The sleep weaning thing

Before I launch into this rant, I have to add a disclaimer.  All babies are different, not all methods will work for every baby and this is all personal opinion and not an attack on people who suggest things or chose to use certain methods with their children.

Right, I’m a little saddened I’ve had to write a disclaimer like that to be honest as health visitors wouldn’t write a disclaimer before suggesting water or a bottle before bed but there we go.

It is totally 100% normal for babies not to go through the night until…well, I’ve heard of some kids not going through until 18 months or beyond.  Mind you, think about it, do you sleep all the way through with no moments of waking?

My son does not go through the night.  We sometimes get 6 hours, but mostly it’s around 4 hours and it’s consistent. He is a breastfed baby.  He has had 3 or 4 puree meals (no excuses, we tried it) and he is 21 weeks old.

I moan about not sleeping.  I’m allowed to.  I’m exhausted. But this does not mean I don’t accept the above.  As much as I bitch about living on 5 or 6 hours of broken sleep a night I accept that O is waking and he needs feeding or comfort.

I know he needs feeding or comfort because he can self settle.

So, if he wakes me I know it’s because he needs me.  And he needs me 2 or 3 times a night.  Not too bad considering life is still pretty new to him.

I’m sure everyone has heard “he’s feeding too often, time to wean.” Or “if you feed him solids he will start going through the night.” Or “when he wakes up, give him some cooled boiled water.” Or, my personal favourite “try giving him a bottle before bed.”

As above, if these methods have worked for you then hurrah! But my instinct just…well, I’ll run through them. (I only know about breastfed babies.  The formula thing is alien to me.)

“He’s feeding too often, time to wean him.”

The boy loves food.  He loves booby and he adores cuddles and kisses and fuss.  My girl likes to cuddle too.  O watches us eat with fascination.  He loves it.  If he’s offered a spoon, he launches himself at it with gusto.

He also has an immature gut. 

When we weaned The Toddler, we started at 16 weeks with puree. I was desperate to stop feeding her every couple of hours.  Weaning went ok until we had a tummy bug and then she had awful constipation.  I don’t just mean not going for a few days, I mean straining and screaming.  When she finally did go, it was like a yellow paste. I would have to sit on the floor with a towel and nappy under her, rubbing her tum, pedalling her legs and wiping her sore bum while she tried to push out the solids her body wasn’t ready for.  It was pretty horrific.

So after we gave O some puree which caused him not to go, I’m reluctant to carry on.

He doesn’t feed too often.  He nurses. He does it for comfort, because it calms him, because it soothes a sore belly, because he wants cuddles, because he needs a drink.  It’s not just about filling his tum up…

Which actually brings me nicely onto point 2.

“Weaning will make him sleep through.”

I’m sorry, but will it?! I’m fully weaned and even when I’m not in demand and not pregnant I still wake up in the night!  I still get up for a drink at 4am.  Sleep is not a hunger/weaning problem.  Babies wake up at night.  If you feel your baby is waking more than they should, then address this with your GP.  People wake for a multitude of reasons from hunger and thirst to sleep illnesses such as sleep paralysis (which I get) and sleep apnoea.

“Just give him a bottle of water when he wakes.”

Again, breastmilk is for thirst as well as hunger.  Water may quench his thirst but it’s not going to help if he wants to nurse because he has had a bad dream. I just don’t understand what good bloating him with water will do.

“Give him a bottle of milk before bed.”

I love this piece of advice. I’ve heard two mums discussing this at playgroup.

Mum 1: she started giving him a bottle before bed and he slept through.

Mum 2: aww, that’s good.

Mum 1: yeah, she was starving him feeding him breastmilk through the night.


I almost said something.

Formula is harder to digest. This is a fact.  So, what happens is yes, baby sleeps better but it makes their bellies work harder.  Personally, I don’t like going to bed after a huge meal. So this piece of advice makes me cross. I’m not going to fill up his little tum with formula just to make my life easier.  He cluster feeds to prepare for a night.  My milk is bloody good stuff.  There’s no reason he should give this up.

We also have experience of the bottle before bed thing. We were absolutely desperate to get the Toddler to sleep and stop screaming (she had pretty terrible colic) so we gave her a bottle before bed.

Not only was I uncomfortable so didn’t get to enjoy her sleeping, she went down well, then woke up a couple of hours later screaming and covered in milky vomit.  Needless to say, we won’t be trying it with O.

So yeah.  Rant over.  And breathe.


9 responses to “The sleep weaning thing

  1. I love you a lot for this post. You just summed up all the advice I’ve been given, and guess what, Ben has 3 meals a day! Still doesn’t sleep for more than 3 hours.

    • We tried a few of them with the Toddler and they didn’t work then. All you can do is try. But this time round, I’m listening to myself and my instincts just say no to these things. Partly experience, partly because I understand breastfeeding better.

  2. I am behind you 100%. I am sick of being told the same things. Sick of my mum telling me ‘he should be sleeping through by now’. Sick of being told that he’s just doing it for attention and I should try ignoring him!!!!!! Yes he may well be doing it for attention, but why shouldn’t he get it? He loves me and I love him and the dark is scary enough when you’re 36, never mind when you’re a half. J has 3 meals a day and still wakes up as often as every 2-3 hours overnight. I live with it because I know he will stop when he’s ready and because I’m a mum and mums make sacrifices for their babies.

    • Exactly. If the advice works, then take it, but so far most of it has failed for me and my children. I’m not moaning about lack of sleep for attention or tips. I’m moaning because I’m tired. Doesn’t mean I don’t accept it.

  3. You honestly have to do what’s best for you, we did a mixtures of breast & formula, as he wouldn’t latch & I pumped 7 times aday. But it worked for us, I really didn’t sign up for unwanted opinions when I became pregnant I really don’t know why people give them, thanks for ranting.x

  4. averagemummysaz

    Brilliant post, I agree, as adults we do not sleep through – just most the time we don’t remember waking!
    My 3 yr old still wakes at times, it’s not really the end of the world.
    I didn’t wean until 24 weeks, and I disagree with weaning just to help sleep through, if there are no other obvious signs of needing to wean.
    I can’t really comment on the beast/bottle thing as I didn’t breastfeed for various reasons, so apart from a little EBM in scbu my son didn’t know breast milk at all – however, I will add that had breast feeding worked out I (knowing what I am like) really think that I wouldn’t give a bottle of formula purely to encourage sleep if all other aspects of breast feeding where going well.
    As a previous poster said, we don’t sign up for this unwanted advice!

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