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Nightweaning: What worked for you?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
How did you do it?

My sweet son is 16 months old and still nurses several times a night (in addition to other wakings). I won't go into detail, but I have reached a point mentally, physically, emotionally where I MUST GET SOME SLEEP. I am no fun to be around. I will happily continue to nurse him throughout the day though.

With my DD, we used an adaptation of the "Pantley Pull Off" - I just slowly decreased the amount of time she was nursing at each session during the night. Then I offered her a sippy cup with water. Worked like a charm. DS however nurses differently than she did - he hits it hard, gulping and gulping for just a few minutes then is done. So the PPO won't really work here.

We tried Jay Gordon's method, but the second 3 nights were too traumatic. He just got too upset and was a basketcase day and night. DH can get DS to go back to sleep UNLESS it is one of his regular nursing times. Then he screams and cries, choking and sputtering, and clings to me the next day. It is too traumatic.

Oh, and he gets angry and upset when we offer him the cup at night (he never took a bottle).

I'm not sure how else to do this.
post #2 of 15
I did the Jay Gordon method. I just grinned and bared part 2 of the method. It got worse before it got better. I was there for her through the tears but I did not budge on not nursing her. I had a lamp on the night stand. If the lamp was lit she could nurse and if it was out she could not. I picked a stretch of the night when the lamp was out. At first it was 5 hours and then I gradually bumped it up to 8. It was hard on me but afterward she was sleeping for 6-8 hour stretches through the night, which was way better than waking every 2 hours or so. Even though we coslept I was exhausted from waking to nurse all night long.

Oh yeah, when the lamp was out I would just reaffirm it was dark and it was night time and there was no boobie at night time.

She sleeps about 10 hours straight most nights but the odd time she does wake up in the middle of the night. I find I can shout out to her, "its still night time honey" and she will go back to sleep. If that doesnt work I go to her and rub her back and tell her its still night time. It still cues her to go back to sleep after all this time.
post #3 of 15
It went really well for us recently, and I think that's because of nothing I did except suffer through until he was really ready (26 months.) Things that might have helped midstream:
-ran him ragged in the day, lots of outdoor exercise, stimulation, and shorter naps
-I wore a thick fleecy thing over a turtleneck so it was harder to contact my anatomy
-reminded him of the positive - when you don't nurse at night, mama sleeps better, and then we can have all this fun, AND you get as much mamamilk in the day as you want
-had a positive little repetition thing at night, so instead of saying "no milk at night" I'd say something like "it's nighttime, time for snuggles"
-me being desperate and committed
-husband staying available to read boring books in the wee hours if needed for serious wake-ups

But mostly, him being ready made the process go so much better than I ever imagined.
post #4 of 15
We recently nightweaned for several reasons, #1 because I was also losing my sanity, then we found out DS had 6+ cavities, then I became pregnant and nursing became torterous at night. We started when DS was around 19 months, and I did a slower version of the Jay Gordon. I didn't completely nightwean, I still let him nurse about twice a night, but he went from sleeping 1-2 hour stretches to sleeping 5-7 hours at a time. There were a few rough nights, but nothing as bad as I expected. Then last week we moved DS into his own bed and had DH take over nighttime, completing the nightweaning. DS is doing great in his own bed, and goes right back to sleep for DH. I think for us, also waiting until he was ready was key. I don't think if he wasn't ready it would have gone so well. A few other things that helped--

*DH has been putting Liam to bed for the last year, so he was used to having DH comfort him (only initially to bed, I handled all wakeups)
*I also cut down on BF'ing during the day, so DS was getting used to not nursing all the time
*Outside time, wearing him out
*Being firm on nursing boundaries

I highly recommend reading Sleepless in America as well. It has great ideas for structuring your day to help your DC sleep better at night.

good luck mama!
post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thank you for all of your input, ladies! I think my son just hasn't been ready yet. I wonder if he is getting there though... twice this week he woke up before his 1st night nursing so DH went into him. Well, he went back to sleep and skipped that nursing session... or maybe he just moved back a few hours, but it seems like progress.

The cavities thing scares me (I am one of those dental-phobics). Catie, how did you know he had them? Is there anyway we can prevent them? We do brush his teeth (without toothpaste)...
post #6 of 15
I did my own method based on what I thought would work for the kids. After just over 2 years of waking every 45 min to an hour I couldnt take it any more. So I got a sippy cup with dd's favorite drink and put that on the headboard. When she would wake I would offer the cup and she usually drank but still wanted to nurse. I would tell her the booboos where asleep and wouldnt be awake until the sun came up. She would usually start to cry so I would take her and lay her on my chest belly to belly and rub her back and rock her.

Ir was hard on my back but I usually didnt have to hold her long like that before she would drift off and I would roll over holding her then gently slip away. Sometimes I had to repeat it sometimes not. But I stuck to it and it was a very short time before she was fine with taking a drink then going back to sleep with just my arm around her.

With ds I didnt have to do the belly to belly thing just the drink and holding him. He slept better than dd though waking every hour to 3 hours on some great nights.
post #7 of 15
Originally Posted by LCBMAX View Post
It went really well for us recently, and I think that's because of nothing I did except suffer through until he was really ready (26 months.)......But mostly, him being ready made the process go so much better than I ever imagined.

Sorry I know that's not much practical help, but I'm afraid it was the answer for us too. We tried night weaning around the same age and again around 20 mos very traumatically (3-4 nights of hysteria even though we were with her, cosleeping, and comforting the whole time) until we realized there was nothing to do but stick it out until she was actually ready. In the meantime I worked more on ways to make it bearable for me, like forcing myself to nap with her more.

Now at 2.5 we were finally able to successfully night wean with very little effort on our part and very little upset on hers. She was ready, though it's not like she walked up and announced it. All it took this time was talking to her a lot during the day about why and how we'd now only nurse during the day, when the sun is up; daddy actively participating when she would accept him; about 4 nights of rocking or holding her and kind of a "whatever it takes" willingness on our part when she woke; having a sippy of water and crackers available if she was truly hungry/thirsty.

Oh and ditto to the positive phrasing thing - we found that when she was getting truly upset sometimes it was better to say less and to be careful not to actually say "no" but rather something like "it's time for snuggles, nimminie when the sun comes up."

Hang in there, I know the desperate sleep-deprived feeling. I never thought we'd actually get here.
post #8 of 15
Originally Posted by ChesapeakeBorn View Post

The cavities thing scares me (I am one of those dental-phobics). Catie, how did you know he had them? Is there anyway we can prevent them? We do brush his teeth (without toothpaste)...
One other thing, DS has all of his teeth now (except 2 year molars) so I don't think the nightweaning would've worked sooner because teething seemed to affect his nightwaking quite a bit.

As far as the cavities-- we saw them on his teeth. He had like indentations that were discolored on 3 of his front teeth. He also had a tooth that he chipped around 10 months old that was getting worse and worse. I think his cavities were a combination of some food allergy issues, his reflux during his first year, and nursing at night just exacerbated it. I know plenty of people who nurse at night for a long time, other people who give bottles of milk/juice at night, and their DC have no teeth issues. For whatever reason my DS was dealt a bad hand in the teeth department. As long as you are sure to brush his teeth every night before bed and don't give him any food after brushing you should be fine. Maybe even brush his teeth 2-3 times a day. For us this is impossible because it takes both of us (one holding him down, the other brushing) to brush his teeth. He hates it. We use a flouride toothpaste now, Tom's Silly Strawberry for kids.
post #9 of 15
The only thing that worked was having my 16mo sleep in another room with dh, and having dh sooth him (well, attempt to) when he woke up. It involved hours of crying in dh's arms and was really, really hard. But I couldn't take the nightwakings anymore.
post #10 of 15
I also used the sleep-in-a-different-room ploy and it worked really well. DD cried a little the first night, then it was fine.

I just read a really interesting book - well, parts of it were interesting, it was about sleep training, which I know we are all here pretty much not keen on, but it said that there are better and worse "windows" for attempting sleep-situation modifications. 5-7 months is ideal, and then 12-16 months is ideal again, and then you should chill until 2 or so. It's based on Piaget's stage theory of development, which I'm not a huge fan of, and there are distinct flaws in the research methodology, but I can see how there are stages of development that are better suited to things like that. Anyway, I nightweaned DD at 12-13 months, and it was really easy - but we went to Europe together when she was 22 mo and I went back to nursing her at night to compensate for the weirdness of the situation and it was much, much harder to nightwean again after we got back. So, there might be something to that. The book is called "Bed Timing" or something like that.
post #11 of 15

I was looking for some suggestions. Thanks ladies. Hopefully, I will at some point have some advice to add. My milk-loving monkey is wearing me out at night...
post #12 of 15
We are on day 6 of night-weaning. It's been easier than I ever imagined it could be.

My DD is 15 1/2 months old. She has always been up 6-8 times each night on a good night, 20 times at our worst. She's never been a good sleeper, and is as booby-obsessed and high-needs as they come.

The last time I tried night-weaning- just 6 weeks ago- she flipped out the second I told her boobies were sleeping. I gave up the thought of night-weaning within about 30 seconds. Hysterical crying was a deal-breaker for me.

But now at 15 months when I first told her boobies were sleeping she whined a bit to let me know she wasn't thrilled with me, but there were no tears. None. And there hasn't been any. By day 3 she no longer asked to nurse when she woke at night. Really. She's going back to sleep easier and easier, although we are now struggling with initially falling asleep because even though I am willing to have her nurse herself to sleep at nap and bedtime, she is trying to nurse and then fall asleep. As of last night she is already sleeping better, and when she does wake up all I have to do is snuggle her up and she is back out in seconds.

I completely agree with PP's who said it is all about them being ready. My DD was completely ready. I didn't know that prior to giving it a whirl, and I was totally prepared to have it NOT work again this time, but to my surprise it did and was way easier than I could have hoped for.
post #13 of 15
Just another 'dittohead' agreeing with the time needing to be right. We waited until DS was 25 months and the last molars were in, used a speeded up version of Jay Gordon's method basically going straight to no nursing between bedtime and 'morning' and it went much much easier than I ever thought it would. He was ready - not necessarily happy or willing but capable of coping with the change. There were several nights of crying, then several weeks of reminding and refining, and now 4 months down the line he's sleeping 8pm to 5.30am and any wake ups can be dealt with by a cuddle. We still BF before bedtime and in the 'morning' (sorry I can't seriously take 530am as morning!) and still cosleep happily.
post #14 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thank you all for the support and encouragement!\

Well, I think you were right about developmental readiness. As it turns out, he started sleeping better ON HIS OWN. We jumped on the opportunity. Now he only nurses at around 5am then goes back to sleep until about 8am (he goes down at 8pm). Once, he even slept straight until 7am!!! This week he has been waking around midnight and needing comfort on and off for about an hour, but it is still progress. I am hoping the good trend continues!
post #15 of 15
So glad things are going so well for you! In case anyone else is looking for information/experiences, I'll post my experience as well. DS1 is 32 months and not nightweaned despite several efforts. I will echo the others who have said that sometimes you just have to wait until your child is ready. I firmly believe that there is no easy/gentle/tear-free way to do it if your child isn't ready yet.

The first time we tried to nightwean, he was 22 months and I was pregnant with DS2. I still nursed him to sleep but then slept in the guest room and DH slept with him. The first night he cried for 37 minutes at his first waking (in DH's arms) and each waking after that was not so bad. The second night I think he cried around an hour (while I cried in the guest room). It got better and better until after about a week - he had been practically sleeping through the night, and then suddenly he cried hysterically in DH's arms for an hour and a half before finally falling asleep. The next night, the same thing happened and it was just too much. He wouldn't stay in bed with DH, he was running around the room, banging his head on the wall, completely hysterical. We knew we weren't "supposed to" give in, but I just couldn't listen anymore (in tears, in the hallway) so I went in and took him from DH. He fell asleep in my arms immediately and I slept with him all night. He didn't nurse at all that night. DH and I decided to wait on the nightweaning, and the next night he went back to nursing through the night.

The second time was not an active attempt to nightwean. When DS2 was born (DS1 was 27 months), we wanted to continue cosleeping with DS1 but didn't want to risk the baby waking him up in the middle of the night. So I slept in the guest room with the baby, while DH slept in our room with DS1. Whenever DS1 woke, DH would try to get him back to sleep but then bring him to me to nurse if needed. Usually he needed to bring him to me. Sometimes DH would wait in the guest room then bring him back, sometimes we'd drift off to sleep and DH would come back for him whenever he'd hear one of the boys wake up again. This worked really well until eventually he was down to nursing just once at night and once early-morning (5:00AMish, at which point he would just stay in bed with the baby and me until we all got up for the day). One night he even slept through until the early-morning nursing. After a while though, I really missed sleeping in my own room and thought it was time DS2 and I joined them. Of course having me in close proximity made DS1 want to start nursing all night again. It's possible that moving him to his own room and having DH sleep with him as long as needed would help (basically the reverse of when the baby was first born), but DH and I aren't ready to give up cosleeping with him. So, for now I'm nursing both of them at night and it's exhausting. I actually think DS1 wakes to nurse more than the baby does. But at this point I think I just need to wait until he cuts back on his own or until we're all ready to move him to his own room.
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