My son is 14 months old and I have been giving him a bottle at bedtime now since he was 10 months old. Prior to that, I was breastfeeding him. I have been reluctant to give up the bedtime bottle of milk because I feared that he would not sleep through the night or he would wake up super early. Well, it has been three nights with no nighttime bottle, and he has slept his normal 11 hours of sleep.
Reasons I decided to drop the bedtime bottle:
1. He was not eating a good breakfast anymore. I think that his bedtime bottle was filling him up to much and he was not hungry enough to eat breakfast.
2. His diapers were becoming soaked over night and leaking through his clothing. I was even using a larger diaper at night and he still leaked.
3. According to Kim West in the book Good Night, Sleep Tight, at one year old they no longer need the milk to help them sleep through the night.
How to drop the bedtime bottle or breastfeeding:
Option #1: Try reducing the amount of ounces that goes in the bottle every night or the amount of time you breastfeed.
- With my son I was giving him 8 ounce of milk at night. He would happily drink this. I slowly reduced the amount of ounces every few nights until we were down to almost 2-3 ounce of milk. Then I decided to go cold turkey, and just not offer him milk. I made sure he was drinking at least 16-24 ounce of milk during the day before I did this.
- If you are breastfeeding, you can reduce the duration/ length you breastfeed at night. So if your child normally breastfeeds for 15 minutes, than try reducing it by 2-3 minutes every few nights until you are down to only nursing for 2-3 minutes. I did this when I was weaning my son of his early morning feeding (4am) when he was 4 months old. It helped my body adjust to not feeding him during that time and it helped my son to adjust to not needing that feeding.
Option #2: Try moving the bedtime bottle/ breastfeeding further away from bedtime.
Let’s say you feed your child dinner at 5:30pm and bedtime is at 7:30pm. You would try to move the bedtime bottle/ nursing further away from bedtime. So the first night you might give the bottle/ nurse at 7:15pm. Then 3 days later, you would give the bottle/ nurse at 7:05. Then 3 days later you would give the bottle/ nurse at 6:55… and so on and so on….until you reach dinner time.
Important things to keep in mind:
1. Always check with your child’s pediatrician to make sure they are getting enough formula, milk, or breast milk before you drop the nighttime bottle.
2. If you child is dependent on a bottle/ nursing to go to sleep at night, you will need to work on replacing that bottle/ nursing with a bedtime routine that will help sooth your child to sleep. A good replacement for bottle/ nursing is reading books, cuddling, rocking, and signing to your child. Your child will probably still desire closeness with you so go ahead an offer an alternative.
3. If your child still needs something to drink, try offering a sippy cup of water. That way water will not fill them up, but possibly satisfy their need to suck. Just a warning if you use water, it will still lead to a very heavy and wet diaper in the morning. If you are potty training, try to limited liquids at least an hour before bedtime.
4. If you are breastfeeding, you might need to leave the bedtime feeding to maintain your milk supply. If you decide to stop the bedtime feeding and see a dip in your milk supply, please add back the bedtime feeding.