Night weaning a bottle fed baby

What do you do if your older baby is still waking in the night for a bottle and you would like to break the habit? Sleep consultant Judy Clark, of BabyWinkz, shares her advice for night weaning a bottle fed baby.

The bedtime bottle

When putting your baby to bed at night, there is no problem with including a bottle as part of her routine. Perhaps you could start with a bath and pyjamas, then give her a bottle while you read her bedtime story or two.

What you really want to avoid is putting her in her cot with the bottle or giving her the bottle until the point where she has fallen asleep. The reason you don’t want your baby to fall asleep with a bottle in her mouth is because if she wakes up in the middle of the night she will search for the bottle to help her asleep again. If you arrive with her bottle and feed her to sleep or put it into the crib, she will simply sucks herself back to sleep with the bottle. Not only is that hard for her sleep strategies, it is also very damaging to her teeth due to the sugars in the milk.

Re-shuffle your routine

One solution is to introduce the bottle a little earlier in your routine. Give her a bottle after her bath, and then brush her teeth and have story time. At this point you should put her into the crib awake and without a bottle. In my Sleep Sense Program, I have some strategies to deal with the two weeks it is probably going to take to help her learn a new strategy for getting herself to sleep, but the basic principles are very straightforward.

You don’t have to leave the room; you can stay with her if you like, but she really does need to start connecting the steps that are involved in putting herself to sleep independently so that she is not relying on that bottle! If she wakes in the night requesting a bottle, you’ll have to calmly decline the request. Otherwise, she will most likely keep waking for that bottle.

This could potentially go on well into the second year, so you really want to make sure you break this habit now. You can go in, you can stay with her and “ride it out,” but she will learn a new way to sleep and she will start sleeping a solid night which will be better for her – and better for other people in the household, too.