Pros and Cons of Night Weaning
Question: Is night weaning even worth the trouble before they get all their first set of teeth? I’m worried I’ll go through the trouble of night weaning my 19-month-old, just to have her really struggle and need comforting.
Night Weaning and Dental Health
Once upon a time, most dentists discouraged mothers from night nursing because of the frequent association between prolonged night feeding and tooth decay. The reason is that even the healthy sugars in breastmilk if they sit on the teeth too long, become a favorite of the cavity-causing bacteria and can increase the chances of tooth decay. Yet, this is no longer a reason to night wean. The simple dental remedy is to brush your baby’s teeth in the morning.
Listen to Your Instincts
The best time to night wean is when your mother’s instincts tell you it’s time. Babies love to night nurse. It’s their favorite way of being comforted at night, and often the easiest comforting measure for mom. This is the reason why in our medical practice when I used to be Dr. Bill’s nurse, we would have the “taming the all-night sucker” talk. Because between one and two years of age babies are so busy playing during the day, they make up for their missed daytime feedings by increasing their night feedings. And, babies learn that at night they have mom all to themselves because there are no competing influences.
Here’s a way to make the decision that’s best for yourself and your baby. If as you’re going to bed you look forward to snuggling near your baby, and you both enjoy it, then continue it. If, on the other hand, you dread going to bed because it’s “work rather than rest,” take that as a red flag that it’s time to night wean.
Breastmilk Benefits Baby’s Microbiome
Also, you may be hearing a lot about the term “microbiome,” meaning the community of good bacteria that live in baby’s mouth and actually contribute to dental health by crowding out the decay-causing bacteria. It just so happens that mother’s milk is one of the favorite foods for your baby’s microbiome at all levels of her intestinal tract, even the mouth.
Treasure the Time During Night Nursing
Think of night nursing as one of your best long-term investments in teaching your baby a healthy sleep attitude – that going to sleep is a pleasant state to enter and a fearless state to remain in. Get behind the eyes of your baby and imagine what your baby feels at night, “I’m sleeping near my most trusted comforting person, Mom, and my favorite cuisine, Mom. Ahh, …nightlife is good!” Treasure these precious moments while they last. Your baby will definitely self-wean, but will probably need a bit of prompting from you.
I wish you both a good night’s sleep!
Martha Sears, RN
Martha is the mother of Dr. Bill’s eight children, a registered nurse, a former childbirth educator, a La Leche League leader, and a lactation consultant. Martha is the co-author of 25 parenting books and is a popular lecturer and media guest drawing on her 18 years of breastfeeding experience with her eight children (including Stephen with Down Syndrome and Lauren, her adopted daughter). Martha speaks frequently at national parenting conferences and is noted for her advice on how to handle the most common problems facing today’s mothers with their changing lifestyles. Martha is able to connect with both full-time, stay-at-home mothers and working mothers because she herself has experienced both styles of parenting. Martha takes great pride in referring to herself as a “professional mother” and one of her favorite quips when someone voices their concern about her having eight children in an already populated world is: “The world needs my children.”