How We Night Weaned
A few weeks ago, my husband and I came to the realization that we have not slept through the entire night since before our oldest was born. This means that for the past 3.5 years, we have been waking up at the very LEAST one time per night. With my oldest child, right from birth, she would wake up maybe one or two times a night and I thought that was hard. And it was. Until she hit the 4 month sleep regression. Hello to waking up every 1 to 2 hours. For an entire YEAR. That’s right. I did not even attempt trying to night wean her for a whole year. Why? Well a few reasons, really. First, I was scared that if I night weaned her that she would then wean all together, and neither of us was ready for that. Secondly, it really felt like trying to go through with night weaning would take so much energy and determination and it was just easier to breastfeed her back to sleep as she co-slept with us anyway. And lastly, I did not even know where to start. Then I stumbled across an article written by pediatrician Dr. Jay Gordon (here) and everything changed. It took me about a month to do, but following the steps in that article I was able to night wean her by 14 months.
When my son was born, my daughter was easily sleeping through the night, maybe with one wake up or two here and there. Which was ironic, we finally got to the point where we could have all been sleeping through the night, and then we brought out newborn son home. Those first few months are a blur. My son was suffering from gas and this would keep him up until 11 or midnight some nights, crying and screaming with a hard little tummy and two desperate and panicked parents. After cutting certain foods out of my diet (mainly dairy and green leafy veggies), in addition to giving him probiotic drops and gripe water, we were able to establish a normal bed time. However, he (like his sister) woke up every 1 to 2 hours. He did this straight from birth. Unlike his sister, I did not get any time where it was one wake up for a while. Nope, he went full blown straight off the bat. In the back of my head, I knew that I should try to change this, as severe sleepless nights really zap any energy or patience, but again I was struck by the same catch 22 that I had when I was going through it with my daughter. I wanted to night wean him, but I was so tired from being up ever 1 to 2 hours that I just did not have the energy to stay awake to try and go through with night weaning. It was just easier slogging through what we both knew and loading up on coffee the next day.
Around when he turned 1 year old, I tried night weaning him (via the article linked in the first paragraph) and it was a disaster of epic proportions. He HATED it. And I don’t just mean he wasn’ta fan and he cried a bit. I mean he literally stayed up and screamed from 1 am to 5 am. Each night I tried. It was awful. I was a crying mess. He was a crying mess. My husband and daughter would be sleeping soundly and I would lay awake staring at the ceiling filled to the brim with anxiety, anger, frustration and desperation. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I teach my children how to sleep at night? My husband would wake up and take the baby so I could try to get some sleep, but these thoughts would plague me and keep me awake. Desperately googling and trying to find a way to fix this. What helped a lot was looking at my daughter sleeping soundly in her own bed, in her own room. She made this change at around 3 years old. At 3.5 (her age now) she refuses the thought of sleeping in our room. She is so proud to be in her big girl bed, in her big girl room. And we couldn’t be prouder of her. You see, this was my first baby who put me through the ringer of sleepless nights. She only wanted to breastfeed back to sleep, then she only wanted to be in our bed, then she only wanted to be in our room. Until one day we put some Moana sheets on her big girl bed in her own room and voila, she never looked back. So I knew, that this sleepless time would not last forever; I was inspired and determined.
16 months seemed like a good time to try night weaning again. I told my husband to prepare for some interesting nights ahead, and I threw myself into it. The first three nights were tough. Dr. Jay Gordon suggests nursing baby when they wake, but not letting them fall asleep while nursing, but to pat and cuddle instead. I had to literally pinch my arms and thighs to stay awake for these 3 nights, I was so exhausted. My son was NOT a fan at first. But thank God he didn’t stay up on strike for hours at a time like he did when we tried a few months earlier. He would cry and I would pat his back and talk softly to him, and eventually he would fall back asleep. After three long nights of this, it was time to tackle the next three nights: NO nursing back to sleep, just patting, cuddles and talking. Even thought this was the exact same method I used to night wean my daughter, I was dreading this. However, after some prayer and serious pep talk, we were able to do it! Imagine my surprise when each wake up time was shorter shorter each night. Fast forward to two nights ago when he slept form 9pm to 3am and just a cuddle at 4am, I was literally jumping out of bed beaming with pride that he did it! Last night was also amazing, he woke up one time and then fell back asleep until 7am. I feel like an entirely new person. I’m laughing more, I have more patience, I feel better mentally and physically. Quality sleep really does change everything.
So I just wanted to share my experience with any of you who are maybe going through something like this. Because I know that feeling, that tired and exhausted desperate feeling. Where you are wondering what you have done to cause this, what is going on with your baby or toddler. If things will always be this way. It is so hard. It’s hard being tired all the time. It’s hard hearing about other children who have been sleeping through the night since birth. It’s hard hearing “well you should have just cried it out” or “you should have given him formula” or “he’s too old to be breastfeeding now anyway”. Ignore every negative comment. Life is too short, and this is YOUR motherhood journey. And here’s the other thing, if it doesn’t feel like the right time? Then wait. You will know, and your baby will know when the right time will be. But I promise you, it will not last forever. You’ve got this, mama.