How to Stop Breastfeeding During the Night and Not Go Crazy

After months of trying to get a breastfeeding routine in place, and adjusting to the excruciating pain, there comes a day, when we have to put an end to it. Some of us are lucky enough, and don’t need to go through this process, as their babies will have plenty of time to wean themselves. But how about the rest of us, who cannot afford this luxury? I am talking about the moms that have to go back to work, and where the working conditions don’t allow them to continue breastfeeding.

I am lucky to live in a country where breastfeeding is encouraged even after the child turns 1 years old. At my current job, I get to work for 6 hours per day – although I am paid full time, as long as I breastfeed my daughter until she is 2 years old. For a working mom who wants to breastfeed for as long as possible, this is THE DREAM. Unfortunately, even in these favorable circumstances, sometimes there are some obstacles that will force you to stop breastfeeding before the 2 years mark. For me, these obstacles are the work related trips that I have to take throughout the year. I will soon have to be away for a week, traveling abroad.

Unfortunately, I have no possibility to take my daughter with me, so I need to find a way to stop the nights breastfeeding time. The reason I say the nights breastfeeding time, is because I do not want to stop completely the breastfeeding journey, even if I will be away for a week, but I want my husband to be able to put Anny to sleep by himself at night. The plan is for me to pump for the time I am abroad, and for my husband to give my daughter a bottle of milk every time she needs it.

The thing that worked for me with to stop the night breastfeeding, and still be able to go to work the next day, was not to get involved in the night feedings at all. I was extremely lucky to have my husband take over for a week. If your partner is not available, perhaps you have some close family, that can help?

Before jumping to the tips and tricks to convince your child to not want the boobies during the night, let’s make a list with the reasons why someone like me, or like you, would want to do that. The reason I am making this list, is that I want the mothers to stop feeling guilty about it, as they will realize that there are others that do it too, and what are their reasons.

Reasons to Stop Breastfeeding Your Baby at Night

Every person has their own personal reasons for deciding to start night-weaning their babies, and if one reason is not good enough for you, it doesn’t mean that is not good enough for someone else. Here are some of the reasons I gathered from personal experience, friends and family, as well as research from different children’s communities and forums:

  1. Lack of sleep.
  2. Go back to work.
  3. No support from family/partner.
  4. No support from work.
  5. Lack of milk supply.
  6. Want to catch up with the social life.
  7. Another pregnancy.

This list could easily be applied to mothers who want to stop the breastfeeding process completely. Remember, whatever your reason is, there is nothing wrong about deciding to stop.

3 Things to Do Before Starting to Reduce the Night Feedings

Reducing the breastfeeding time is not an easy task. As with all things that are not easy to do, a little research in advance is needed, in order to make the transitions as smooth as possible. Here are the three steps that needs to be taken BEFORE starting the weaning process:

  1. Make sure the baby has eaten enough food before going to bed, assuming your baby is old enough to be eating solid food. I am well aware that hunger is not the only reason why your baby would wake up during the night and ask for breast milk, however, this will help reduce the number of reasons for waking up. The main reason for my daughter’s night feeds, is that she wants to be close to me. Even if my husband offers her a bottle of formula, she will refuse it.
  2. Introduce normal milk, or formula, way in advance, so that your baby, or toddler by now, gets used with the taste. If you don’t want to feed your baby milk during the night, you could try offering water or tea
  3. Create a new routine for you and your partner, that includes you going to bed quite early. Everyone should know what to do and when. In my case, I am responsible to put the kids to sleep, and I go to bed myself shortly after. My husband is in charge over the night, and I take over again in the morning, around 5 am, when I wake up. This is what it works for us, for you might be something different. If you don’t have someone to help you through the night, then this advice is not really helpful. Please read this other article instead, where I talk about how to handle a baby that wakes up several times during the night, and still be able to function normal the next day.

How to Put an END to Breastfeeding During the Night

Once you have established your “go to battle plan”, here are the next steps that I found helpful in my personal case.

  1. Find the RIGHT TIME to start the process. Don’t make the same mistake I did when I first tried to wean Anny. I just came home after a 24 hours abroad trip, and I thought that since she hadn’t breastfed the whole day, it would be easier for me to put an end to it right then. However, she was having a bad cold, so all she wanted was for me to comfort her, and cuddle her, and of course this could have been done only by breastfeeding her. So, pick up a time when she or he is not sick, they don’t go through a tooth growth or one of their growth spurts.
  2. Don’t give in. Oh, this I found to be the most difficult advice to follow. It is incredible difficult to stay strong when you hear “mammmmmaaaa”, and “ no no no”. The “no no no” was addressed to my husband, as she refused the milk bottle he was offering, and when he offered to take her in his arms. What made this worse, was the fact that we co-sleep, so I was in the bed next to her, but somehow hidden under a pile of blankets. It could be easier for you, if you were to sleep in another room.
  3. Create a routine where you put the baby to sleep without breastfeeding. I find this to be the most useful advice, however, one of the most difficult to follow. The only time Ewe succeDed to put Anny to bed without breastfeeding, was when my husband put the kids to bed. However, this is not possible every night, so I end up breastfeeding her to sleep anyway. Sometimes I put her “sleeping song” on youtube, turn off all the lights in the living room, and dance with her until she falls asleep. Then I gently put her in bed, and when she wakes up – because she always does- I give her a bottle of milk instead. However, this is not an ideal sleeping routine, since I don’t get to spend the time with my little Pat. This is a temporary solution though, and I would love if I could reach to that point where I could read bed-time stories to both of them.
  4. Introduce a pacifier. It has not worked for us, but it might work for you, since every baby is different. Our Pat hated the pacifier, and we were actually very happy that he didn’t develop a thing for it, but now, with Anny, we would be so happy if she would just take the pacifier instead of the breasts at night.

It took us 9 days to achieve our goal of not breastfeeding Anny during the night. Does she still wake up? Yes, she does, but now, my husband is able to comfort her and put her back to sleep, without her crying too much. Would she still want me, if she would see me? Yes, she would. We find it difficult to balance the breastfeeding time during the day with the no-breastfeeding during the night. It is probably a little confusing for the baby as well. She can’t understand why she can’t have her mommy during the night, if she can have her during the day. Unfortunately- or fortunately, I am not ready to give up breastfeeding completely, yet.

What worked for you? How do you balance the breastfeeding time and work? I would love to hear from you, and if you want to share with us your experience, please write in the comments, or send an email to me at . 

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