Once your little one reaches the 12-month mark, they will no longer need a milk feed overnight from a developmental point of view. It is of course completely up to the parent as to whether or not they offer a milk feed but generally speaking, night waking at this age is usually associated with behaviour, rather than them being truly hungry.
The good news is, with a little time, patience and consistency, you will be on your way to weaning off night feeds and enjoying the benefits of sleep.
Mothercraft Nurse, Chris Minogue suggests considering the below factors:
Associated signs for sleep
It’s important to first understand the signs that have been associated with sleep for your little one. Is this you coming in to pick them up and cuddle them back off to sleep or are they used to being put on the breast for a feed or given a bottle or dummy. By understanding the associations, you can slowly start to wean them off this.
Can your partner help?
If your toddler is used to mummy coming in for cuddles or a feed and is quite dependent on you for doing this, it can be helpful having your partner step in to do the resettling, over the course of a few days. Not only will this help break the associated signs for sleep (feeding+cuddling), they may be less anxious or reactive to the situation. Taking away the feed If you have been feeding them back to sleep, be reassured that they are not usually waking due to hunger, it is more a behaviour at this age.
If you are finding it hard to remove the feed completely, you can refer back to the suggested steps used for a younger baby, as listed below.
On the first waking – resettle
It is important to resist the urge to pick them up straight away, as this will put you straight back into old habits.
On second waking – offer a full feed
If you have been feeding them back to sleep, on the second waking you can offer a feed but over the course of a few days, this will reduce each time. I.e offer half a breastfeed or smaller bottle
The rest of the night – keep trying to resettle
This will let them know that it isn’t time for feeding or cuddles and it’s time for sleep.
*This may take a good 3-5 days before you start seeing results – so hang in there! With time, patience and consistency, you will start to find that your little one is easier to resettle and will be less dependant on you picking them up or feeding them throughout the night. Ultimately leading to less night waking and eventually sleeping through.
They may protest – it’s normal! Since they are now more aware and this is more behavioural, they may protest. It’s important to understand that this is to be expected and you aren’t being a negligent parent. By gently helping them through this stage, you will start to break the association of feeding back to sleep. Like with any of our suggested techniques, it’s all about time, patience and consistency.
Removing soothers! This is a good time to remove the dummy or other forms of soothing that they may be becoming reliant on. For example, if you are having to ‘pat’ them to sleep, this is very different from a comforting pat of reassurance. So this would be a good time to start reassuring them through the resettling process, rather than them becoming dependent on you having to pat them until they have fallen back to sleep.