In case you don’t know this by now I’m a huge fan of breastfeeding. I’ve nursed all of our babies for various lengths of time. I think our current baby will have the distinction of nursing the longest. He is just over two years old and show no intention of stopping.
I’m okay with that except that I wanted my nights back. He was literally nursing four to five times every night even as a two-year-old. I just needed him to stop. Actually, I wanted him to stop about six months ago. The only problem – as I saw it – was that he was still sleeping with me. I didn’t think it was possible to wean him at night without also putting him in his own bed which I knew would be more of a problem than the weaning.
The next La Leche meeting I went to I asked if there was anything I could do. Immediately one or two women said they had done it, and one of the leaders gave me a name to google – Dr. Jay Gordon. What I found gave me hope. I didn’t have to just let him “cry it out” – something I knew I would ever be able to do.
This is not for babies younger than one year. I totally agree with Dr. Gordon on that point. I expect my little babies to get me up several times at night to nurse. I was just ready for my big toddler to stop.
Basically for the first three nights you nurse your baby but not to sleep so that he actually falls asleep just from cuddles, etc. The next three nights you cuddle him, rock him, sing to him when he wakes up but you do not nurse him. The next four nights should see a gradual decrease in the baby waking up until he sleeps all night realizing it’s not worth the bother to wake up since he’s not getting nursed.
So one week in the early fall we decided to try out this gentle method for getting our baby to sleep through the night.
Here’s a break down of how it worked:
Night ONE – He woke up four to five times and was very distressed that I wouldn’t let him nurse to sleep, but at least he was getting nursed.
Night TWO – He only nursed three times this night, but his stress was escalating at not being allowed to nurse himself to sleep and by the third time he was definitely not happy with me.
Night THREE – This night he only got up once. He was very upset but within three minutes had calmed down and gone to sleep. I was feeling hopeful, but also a little worried how things would go now. From this point on he wasn’t supposed to nurse when he woke up in the middle of the night.
Night FOUR – He woke up three times. The first time he cried but settled down quickly – just three minutes. The next two times he was fussy but calmed down as I rubbed his back.
Then we were hit with whooping cough. Of course, when your baby is sick there is no question of whether or not you will nurse him in the middle of the night. Night weaning was out of the question, and I didn’t know when we would come back to it.
In the meantime, my husband’s work picked up. My husband is a pastor, but he also teaches classes on how to be a security guard. His normal schedule is one week on and one week off. That changed in the middle of December. They started needing him every week. I didn’t want to do the night weaning if my husband had to get up for work because it is rather disruptive to sleep. In fact, sometimes my husband helps by holding Jonah and singing to him.
Well, recently they had an empty week so my husband had a week off. I was so happy when I realized that with this week we could once again try to night train Jonah. If I was ready before, I was more than ready this time. I just don’t think that a thirty-four pound two-year-old needs to nurse three to four times in the middle of the night.
This time he’s at least four months older than our last attempt.
The second night saw the most crying, but nothing worse than what it had been before.
Then we came to the end of his middle-of-the-night snacks. His understanding and reasoning powers are just that much better. So my husband and I had a little talk with him when he was ready for bed. It went something like this, “You can have num-num now but after this no more until the morning. You need to sleep all night. In the morning Mommy will give you num-num again.” He blissfully agreed that this was “tay” (okay).
It went so much better than I had expected. The fourth night he was restless, but we managed to make it to the morning before he nursed. The seventh and eighth nights were the hardest. Even so we’re only talking crying for two minutes max. One of those nights my husband held him and sang they’re bedtime song to him after which he went back to sleep.
I’m happy to report that for the last two nights he’s slept through the night, and I’ve felt so much better getting uninterrupted sleep. He asks to nurse more frequently during the day, and if I can I try to accommodate him since he’s being so agreeable about sleeping through the night.
I hope this post can give another weary mom hope that her baby can be weaned at night even while he sleeps with her.