September 20, 2011

Nightweaning and Sleeping Through the Night

On the heels of my last post about how AP ain't for woosies - and "oh my back is so sore from my nightwaking toddler" - I am thrilled to report that my child and I are now sleeping through the night.  Ahhhhh.  That's the sound of a mama getting sleep.  It feels so good!!!

How did I get from where I was a week ago to where I am today? Nightweaning.  I thought it might be helpful to share my process:

I was somewhat apprehensive about nightweaning Juliette because she was 11.5 months old.. pretty young in my own estimation to be nightweaning.  I wanted to make sure that I would still be responsive to her needs for food, love, and comfort from hurt, and I was worried that perhaps she could not communicate these things.  On the flip side, she was nursing every hour and I could not sleep through it; my body was so sore I could barely move, and I truly needed sleep after more than a year (including pregnancy) of sleepless nights.
So - there was much to weigh.  Her needs, my needs.  Where to come down?

After receiving some reassurance from some of my AP friends, I came to realize that I could nightwean and still meet her needs.  By continuing our co-sleeping arrangement, with her right there next to me, I could still give her all the love and cuddles she needed at night; I could offer her food and water were she hungry or thirsty.  And - being right there with her I could intuitively know if something were truly wrong - I could hear her "I'm sick" cry (versus her "I'm tired" cry) or see if she was putting her hand in her mouth in pain or what have you. 

So - after coming to a  place in my heart that I felt comfortable with - I decided to give it a shot.  Generally speaking, I followed my own "Nursies" nightweaning plan.  I taught her for at least a month prior about what "sleepy time" is - I pantomimed it, I closed her eyes and laid her down and said "sleepy time" - anything I could think of so she could understand it was time for rest.  I also read her the book a few times - using our own word for nursies which is "milkies."  And then, on September 12, I began.

That night, she woke up for milk as usual and I told her "no milkies baby, sleepy time" and I laid her back down on the bed.  And she tossed and she turned and she complained - not cried - and tossed and turned some more.  And then - after about 5 minutes, went back to sleep.  This repeated about 4 or 5 times that night.  At about 2:30 or so, when I was worried she might be hungry, I offered her water and some bread. She took a sip or two of water and a bite of bread, and went back to sleep.  She often fell asleep with her head nuzzled under my chin.  Sweetness :)

Within three nights, she began sleeping from bedtime (8ish) to 2:45, then waking up again at 5:30 to nurse.  I nursed her at 5:30.  Last night, day 7, she slept from 8ish all the way through to 5:30 in the morning.

As compared to the nightweaning process with her big sister Elea - who I nightweaned at 22 months - this has been incredibly easy, for both of us.  While Elea's nightweaning was done in the same gentle manner, she still had much stronger opinions about the matter.  Some ( a few minutes) crying was involved - crying in arms, but still crying.  And the time it took from beginning of nightweaning to sleeping through the night was longer - a few weeks I believe.  My hunch is it is likely easier to nightwean a one'ish year old than a child that is closer to two because two year olds have very strong opinions about everything.  It could, of course, also be temperament (although Elea is far more mellow than little Juliette, so perhaps not).

Anyway, just a little story from my house to yours - some inspiration if you are contemplating nightweaning.  Dreams of sleep to you all :)

*** A couple of caveats ****

1 ) In no way do I recommend nightweaning young babies - heck, as I've mentioned, even 11.5 months is pretty young.  Babies need nighttime calories from your breastmilk to grow and thrive and you as a nursing mama need to nurse at night (should your child want to) to maintain a good milk supply.  Use your intuition when nightweaning - can your child's needs for love/comfort/nutrition still be met without nursing at night? IMO, the older the child, the more that answer is probably yes.

2 ) In an ideal world where I was superwoman, I would not need to nightwean my babes.  I would have liked to be able to meet their nighttime needs/wants until they didn't have the need anymore.  Problem is - they all slept like crap, and I'm not superwoman :(


  1. I am so ready to nightwean. Winnie will be 18 months next month, which many friends have said was a kind of "sweet spot" where night weaning was easy for them. I tried nightweaning, using Dr Jay Gordon's method, at 12 months. It resulted in hours of in arms crying. :(

  2. Kelly, try it again. With Elea, I tried at 15 months (no go - she screamed/hit/was super pissed and I quickly gave up); 18 months (same reaction) and then at 22 at which point it worked. Hopefully you'll be able to get some sleep soon!!!

  3. I think I will just try every few months. Maybe in december it wont be so hot and I can actually cover up a bit...keep them out of reach :)

  4. We are nightweaning right now and it's hard work - I am hoping that soon Claire will hit that sweet spot and start sleeping through too. She is 28 months now, and yes, she's definitely opinionated but also old enough to understand more when we talk about it during the day.

  5. I have reached the 18 month mark. Still nursing most of the night. You are right about opinions! If i offer water or food it get thrown and I get screamed at and scratched at. I am at a point now where even thinking about night nusing makes my skin crawl. Unfortunately, any attempt at night weaning results in at least an hour of crying :(

  6. Thanks, I needed this! My son is 25 months and I've recently started reducing each night nursing session. Night weaning is kind of a scary journey because I've been worried about how it might affect our relationship. In fact, he's been more needy during the day, but also waaay more cuddly at night. I like your gradual, gentle approach. I think talking about it will really help us because my son has excellent verbal & cognitive skills for his age. He loves to be prepared for new things...and so do I :) Thanks again!


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