Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote a post on baby sleep “Does your baby sleep through the night”. At the time, my baby was far from sleeping long stretches, woke up every couple hours & was going through back-to-back periods of teething which woke her up very frequently. When she wasn’t teething however, she would wake up every 2 hours on the clock until I came to bed, after which she would sleep a 3-4 hour stretch then go back to non-stop nursing in the morning. Needless to say it was tiring at times & frustrating at others, but I kept at it because I could not bare the thought of making her cry or not soothing her pain during the night.
A few days shy of her 22 months, & after most of her teeth had come out (all except her secondary molars which I don’t expect to pop out before she’s +2 years) & after feeling like I needed to get my nights back, maybe go out to dinner with hubby once in a while, or anywhere at night without panicking about her waking up, I decided to night-wean Kyra. As I took that decision out of frustration (I’m ashamed to admit & regret greatly), I just went cold turkey. I didn’t prepare much for it & hadn’t talked too much to Kyra about it, only told her that night, that when she woke up there would be no milk because “when the sun sleeps, Kyra sleeps, mommy sleeps, & milk sleeps”. I started night weaning when her daddy was away because I knew he couldn’t handle her being even slightly upset & thought I’ll go for it alone.
That first night was the hardest of all I must say & I do regret some parts of it, as I did get really frustrated at some point around 4am when she was still awake. She woke up around 12:30 & stayed up till 4:30am, but I didn’t give in & didn’t nurse her. I carried her, wore her, rocked her, sang to her & tried all the tricks in the book to get her to sleep again . Offered her some water, blueberries & a banana just in case she got hungry & to distract her from nursing, but still she only wanted milk.
I was and still am cosleeping (cosleeping can be either room or bed sharing), so around 4:30am she finally accepted to sleep & slept for an hour. At 5:30am she woke up again, but barely cried for a minute, whined a bit more & after about 5-10 minutes slept in my arms until 7:30am after I repeated to her my night weaning mantra lol “when the sun sleeps, Kyra sleeps, mommy sleeps & milk sleeps” over & over again. I promised her to do lots of fun things the next day if she slept & in the morning told her we say “GOOD MORNING MILKKKKK” with an excited voice & she laughed. We did all that I promised her the next day & I kept telling her how great she did sleeping without milk & she felt super proud. The 2nd night went a lot smoother & even though I was dreading it, it wasn’t that bad actually. She woke up later than usual, around 1:30 & I was up waiting for her to wake up, so she sat in my arms for about an hour & then went back to sleep without milk. She tried to nurse a couple times but I repeated the same thing & showed her that it was dark outside & she went back to sleep. The 3rd night, she slept from 9pm until 7:30am!!!! I was shocked to say the least.
I had moved her to her crib, beside the bed in her room that we shared all last year, the day we arrived in Dubai & decided to keep her there not to wake her up whenever I got in bed like I think I used to do by mistake. And it’s been around 10 days now that my baby has started to sleep through the night! A couple nights she woke up but quickly went back to sleep alone & another night she woke up a few times but slept without nursing (my best friend was in Dubai visiting & she was excited about her presence I think). The nights I was frustrated, I thought I would be thrilledddd for her to sleep all night & not nurse once, but it was a bitter sweet feeling when our night-nursing journey ended. I missed her making me sprint to her room to nurse her back to sleep, missed the cuddles & missed my baby being a baby. She had grown up so fast & understood me perfectly as I explained everything to her. My baby was not a tiny baby anymore, she was a little “big girl” whom I could negotiate with, persuade, & reason with & thinking about that now brings tears to my eyes.
But if you tired, sleepy mamas want my advice? I’ll tell you this:
- Enjoy these sleepless nights while they last, you have no idea how much you will miss them
- I BEG YOU to wait for your toddler to be ready, night weaning a baby under 1 is not recommended for many reasons & there are major sleep regressions at 11-12 months & 18 months. But to me, the most important reason of all is that it is sooooo much easier when you can actually communicate with your baby & they understand what you are saying & cooperate with you. If at any point something feels wrong to you, stop & give yourself & your baby some time then try again at a later time.
- Have a support system around you, encouraging hubby, friends or family, basically anyone who will support your decision to either night-wean or keep breastfeeding & just be there to listen to you throughout this process & cheer you on.
- Make sure you minimize access to the “milk” by wearing a closed shirt & bra as well, it’s easier when they don’t have direct access as they might just think it’s not even worth the trouble to wake up & nurse after a couple days once milk is not as accessible anymore.
- Praise your baby for his/her amazing accomplishment, after all it’s not easy to adapt to a totally new way of falling back asleep
- Reward your baby for his/her efforts to learn to fall back asleep & self soothe, even if they don’t manage to do it right away, but they will get there when they’re ready
- It is very possible to keep on co sleeping & night wean & we have personally tried it & it worked great, even on the nights when she wants to sleep in my bed, she still doesn’t nurse back to sleep, she now sits up, looks outside, looks at me, then hugs me & sleeps. It is in all cases not recommended to quit cosleeping & to night wean at the same time, so if you do plan on stopping to cosleep, it is better to night wean first & then maybe move with baby into his room & move yourself out. It’s too traumatizing for baby to do both at the same time
- There is a BIG difference between leaving baby alone to cry it out, & baby crying/whining in the safety of mommy/daddy’s arms. And a baby who has such a strong bond with mommy, like he should after having had all his day & night needs met for over a year, would not be permanently affected by this, if you feel your baby seems different than his/her usual self the next day then baby is probably not ready, but as Kyra was her usual self the next day as if nothing had happened the previous night, I was sure she was ready then.
- And last but not least, like I had mentioned in last year’s post on baby sleep, I will repeat it today & I firmly believe it. Sleeping through the night for babies is a milestone that each baby will reach at his/her own time. Don’t rush your child to sleep through the night for the wrong reasons, due to pressure or just because you think they should be doing it by now. Rest assured though, that there will come a day, when baby will sleep on his own & when that day comes you might actually miss it terribly.
If you are considering night weaning your toddler here are a few helpful links: