Our night weaning journey, more questions answered

This post is made possible by the generous support of Arms Reach Concepts makers of ARC cosleepers.

After Dreaming about sleep for years, The Piano Man and I decided to try Dr. Gordon’s method for sleep changes and the family bed and blog about it.  You can read about night 1 night 2 night 3 night 4 night 5, night 6night 7 and the one month update.  I also answered one round of questions about our experience here.

Ah… she sleeps.
Between the Facebook page, comments on the night weaning journey blog posts and emails I received quite a few questions about our night weaning experience.  I need to make it clear, I am not an expert, not a doctor, and have no background that qualifies me as an authority on the subject.  All I have is my experience as a mom and what I’ve learned along the way.  I’m happy to share my opinion with you but please keep in mind it is just that, my opinion and based on my own personal experience.  There were several questions so I’ve broken them up into two parts (you can find the second part here) in addition to the first round of questions I answered a month ago.  I hope you find these helpful.

 

When is a good time to start thinking about night weaning and moving baby into their own sleep space? How do you go about it? How do you know if they’re ready?

I really think the answer to this is very unique to each family and each baby.  If by own sleep space you mean their own room I’m really not sure.  We’ve done it different every time but what I have noticed is that when the child is ready they will a) do it on their own and b) it won’t be a struggle.  We’ve had difficult transitions and easy transitions.  Now though it’s kind of easy, nobody in our family is in their own room, everybody shares.  When the transition happens they get to be with a big sister, which they usually think is pretty cool.  At 3 years old Squiggle Bug still comes and finds us though, she’s in our bed more than Smunchie is actually.  She just has a higher need to be close to someone at night.  Sometimes she seeks out a sister but usually she prefers her daddy.  We’ve felt that they are ready when they are sleeping well, enjoy the bedtime routine, like the idea of their own space, and seem to be exerting their independence a little more.

 

How do you night wean when your baby doesn’t take a bottle at all! Only uses norma cups or a straw!

Smunchie doesn’t use a bottle and she doesn’t really care for sippy cups either.  She does, however, love regular cups.  What I do is let her take a drink from the glass of water I have by my bed every night if she seems thirsty when she wakes.  We just sit on the bed together and I help her hold the cup steady while she guides it to her mouth to drink.  It works great for us.  If thirst is what woke her up she will settle quickly after that.

 

What are some cues that your baby maybe ready for night time weaning (currently 9 mos and night nursing 3-4 times)?

Studies have shown that babies under 12 months still need to wake often to eat both for nutrition and for safety in their sleep cycle.  So I don’t look for any signs of readiness before 12 months.  After the one year mark though any combination of these may be signs of readiness to night wean:

  • Seems tired and grumpy during the day.
  • Eats well (solids and breast milk) during the day.
  • Has moved through some of the major milestones such as walking.
  • Does NOT have intense separation anxiety.
  • Is not actively teething or sick.
  • Seems frustrated and restless at night at the breast
  • Wakes to nurse but falls quickly back to sleep without really eating.
  • Shows basic understanding to phrases like “all done.”
  • Shows interest and awareness in bed time routines and day time vs. night time.
  • May play putting toys to bed.
  • Responds to soothing other than breastfeeding (i.e. rocking, singing, back rubs, etc.)

I think night weaning is most successful if the child is truly ready for it, please don’t expect that just because your child is over a year they will be ready to night wean.  If it is a giant struggle or at any time the parents feel this is all wrong and not what they want to be doing then they should stop.  It is possible that a child won’t be ready one month but will be the next.  Remaining flexible is perhaps the most important key to night weaning.  Maybe all of parenting actually.

 

Help! I’m tandem feeding and can’t cope ending 2 children at night. My 21/2 year old is up for 1-4 hours 4 out of 5 nights! How do I night wean her gently?

I recommend Dr. Jay Gordon’s technique or The No Cry Sleep Solution.  I’ve used both and found them to both be helpful.  To help prepare for the transition, work on establishing a home rhythm or routine, particularly for going to bed.  It doesn’t have to be a strict schedule, just a regular pattern to your days.  I also highly recommend reading the book Nursie’s When The Sun Shines to read with her.  For gentle night weaning keep it mind that what makes it gentle is you continuing to be available, just not offering the breast.

 

How have you and The Piano Man adjusted to the night weaning? Was it harder or easier (emotionally speaking) than you thought? Would you use that method again?

The first few nights she slept completely through the night I would wake often, like my body was just programmed to wake up several times.  I adjusted pretty quickly though and one reason I think we were ready was that I didn’t get engorged through the process, was able to pump but not overflowing.  The Piano Man did fine though he’s still getting up at least once a night with Squiggle Bug (he’s her night time parent of choice, I suspect because I was often nursing Smunchie when she’d need someone) so we’d still like to get that worked out for his sake.  Emotionally I was very ready though so it wasn’t very hard at all.  I thought it would be and there was a twinge of sadness that this phase is over which makes her seem so much bigger to me now.  But that twinge is nothing compared to the frustration I felt at being so tired that I wasn’t the kind of mother I wanted to be during the day to all of my children.

Yes, I would use this method again.  Simple and easy to follow while still maintaining that night time parenting availability we are committed to.

 

I need to night wean my 18 month old! He is only nursing at night and it’s just to fall back asleep. Less than 5 minutes but can be up to 4x a night! I am due in Nov with #2 and don’t want to nurse the two together. Is that bad…?

Nope, it’s not bad.  If you are comfortable with it, if it’s working for you and your family then no need to change.  There is no rule that says you have to night wean or ruin your child.  If it’s not working for you then work to change it.  Maybe try night weaning sooner rather than later though, just so your son doesn’t blame the baby for the change.  Be prepared too, there could be a regression in other areas after his sibling arrives.  That’s not a bad thing, just part of processing the added element in his environment.  Another idea would be to wait until you’ve actually tried it with both, you may not mind it as much as you think.  It’s important to remember that you won’t be pregnant any more so the frustration and feelings you may be experiencing now could change.  Whatever you decide to do though try to remain flexible and enjoy the journey.  Do what is right for your family.

 

How did you transition Smunchie from your bed to her own? Did you feel like you were missing something? Or was it more of a relief that you got your bed back and sleep? I’m a SAHM with only one 16 month old. I’ve tried putting DD in her own bed which is right next to mine but I find I actually sleep less.

Five for five now, I sleep better when they aren’t in bed with me.  Every body is different and some love sleeping with their babies, others don’t mind and some of us can’t stand it.  I’m the last sort.  I do it because I believe it’s what she needs and there are moments when I love it.  They’re brief moments.  But that’s ok, I don’t mind.  There are plenty of other parenting responsibilities I don’t like either but I’m going to keep doing them for the safety and well being of my child.  I started the transition when she was still an infant by laying her down during naps.  It was no problem to just extend that to night sleeping as well.

 

My DD is 10 weeks old and has slept through the night since 1-2 weeks old. No matter what I did to wake her up at night to eat she would cry and “yell” at me and go right back to sleep refused to nurse for more than a min or two. She still sleeps through the night for a good solid 6 hrs but she sleeps in a cradle next to my bed. What is the best way to transition her to her crib?

Personally, I’d keep her in your room.  In your room in her crib or cradle doesn’t matter.  There are some major changes coming up that will completely change how she sleeps at night and not only will it be easier to meet her needs during those times if she’s still in her room, you’ll be able to do so sooner which will go a long way in helping her feel safe and secure.  Plus, hopefully actually get more sleep.  As to how, we always tried transitioning at nap time first.  Lay her down in her crib after following all the same routine you already do getting ready for naps.  Stay close by so you can comfort her easily if need be.  She may not even notice.

 

Have you noticed an increase in day nursing? We’re 3 weeks into night weaning and it seems like DD can’t get enough during the day.

Yep.  Specially in the morning.  Smunchie now wakes up around 7.30am (except for the last week, she’s started favoring the 6am hour) and cuddles in bed to nurse.  It’s usually a long session.  Then we get up, do our morning thing and within 20 minutes she wants me to sit and nurse her again.  Another long one.  Then breakfast with the family and almost without fail another boob session following the family meal.  After that she doesn’t nurse again for a while, usually around nap time.

 

I can’t stress enough that being flexible and figuring out what works for your family, not following a set schedule of what someone has predetermined your child should be doing at what age is crucial for the night weaning experience to be free from trauma.  Please don’t take what I’ve shared as what has to work for everyone.

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Comments

  1. I am so happy to have found this site!! Thank you so much for sharing your story. I was hoping to get your opinion on my situation. My daughter is 13 1/2 months old and she no longer nurses during the day, but nurses all night long off and on. It can be 5-8 times a night. Sometimes it’s a quick 3 minute nurse and other times she latches on for I don’t ‘know how long as I have fallen asleep and woken up again usually at least an hour later and I take her off then.

    The stopped day nursing kind of happened by itself a couple months ago. She was only nursing to go to sleep for her two naps, but since it was taking up too much of my work time (I work from home), Daddy started to lay down with her to sleep at nap time. She still will put up a fight to sleep for naps but after 5 min. max of crying in daddy’s arms she is asleep.

    The only reason I want to night wean is because we want to have baby #2. (don’t get me wrong, I am also very sleep deprived but managing it ok so far) We’ve been trying for a few months now and no luck yet. I have still not gotten a period post delivery. I am nearing 36 and really don’t want to put off having number 2 🙂

    Based on what you’ve said I feel like my daughter is at least almost ready for this. I still have some doubts though and that makes me feel guilty for wanting to try. She does understand what ‘all done’ means, she understands ‘light outside’ and ‘no light outside’.

    My question to you is, how to use the method you did of saying ‘milk all done’ (she knows them just as ‘milk’ 🙂 when I have no opportunity to say it during the day to get her used to the phrase. If I say it at night time it will only wake her. this makes me thing the only way to do it is head first by saying no more milk until it’s light outside one night. and then that night when she wants milk, deny it and start saying milk all done. milk all done until light outside. no light no milk. etc…

    but I am afraid this sudden-ness will be too shocking for her and too harsh. But, given our circumstances of no day nursing I can’t see any other way.

    Do you have any advice on how to make it a ‘softer’ experience for her? She realllly loves nursing, and I don’t want to upset her too much or ruin our trust.

    and I really don’t want to put off baby #2…i think it would be so great for her to have a sibling close in age as they grow up. I didn’t have that and always wanted it.

    Thanks for any advice and thanks so much for the great blog!

    • I started saying “Milk all done” (and using sign with it) at the end of nursing sessions, a natural place to begin communicating that it was all gone. She accepted that well because she was usually done anyway. Then I started using it to shorten certain breastfeeding times. It usually didn’t wake her more at night, in fact, she’d usually just let go and roll over. By the time I started doing that it was familiar and she knew what it meant. The only times it was a problem was if she really wasn’t ready to be all done when I would say it. But most of the time it was smooth. Hope that helps! ~Jessica