Night Weaning and Sleep Training
I start working with babies at the age of 4 months old and at that time, many of them are still taking feedings overnight. I commonly hear moms say that they are ready to start sleep training, but for various reasons, they do not feel like their baby is reading to night wean. They do not believe that they can sleep train their baby and not have to night wean at the same time.
Sleep training and night weaning do not have to happen at the same time. However, once sleep training happens you will definitely notice some differences when it comes to overnight feedings.
Let's be clear, offering a feeding in the middle of the night is not the problem, it is letting your baby fall asleep while feeding that is the problem. Feeding is often used as a sleep crutch which means a baby will only fall asleep while nursing or taking a bottle. If your baby wakes in the middle of the night and you feel like they are hungry, go ahead and feed them. Here is where the key difference lies- if they were using feeding as a sleep crutch they would fall asleep during that feed. But if they have learned the skill of falling asleep independently- you will feed them and then place them back in their crib awake so that they can put themselves back to sleep.
Another change you might notice is that even though your intention was not to night wean- night weaning will happen organically because your baby can now fall asleep independently. Before sleep training they would wake up and not be able to go back to sleep, they would cry out letting you know they needed help and you would step in. After sleep training, if your baby wakes up and is not hungry, they will most likely just go right back to sleep!
In conclusion, you definitely can still offer feedings overnight and start sleep training your baby. They are related but not exclusive to one another. Once your baby has learned how to put themselves to sleep independently you will notice some changes and be more in tune with the reasons your child might be waking up.