Attachment Parenting, Breastfeeding, Motherhood

The Challenges and Rewards of Night Weaning

18 Comments 25 September 2011

I began the process of night weaning my two and a half year old daughter two weeks ago.

Night weaning is a bitch! Emotionally and physically painful.

However, don’t let this deter you from night weaning. There are, as  I will explain, both challenges and rewards for night weaning.

I encourage the process.

I’ll begin with the why, the  how and move on from there with the details of our experience.

 

Why night wean?

I never thought to night wean Ella until Lucan was born.

I didn’t have a strong enough reason.

Although I wasn’t a big fan of waking up several times a night to nurse Ella back to sleep, I knew cutting out breastfeeding would be tough.

A battle even. Frankly, I didn’t want to face the confrontation.

Ella loves her “mum-mums.”

The first month of tandem night nursing went fine.

I laid on my back and had one child on each side of my body, nursing alternatively or at the same time. I got a fair amount of sleep and didn’t view our routine as an issue.

But then…things changed.

 

Lucan was no longer content to snuggle in the crook of my arm or lay on my chest. He craved autonomy. His go-to-sleep position became laying on his side next to me.

This presented a problem.

Ella began waking-up to my back in the middle of the night.

If I was nursing Lucan back to sleep, or needed to carefully peel my skin from his baby hug hold, Ella would get restless, impatient, and ultimately break-down into a fit of hysteria.

This usually woke-up Lucan.

 

What is a mother to do with two crying babies?

Not a pretty picture. I knew something had to change (and it wasn’t Lucan).

 

The Method:

The first step was talking to Ella about our night weaning plan.

When I explained that we weren’t going to be having mum-mums at night anymore, she inquisitively asked, “whyyyy?”

Good. She was listening.

I answered, “because night time is for sleeping. You can have mum-mums when you fall asleep at night. At night we’ll cuddle and sleep. Then, when the sun comes up, and it’s morning, you can have mum-mums again!”

She may have said okay, or she may have said nothing at all. But whether or not she understood, she heard me, and that’s all that mattered. I didn’t want to spring it on her out of the blue.

The Plan:

Bedtime routine would begin normally – Ella could nurse to sleep.

When Ella woke up, I’d quietly and calmly tell her she could have mum-mums in the morning, then suggest we cuddle.

Good, in theory, but …

Not only did whining, screaming and kicking ensue, so did a head-butt to the mouth, resulting in a bloody, puffy lip (mine, not hers).

Although it was tough, we got through the night without nursing. The key was soothing Ella while not giving in.

The second, third, fourth AND fifth nights were similar to the first (save the head-butting incident).

Ella awoke in the middle of the night 2-3 times, as usual pre-weaning, asking for mum-mums. And each time she was denied, (when I calmly told her she could have mum-mums in the morning and suggested cuddling) she’d break down.

 

To prevent from waking everyone, I would take Ella into the living room.

We’d sit on the couch until she calmed down. I wouldn’t let her back in the bedroom until she could take a deep breath and stop crying. Walking back into the bedroom, I always make sure to hold her hand, saying, “we’ll cuddle in bed honey.”

 

The 3 keys to night weaning success: that mom provides a calm, assertive energy, has patience and acts consistency.

If you’re in it to win it, follow this advice.

  • Without assertiveness, you’ll be wishy-washy and won’t get the message across that you mean business. Make sure your energy remains calm.
  • Without patience, you will nearly die. Seriously.
  • And without consistency, your child will be confused. You can’t tell him/her that you don’t nurse anymore at night only to give in the next night unless you want to fail miserably.

 

Present Day:

Our nightly trials nearly mimicked each other night after night until the pattern broke. Ella woke up just after 1, 3 and 5 for the first five days.

Then she woke up at 2:30 and 5:45.

Then at 3:15 and 6:15…

and then finally, she slept through the night until 6, two nights in a row. Hallelujah!!

If we can do it, you can do it too. Follow your heart, beat to your own drum, and good luck!

p.s. this has been my experience and I in no way feel or mean to come across as “my way or the high-way.” Check out Dr. Jay Gordon for attachment parenting night weaning tips.

Your Comments

18 Comments so far

  1. Christie says:

    LOVED this! I think I’m still a ways off from nightweaning D, but I’m starting to have daydreams of not having her (albeit adorable) hoover mouth latched to my right nipple through most of the night. ;) Thanks for your insight.

  2. Jupiter says:

    Thank you for the words of encouragement I needed right now. We’re night weaning,too. I’ve done this before with previous children, so it’s not like I don’t know what I’m doing BUT right now? I feel like it’s an impossible feat. I’m pretty sure I also felt the same way the other times,too and somehow still managed to survive it.

  3. Kateisfun says:

    That picture of Ella is perfect! :-) I really enjoyed reading your experience and I’m curious about one thing. How did you decide that you would be the one to calm Ella down and not Eric? I feel like I’ve read a lot more about the dad/partner playing the significant role in this scenario than the mom, I guess with the idea that the child will want to nurse less if mama isn’t right there. On the other hand, it totally makes sense that you wouldn’t want to communicate “mama isn’t available, period, during the night”. Anyway, I’d love to know your thought process! Thanks, KR.

    • bringbirthhome says:

      @ Kate – When it comes to soothing Ella, I’ve always been “the one.” She hasn’t so far accepted Eric as a possible option! Lucan is at the age where Eric can pick him up and rock him back to sleep, so for now the set up works well.

  4. angelina says:

    I’m glad night nursing is working well for you and your pursuing what you need (despite the difficult challenges!)

    its just…..bitch? really, that was a shock to read. not because its ‘profane’ but because…. I suppose I just don’t have any separation of definitions there. I always think of it as a tremendously degrading word. like the word nigger is for me.

    anyway I’ve been thinking about night weaning but I don’t think its quite time for our family yet. I can imagine how hard it would be though. Congratulations for working through it.

  5. Diyana says:

    Katie, I enjoy following your mothering journey! Thanks for sharing. I am sure your moms and moms to be followers absolutely appreciate you sharing how you handle things like this and more.

  6. Lisa says:

    The problem I have with what you have written is not that you are sharing your experience and your choice, though I may disagree. It is that you are telling an audience of mothers that this is how it must be done if it is to ever work, which is not true.

    They all stop eventually *and* they can and do stop by making gradual changes – it does not have to involve crying it out- which is what you are advocating – it does not have to be cold turkey.

    Giving this information is false. But then, how would you know, as this is your first time.

    It is always amazing to me how quickly some people are willing to switch gears from.gentle or natural birthing and parenting so quickly…there are other ways. Everyone makes their own parenting choices and must ultimately live with them…not everyone writes a how-to blog stating that you must break a child to have success:-(

    Mother of four, number five on the way…

    • bringbirthhome says:

      @ Lisa – Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I absolutely did not mean to come across that way with this post. I’ll make an amendment at the bottom. However, I am not letting my daughter cry it out, and don’t believe in that method. I am always there for her, holding her hand and using soothing, supportive words. She has never been alone through this process. I have not broken my child. But again, I thank you for your comment, because as the mother of four with five on the way, you are more experienced than I am.

    • bringbirthhome says:

      p.s. Lisa, it wasn’t cold turkey – perhaps you didn’t read: “The first step was talking to Ella about our night weaning plan.
      When I explained that we weren’t going to be having mum-mums at night anymore, she inquisitively asked, “whyyyy?”
      Good. She was listening. I answered, “because night time is for sleeping. You can have mum-mums when you fall asleep at night. At night we’ll cuddle and sleep. Then, when the sun comes up, and it’s morning, you can have mum-mums again!””

  7. Kateisfun says:

    Thanks for answering my question, makes sense! I think this way shows a lot of trust – You in Ella, and Ella in you. Way to go!

  8. Laurie says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience. This is helpful and inspirational!

  9. BennettMaMa says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I’m newly pregnant and dealing with sore breasts and overly sensitive nipples that are even more agitating if stimulated while I’m sleeping. I knew that something had to change when I woke up to a screaming child after I’d whacked her in my sleep for getting a bad latch. I never hit my child, and we were both equally traumatized for the next 15 minutes. I just can’t night nurse anymore, I’m so exhausted anyway, and Daddy needs to take some nights too, and this is how he’ll have to.

  10. Mom to 6 says:

    It seemed when my kids were ready, it was easy. But if I tried before they were ready…it didn’t work and I only stressed myself out.

    It was different ages with each of them. My 5th child had just turned 2 and I encouraged her weaning by telling her….. If she woke up (we co sleep) and looked out the window and it was dark she couldn’t nurse (although we have our special word for nursing). Night time was for sleeping, I would tell her. If she woke up and it was light out (daytime) she could nurse. Surprisingly it worked for her and she understood it and she never cried or got upset.Of course there were nights when she woke up and I pointed out the window and said “look outside…it’s dark…it’s not time to nurse. When it’s light out you can” Very gentle weaning from night nursing.

  11. Antoinette says:

    I am tandem nursing my 15 month old daughter and 2 month old son. This is proving to be very exhausting! I appreciate that you are sharing your expereince and it was very helpful to read. I can’t believe people are giving you a hard time! If you don’t like what she has to say don’t read it! My gosh!

  12. Rachel says:

    Thank you… You are a brave and strong and caring and loving mum! Thanks for sharing your story.


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