can understand more than you think. There are also a few great books on the subject like Nursies When the Sun Shines that can help your baby understand the concept that eating is for daytime. 

Remember, that night weaning is a process that takes time, patience and a commitment. If something doesn’t feel right or your baby seems negatively impacted by the change during the day, consider waiting a little while longer before cutting out night nursing. Many babies still need to eat once or twice during the night at a year or beyond and there’s nothing wrong with that if it works for your family. For questions about night weaning, pregnancy, natural birth and more, contact Health Foundations for a free consultation with a midwife or for a tour of our Birth Center. We are here to support you beyond the birth of your baby!

Eight Reasons to Wear Your Baby

babycarrierarticleBaby wearing is the experience of carrying your child in a sling or other carrier on your chest (and/or, as they get older, on your back). Baby carriers come in different materials and configurations, each with their benefits. Keeping a child close to you in a carrier is a natural practice utilized by people across time and cultures. There is something instinctual and natural about keeping babies close to our bodies in infancy. Baby wearing has many practical benefits but, more importantly, it offers a number of significant benefits for baby and caregiver. Here are eight benefits of carrying your baby in a carrier in his or her early days, months and even years.

  1. Baby wearing supports bonding.

When we wear baby close to us, we learn his cues and communications so intimately. This not only allows us to get to know our child, it helps us more effectively meet his or her needs, which will support bonding, ease the transition into parenthood, and so much more. Face to face orientation between baby and caregiver offers a powerful catalyst for bonding. Baby wearing can be great not only for mom and baby pairs, but also for dad (or other parent) and baby pairs, and babies and other caregivers, such as relatives. It gives others an opportunity to be close to and bond with baby.

  1. Baby wearing is good for baby’s physiological systems.

According to Dr. Sears, babywearing provides an external regulation system that balances the irregular and disorganized tendencies of a baby adjusting to life outside the womb, where all systems were once in harmony and regulated for them. If you think about it, the baby in utero is lulled to sleep by the rhythmic movements of his mother as she walks or moves about during the day. The gentle pulsing sound of her heartbeat and her breath are familiar and constant rhythms throughout womb life and likely offer tremendous comfort and stability.

Bringing baby close to us in a carrier or just being held, reintroduces those powerful organizing environmental cues back into baby’s life—baby places her ear to mama’s chest and hears mama breathing, baby is lulled to sleep by papa’s heart beat as he carries about his morning routine, baby is soothed by the familiar rhythms of walking as mom and dad go for a neighborhood stroll. All of these regular rhythms not only comfort but also have an organizing effect on an infant’s naturally rhythmic physiological processes, such as sleeping and waking; breathing; eating, digestion and elimination; temperature; heart rate; and more.

  1. Carried and worn babies are happier and cry less.

Likely connected to the phenomenon above, babies who are carried and held often are less fussy, cry less, and seem more content than those who are put into devices (such as cribs, car seats, and bouncers) most of the time. According to one study in which routine baby wearing (3 or more hours of carrying per day) was compared to a control given no instructions on wearing baby, the babies held more often throughout the day cried over 40% less. Wearing or carrying baby close helps make them secure and content. Furthermore, colic and reflux can be reduced by the upright position of being held, which can make babies more comfortable (and thus happier).

  1. Carried and worn babies learn more.

When babies are not exerting their energy on crying and fussing, they are able to devote more energy into taking in and learning from their environments. Research shows that babies who are carried show enhanced visual and auditory alertness and spend more time in the quiet alert state in which they are best able to interact with their environment. Carried babies also have the opportunity to see more and experience more varied environmental stimulus at an adult’s chest level than they would if they were on the ground or in a device. Carried babies are intimately involved in their caregiver’s world and learn what human life is all about from a young age.

  1. Carried and worn babies develop social skills

Along those same lines, being at an adult’s chest level, babies get an opportunity to pay close attention to the subtle non verbal language used by their caregivers and by others in their shared environment. They begin to learn how social interaction works, what cues are used for different feelings and needs, and the whole dance of human social life. Carried babies also get more opportunity to observe and learn verbal language as well. Research has found that carried babies experience enhanced speech development. Many report that carried babies seem to be more tuned into and attentive toward the world around them.

  1. Baby wearing is convenient.

Babies can nap in a sling or just be with you during their waking hours, happily carried about in a soft carrier. With your hands free, you can still attend to and be close to your baby while taking care of your life responsibilities and doing things you enjoy. You don’t have to be distracted by a baby monitor or constantly stop to soothe or check in with baby. Many mamas exercise with baby in a carrier, socialize with friends or family, get household chores done, and so much more with a baby in a carrier.

  1. Carrying baby in a carrier (versus car seat) is better for parent or caregiver’s body 

Sure there may be some times when baby falls asleep right before you get somewhere and leaving baby in the car seat means more rest for them while you go about your business. However, making a habit of leaving baby in the car seat can deprive you and your baby of the benefits of close physical proximity. More than this, carrying around a car seat is not easy on a caregiver’s body. Having that much weight outside your center of gravity is hard on the body and can cause or exacerbate physical pains and stresses. This is not ideal for the healing postpartum body. Holding baby close, in a carrier for example, is easier because there is no extra weight of the car seat and baby is much closer to your center of gravity, making it easier on the body to carry this additional weight.

  1. Baby wearing is economical.

Baby carriers can run from $10-20 (used—or free!) up to about $100 or so. This is typically far less than the cost of strollers, baby bouncers, and other devices meant to hold baby. Baby carriers often last a long time and can be used from a the newborn stage into toddlerhood.

These are just some of the many great reasons to keep baby close in infancy. If you choose to use a baby carrier, do some research into the different kinds, ask others for recommendations, and try them out to see what works best for you (many parents have different preferences in style. Make sure to follow safety recommendations as well to keep baby safe while in a carrier. Enjoy these precious times with baby.