For all the typical reasons, it's most likely time to nightwean DS, who is 21 months. We tried a couple months ago with the Dr. Joy Gordon method (loosely applied)....I decided to try it the first night only from 3-6am.....and it was three hours of almost continuous screaming. Not just screaming until he had a rash on his face, but thrashing and throwing up (once, from screaming so hard) and generally flipping out. It was heartbreaking. DH and I were with him the whole time, of course, but there was no comforting to be had, DS was just so upset. Such a wild mix of anger, frustration, confusion and desperation. He was literally begging. It was so, so awful.
The next day we all three had a "hangover", and it took a few days to rebuild the trust again. DS was simply suspicious of us and it really felt like it damaged the trust and our relationship in general.
So, we decided to put it on hold for awhile. And now "awhile" has come and gone and I am wondering if we should try again....although I know I can't stand a repeat of that last time. I think one mistake we made then was we didn't prepare him and tell him in advance. However, as with other things where we did prepare him....it doesn't necessarily make it much easier. He still gets upset in the moment.
I don't mind if he gets upset actually, that is natural and to be expected. But from all I've read here and from other mamas I know, it's usually maybe up to an hour of this kind of screaming and protest (if even that)....not three or more hours (I feel like it would've gone on all night if we'd started earlier). I just know I don't have it in me to be there for him through an entire night....several nights....of that kind of ramped-up upset. Plus, and more importantly, it just didn't feel right.
OTOH I do feel it would be good to nightwean and I just wish we could do it without so much drama and pain. Is this possible or am I just dreaming and it's either loads of screaming or no nightweaning? Has anyone ever managed to nightwean with either no tears (which isn't even my goal actually) or just a little bit? Any tips how to get there? Thanks!
Mama since 2010
Multicultural living in Europe
Unless there were major developmental issues associated with the sleep issue, I *personally* would be unwilling to do what you are describing.
That said, this is anecdotal, but comes from reading and interacting here (and IRL) for the past 13+ years with mothers who are nursing toddlers and beyond. There seems to be a *very* heavy nursing phase that most children go through sometime between 17-22 months. For some it is relatively short, for others longer and what it means is different. Many moms of 18 month olds, though, seem surprised that their toddler is suddenly nursing more than a newborn. And a 25 lb, kicking screaming newborn at that.
Often times, though, you see around 23-26 months a marked decrease in nursing needs. A lot of women report that their children easily night-weaned right around two. Personally, I think that they are somehow psychologically preparing for the huge independence leap that so many kids take around that age. If you can take a little bit long term perspective, I think you might have a much easier time in a few months.
That said--- what have you tried? What is your current sleep situation (who is in the bed, what order, when do you each go to sleep, etc...)? How are naps handled? How much is DS nursing outside of night time? What are your days like? What is your goal with night weaning (where do you want people sleeping, how long of a time period do you want to go without nursing...)?
I think TiredX2 is very right. Night weaning without screaming and anger is possible, but only at the right developmental stage. I tried to night wean my daughter at about your son's age and she freaked out too. I remember sitting at my parents' house in the middle of the night holding her while she screamed trying to block out the sound from the rest of the sleepers. My mom walked in and handed her a popsicle and tried to comfort us both.
I realized then that I was being too stubborn about it and that my daughter wasn't ready to night wean. It was just too upsetting to both of us and destructive to our relationship. Somehow before that moment, I didn't have that insight. I thought that we just needed to bite the bullet. Then, after I saw my own mom's concern, I realized that I was wrong; we started nursing at night again and all was well. She night weaned naturally about a year or so later.
On the other hand, I completely understand where you're coming from wanting to night wean. It can be very hard on the mama to feed a heavy nurser all night and all day. I think each nursing pair has to figure out an answer that works for both people involved.
I recommend really preparing your son for what is going to happen. That is what (sort of) worked for us. (The sort of means it wasn't so terrible to night wean him but he's not totally and completely night weaned).
Because my son is a book lover and he remembers and recites books really well, I made him a night weaning book with simple repetitive text that he could remember and recite and drew pictures in it of him and me and DH as well as all his favourite animals that also drink mama milk in the day time. He really got to understand the concept and at night when he asks for milk we say lines from the book and he gets it. He loves the book even though he may not love the message.
I also just talked to him about it a lot beforehand and did a little countdown saying in a week, in a few days, tomorrow we start etc.
My barometer for how he was taking it all was his mood and disposition during the day while we were nightweaning. He was tired (we all were) but he was his same happy and goofy self, so we continued. He did request more mama milk during the day though.
I am preparing to fully wean him (a topic for another thread) and I think I will make yet another book.
Good luck and hang in there.
Me 32, loving him 33, more each day. Rad boy, 7/12/10 & Cool gal 4/28/13
I'm a biracial, atheist, humanist, pacifist, anarchist, bibliophile, and educator.
I think so... DD is now 13 mo.. she is in her own room (since around 6 mo, she was just too active in her sleep for me and DH to get any rest co sleeping. SHE however, sleeps fine no matter where she is which is something I'll be forever grateful for.) I started working nights a couple of nights a week when she was 7mo and so we started reducing night nursing by necessity DH would go in and rub her back and rock her. We found that as long as she was comforted before she was completely awake and mad this method worked about 80% of the time for her going back to sleep. I would say definitely let DH do some of the comforting back to sleep.
Both my kids needed a boob replacement before they were okay with night weaning at around 18 months. Basically I bought sippy cups with nice soft nipple like spouts and put warm milk in them. Then I alternated nursing with sippy cup milk every waking. When giving the sippy cup instead of the boob, I told them they can have the boob the next time -- which was true for a while. So, they knew it was not a complete ban on Mama milk. I think that was a comfort.
Then, we went on to two sippy cups vs 1 nursing and so on, until eventually we were only nursing at like 5 a.m. That one was hard to give up for a while but they did eventually.
I did give them a chance to first get used to and start enjoying the sippy cup in the day time. So, it was not a completely new thing for them when we started night weaning. Once we started using the sippy cups at night, we stopped using them in the day time. From there on, nursing become a day time thing and sippy cups became a night time thing....
Totally depends on the child's development as well as temperment. I am going through heck with my 28mo dd. My oldest ds nightweaned at 15-18 mo with no tears that I recall. We did the whole dr sears "no more nummies til the sun comes up" and it was a breeze. My middle ds, who was VERY high needs, did it easily at 22mo.
I have tried and given up so many times with this one. I actually visited this forum looking for any new advice. I am totally resenting nursing that I REALLY want to wean completely, but it would totally tramatize her. I want thing to end as positive/smoothly as it did with the others but ughhhh! To me it is not the sleep issue, but that most days I'd rather scrap my fingernails on a chalkboard than nurse!
Sorry, I turned your post into my rant, lol.
Anyway, take my advice for what its worth, but I think trying again and talking about it ahead of time may be better, and just kinda test out if he is ready, if not, you may want to hold off longer. That said, not sure how much longer I can, lol. I am afraid some toddlers may not nightwean without totally weaning and my DD may be one of those. In gentle moma-led weaning you're supposed to save the most important feeds to drop last. I think my DD's most important times may be the middle of the night. Thus nightweaning would =weaning.
There's definitely a window, it may vary by child. I tried around 18 months with DS1 and we had two nights almost like you described before I put it on the back burner. Tried again around 20 months and it was a piece of cake. Just a few nights of patting and whispering that milkies went to sleep and he could have them when the sun came up. Virtually no crying. DS2, I didn't even bother trying until a few weeks ago, at 20 months. He's got a bit more of a temper than the first one and has given up all but a 3am nurse easily. He is positive that he still needs to nurse at that point and will cry and thrash on and off literally until the sun comes up. So I'm okay with that being "morning" as far as nightweaning goes. (he goes right back to sleep until 7 am or so). He's still got a few teeth coming in and I'm hoping once that's done we can go until the sun is actually up.
Alison: BFing, BWing, ERFing mama to KidA (12/25/07) and KidO (6/26/10)
So my advice even at that age is to involve dad much more than you, if you're out of the room and nursing isn't an option it may mean less crying. And I second the idea for writing a book about it, that always helps us.
Thank you all so much, this is really helping me!
I hadn't even considered the fact that there is a "readiness window" and he just wasn't there. I mean, I did clearly see he wasn't ready...but honestly hadn't thought that he ever would be. I had almost given up, but now I see that for many kids that window is not 12 or 18 months but closer to 2+ years.
I love the idea of the book, thank you ExpatMama! I am definitely going to make him one, and read it and talk it up a LOT before we even start, then do the countdown thing, then try again for maybe just like 3 hours on the first night and see how it goes. We are moving in June and I want to try this before that because once we're in that transition it may be harder to do any sort of weaning.
Thank you all again, I am so grateful for the support!
Mama since 2010
Multicultural living in Europe
I just recently night weaned my 21 month old and I mostly tried to treat him like he understood what was going on. I told him that Mami was tired and that night time was for sleeping. I talked a lot to him the first couple of nights and did not let him see that I was upset by his upsetness. I told him we could sing songs or talk about his favorite movies but that nursing was not for sleepytime and that both he and mami need to rest. He was upset a little but I think because I acted like it wasn't a big deal, he kind of got the picture. He was a big night time nurser too. The biggest problem is when you give in. Once they see that they can get you to give in by freaking out they will continue to freak out in hopes that you'll nurse. Once you decide it's time then stick with it. Maybe you're unsure of whether it's really time, because when you're ready then the upset that your child will have cannot trump your being sure that you can no longer nurse through the night. It took me a couple of months before I really felt ready but when I was ready...I was ready. Nursing 5 or 6 times through the night was no longer an option for me.
DS got over it in a couple of days and is now sleeping in stretches of 4-6 hours nightly...something he had never done...ever!
SAHM to DS 7/1/2010, So excited for #2 due at the end of February!!!
As a sidenote, I know it's hard to make the decision in any part of the weaning process...but if it makes you feel any better, I feel that the sleep my son is getting has benefits that far outweigh the nursing he was doing. Your son will still get the benefits of breastmilk and hopefully will start to get the benefits of a good nights sleep!
SAHM to DS 7/1/2010, So excited for #2 due at the end of February!!!
Right there with you P.J.! I've tried to night wean my son various times over the past 6 months (he's 22 months now) and he always reacts very similarly to your own little one. I didn't have the stamina to go for three hours, but when I tried to refuse nursing at night, he would scream and thrash hysterically and always ended up vomiting. After each attempt, he would be very distrustful, like you said, and would insist on nursing pretty much around the clock. I've taken a step back for now---as much as I would love to sleep through the night, I don't want it to be a traumatic experience.
What has worked for us is teaching him to fall asleep without nursing. It hasn't been a magic cure by any means, but my son wakes up fewer times at night now (still anywhere between 3 and 5 times though.) At nap time, I started by nursing him and then laying him down while whispering softly in his ear. At first, he immediately started crying and asked to nurse, and I picked him up right away and put him back on the booby. We would do this 10 to 15 times at first, but finally he would be relaxed and sleepy enough that he would fall asleep laying down. It's gotten to be a bit easier--sometimes he even says "bye booby" and lays down on his own, but it still can take between 45 min and and an hour and half to get him down. But the advantage is that he now sleeps from 8 to 1 or 2 without waking up---a huge improvement!
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