Nightweaning the Stubborn, Bedsharing Toddler

Nightweaning the Stubborn, Bedsharing Toddler

So it’s been over a year since I started night weaning and we’ve gone from nursing 8-15 times a night to once in the “morning” at 5:30am :) I thought I would share the resources and tips that helped me. I read a lot of parenting books and articles and basically take what works for us.

The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley: I think her methods are a little too gentle for a kid like Owen, but her advice laid the foundation for some good sleep habits- like having a bedtime routine and not letting him fall asleep nursing at the beginning of the night which I think sets the tone for the rest of the night. I was never able to get him attached enough to a lovely to replace me and the sleep cues never caught on. In fact, I am no longer allowed to sing the “sleepy Owen song” as it just makes him angry.

Jay Gordon’s Gentle night weaning method: this was the basis for our night weaning method with a few tweaks. When I first tried, I had to go a lot slower and there was a ton of screaming directly in my ears. I was wearing earplugs to bed for a while because I feared for my hearing. Eventually, I gave up on dropping the 1am feed and decided nursing one time at night wasn’t so bad. This made things much more peaceful. When he was sick and when we were on vacation, I’d nurse him as much as he wanted, and then used Gordon’s method again to reintroduce night weaning to get back on track. Teaching him to fall asleep without nursing was definitely worth all the screaming in the beginning. Even though it took him a long time to go all night without nursing, he went for much longer stretches. We went from nursing 10 times a night to four times most nights.

The warning: He came up with this one himself. We count to three before we do anything upsetting or exciting so he can prepare himself. I let him know before I’m going to unlatch him and count to three and this has helped a lot. Instead of crying, he’ll smile and he’ll often count to three on his own. This was also useful in Disney when we were getting off rides.

Fill him up before bed: this advice came from one of my coworkers, but it was hard to implement. I can’t force him to eat, but once he realized he wasn’t getting anymore milk at night, he started eating giant meals at dinner. Smart kid. Screw the “you eat your veggies or no more carbs” rule. If cheeriowens are all he’ll eat at dinner, I’ll just keep piling them on and sneak spinach into his smoothie in the morning. We’ve also been day weaning as well the past few months. He’ll nurse in the morning and before bed, sometimes after his nap, but that’s all. This helped a lot in getting him to eat enough food.

No sneaking out: several books mentioned this as a no no. I do think it gave Owen some anxiety as when he woke up, he immediately would go looking for me. This stopped when I started leaving him to fall asleep on his own some nights after nursing. Surprisingly, he cried for about 20 seconds and then got comfy and fell asleep more quickly than if I stayed and nursed or cuddled him. He can also put himself back to sleep if he wakes in the middle of the night sometimes. I’ll also send daddy in when I know he wants milk and mommy and no milk will just upset him more.

Janet Lansbury: Her advice showed up on my newsfeed just at the right time. Be decisive. That’s exactly what I was missing. I thought, well, I’ll nurse him if he really needs it. As soon as I made the decision not to nurse him back to sleep under any conditions, I finally had some success. Taking away that option made it easier for him to give in and just fall asleep. He went from protesting for hours to ten minutes. He sometimes still puts up a big fuss, but we don’t nurse until…

Nursies when the Sun Shines: I’m not sure if he really understands what this book is about, but it definitely helped him get the idea that he can’t have milk until the morning. It also taught him about night and dark and morning and light. This is a problem in the winter though because it’s dark until pretty late in the morning, so with the advice of the badass breastfeeders, I bought a color changing clock. He knows he doesn’t get to nurse until it turns green. I’ve been slowly creeping that time later and later.

I hope this helps other sleep deprived mamas out there <3 Remember, they all sleep through the night eventually!

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