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 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.
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.
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.