How can I night wean my 12 month old from his bottles?

My son has 2 full bottles each night around midnight and 4am, if I don’t give him these bottles, he cries for what feels like hours!

Nutritionally speaking if your baby has a healthy and balanced diet during the day, and has 2-3 bottles a day, your baby definitely doesn’t “need” those bottles at night, so we should be able to drop them relatively easily.

Formula at this age can be a great way to get nice and easy calories and extra vitamins and minerals in, especially if your 12 month old is a fussy eater. But the bottles during the day will be plenty of milk, and we can confidently night wean at this age.

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Before we contemplate night weaning, we need to assess if there is any habitual hunger.

Habitual hunger vs Genuine hunger: 

Genuine hunger is the wake ups your child experiences despite getting as many calories as possible during the day. They can’t eat anymore throughout the day until they are older and the night feeds are genuine hunger, we can’t usually drop these feeds. Often these wake ups to feed will be at different times or varied times each night.

Habitual hunger is the feeling of hunger your child has due to habitually having night feeds. They are old enough to eat enough throughout the day to drop these night feeds, but due to the habit of eating at night, they continue to wake and feel hungry. We can’t cold turkey drop these feeds despite your child’s age as your child is experiencing feelings of hunger.

Gradually reducing the amount your baby drinks each night gives your baby a chance to compensate in the day, and gradually increase calorie consumption during the day. Your baby might start to eat more solids, have bigger portions, consume slightly more protein, or their bottle volumes might increase.

Knowing they need to increase their day time calories, offer slightly more food at each meal, and increase the volume of your babies bottles, so they have the chance to eat more and drink more.

I recommend you reduce the bottles over 3-4 nights, this will give your baby time to get used to the reduction and not be too upset.

Sleeping through after night weaning:

Some babies, once you cut or reduce their night bottles they start to sleep through, linking their sleep cycles independently and you don’t have to do anything. Other’s it’s not so simple. You might successfully night wean, but your baby has been using these bottles to re-settle themselves after a sleep cycle overnight for quite some time. (See graph below for more information)

They need to learn a new way of falling back to sleep, and you might have to spend a few nights teaching them. If you want some one on one help with this, check out our packages HERE.

Night weaning doesn’t have to be stressful or involve weeks of crying and not settling. If your baby is ready to drop their night feeds, the process should be relatively stress free.

Signs your baby is ready to night wean?

  • Your baby is over 8 months old.
  • They are eating 3 solid meals a day.
  • They get and age appropriate amount of milk during the day (bottle or breast).
  • They are not hungry in the morning when they wake up.
  • Night feeds are causing your baby to become unsettled and wakeful at night.
  • Baby is thriving and healthy.
  • You are ready to night wean!
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