Night weaning a *very* resistant toddler--without much help from DH - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 14 Old 04-19-2012, 12:17 PM - Thread Starter
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I know there have been lots of threads about night weaning techniques, and that lots of people have had success with Jay Gordon's method, but I'm hoping to hear from any mamas who were able to night wean their strong willed, resistant toddlers. 


My little guy will be 2 in a couple weeks, and he still wakes up between 4 and 8 times a night to nurse--so basically every hour or two. I'm exhausted! I feel like he's ready to make this transition--he falls asleep without nursing for naps---but he gets so angry and hysterical whenever I try not to nurse at night that I haven't been able to push through. We tried Dr. Gordon's method but the first night, on the first waking (around 10:00) my son became so hysterical that he puked all over the bed and was absolutely inconsolable. We tried rocking and singing and patting his back and bouncing and cuddling, for over an hour.....with no luck. To make matters worse, my DH is a super grouchy night person and isn't willing to take over the night time shift. 


Feeling very stuck right now and would appreciate any advice, experience, and words of wisdom! I don't want this to be a traumatic transition for my son, but I haven't had a full night's sleep in two years!!!


~may all beings be free from suffering~
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#2 of 14 Old 04-19-2012, 07:33 PM
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This is not what you are hoping to hear, but I would really encourage you to give it two more months and then reevaluate.  I've been on MDC for *years* and I have heard so many women go through the same thing--- a huge, heavy nursing need somewhere in the 18-23 month range and then a significant decrease (with a lot of children night weaning or partially night weaning on their own) in the 24-26 month range.


We did partially night wean DD when she was 25 months and I know it would have been so much harder, if not impossible, even a couple months earlier.  We did that for a 4-5 hour stretch.


Good luck!

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#3 of 14 Old 04-19-2012, 09:38 PM
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I really feel for you.  It sounds like you are so desperate for more rest and to just find a little opening that might shine with the light of hope.  I don't have an amazing success story for you.....yet, but I have a small success story that for us signifies a start towards weaning and hope that it's possible to do it gently. 


My son is 31 months and has been a frequent waker and all night nurser since birth.  To this day he wakes up just about the same as your son, 4 - 8 times a night and nurses back to sleep most times.  I am exhausted and know my health has been affected, but I haven't been able to muster the strength to try anything big as I figured I wouldn't be able to handle any more loss of sleep. 


However, now the success side of the story!  I go to school on Friday nights and a few weeks ago I decided to tell my son that I would be home late and so he wouldn't get any milk until a while after he went to sleep.  If i am in the house my son will not go to sleep with my  husband (his Dad).  When I'm gone my husband successfully gets him to sleep and when I get home he is usually still sleeping. That took a while to accomplish though.  That was the first step though.  Once he was able to go to sleep with my husband I continued to be the one to respond to his night wakings with nursing, but recently I decided that after getting home from school I would let my husband try going to him to comfort him.  I thought that maybe because he went to sleep with his Dad he would be more willing to accept him for comfort.  We tried it once and it worked.  The next week before going to class I told my son that I would be home very late but that papa would be with him.  It worked again and Dad was able to comfort him back to sleep on his first and second wakings.  No crying! 


So this is what has given me hope that full weaning is possible.  I have realized that ultimately I need to be the one to wean him.  He needs to wake up, have me respond, but not nurse him.  This will be harder, but it really gave me hope as we tested the waters with just the right set up when I was out for the evening at class.  It is possible for him to go to sleep without nursing.  That's all I needed to know for starters.


Could you possibly try leaving the house for the late afternoon/evening and letting your husband do the bedtime routine, and telling your son that you'll be out for a little while but back just after he's asleep?  Then make sure you are there for him when he wakes up the first time, but eventually try letting your husband do the first waking?


I wanted to say too that our son also cries very hard to the point of throwing up when he is truly upset.  This doesn't happen often and it's never because we leave him to cry.  He just has a sensitive system and this has happened a few times.  It's such a horrible experience so just wanted to say that I empathize with you on that.


This is the hope I have to offer right now!  Maybe it's helpful, maybe not, but I do wish you much luck in your own process.


I had hoped that by now, at 31 months, my son would naturally be waking less and wanting/needing to nurse less.  That has not happened.  I don't know when it will, and I admit that I just resigned myself to the frequent night wakings a while ago.  My son is super sensitive and just needs more comfort at night.  By letting go I guess I hope that will help things change on their own. 


Hugs to you!

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#4 of 14 Old 04-20-2012, 10:39 AM
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I haven't been here for a while. I miss it!


I see lots of toddlers who have really large negative reactions to any sleep modification program and I'm afraid I agree that the best course of action is waiting a month or two before trying again.  Having said that, I need that some families have really exigent reasons for needing to change things. Obviously, I like the relative gentleness of my approach best.  Rubbing, patting, talking, a little nursing then a little holding and rocking and a gradual withdrawal of middle of the night interaction.  


It's rarely easy or quick but the the success rate's pretty high.  Let me know if I can help.





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#5 of 14 Old 05-16-2012, 09:44 AM
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Hi there,

We are using Dr. Gordon's method right now (more on that in a bit)! From the description of your DS's reaction, it sounds like you do need to wait and give it another try in a few months. My DS is about 21 months, and the way that I guessed he was ready to nightwean was because I could occasionally talk to him (actually, desperately plead with him) in the middle of the night, when he had been nursing all night long, and ask him to let me sleep and he would fall asleep on his own.


We've been through 12 nights of Dr. Gordon's nightweaning plan and it has been going really well so far. Like you, I am also going without help from DH because he has a lot more trouble dealing with sleep deprivation than I do. There have been some hard nights, but WAY fewer than I thought there would be. (In fact, I am pretty tired right now because DS was up a lot last night.) On day 2 of no nursing overnight, he woke only one time! And earlier this week, he slept through the night for the first time since he was a baby! He still asks to nurse sometimes at night, but he actually learned to cope really quickly. Even when he does wake up, he generally falls back to sleep quickly with little help from me. (Sometimes he isn't happy about it and he cries or fusses for a few minutes, but usually he just turns over and goes to sleep.) I plan to write a more detailed post about my experiences later this month, once I have had a better chance to assess how it is working for us.


If you decide to wait before continuing the nightweaning, it might be a good idea to prepare your DS in advance next time you want to try. For me, I started telling DS a story every night (about a month before we started nightweaning) about how we would all fall asleep, then sleep through the night without waking up for nursing, and then when the sun comes up, he could nurse all he wanted. And I told him how long (a month, two weeks, two days, etc.) until we were going to begin. I tried to use the same consistent words every time (so he could learn the story), and I still tell him that story every night. I hope that it helped him understand.


Good luck. I still haven't fully emerged from the fog of over a year of sleep deprivation, but I hope to get there sometime soon. I know what you're going through!

First time mom to Max, born 8.23.2010!
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#6 of 14 Old 05-16-2012, 01:28 PM
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I guess I disagree with some of the previous posters. You need your sleep and a toddler is not a baby. I night weaned around 16 months and it was hard and there was crying and less sleep in the short run but so worth it in the long run. I was a better mother because I was so much more functional during the day. We gradually pushed back the first feeding by a half an hour every couple nights until she could go from 8 until 5 without nursing. She still would wake up some but it got easier and easier.
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#7 of 14 Old 05-16-2012, 07:33 PM
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I just wanted to commiserate.  We are also trying to nightwean (not for sleep reasons, but to try to get fertility back).  It's been a slow go, but I did cut out caffeine a few months ago and my daughter's night wakings went from 4+/night to 1/night.  It's totally manageable now, if only I could get my period back!! :(


I've been talking with my daughter (21 months old) a lot about how we won't nurse at night when she wakes up, but we can cuddle or read a story.  I usually ended up nursing her a little bit over the few days I tried, and then totally abandoned it when we both got sick.  I'm back to trying it again.  I love the idea of the story told the same way each night... got to try that!


I don't have any advice (other than the caffeine thing).

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#8 of 14 Old 05-17-2012, 10:54 AM
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My son is 15 months old.  He nurses to sleep at naptime and at bedtime, and yes, I'm trying to work on his nursing almost to sleep and then falling asleep.  Sometimes it works at naptime, never at bedtime.  He's teething and he's been nursing every 45 minutes to an hour during the night, and nurses for 20+ minutes.  We also cosleep.  I'm DESPERATELY looking for ideas on how to at least cut down, if not completely nightwean during the night.  If I deny the boob in the middle of the night, it turns into an 1+ hour long full blown screaming tantrum, and if I do get him back to sleep, he's such a light sleeper, the slightest movement or sound (me opening the door to go to the bathroom, me shifting over in the bed so that he's not literally on top of me, me turning the nightlight off or pulling the blankets up on me, if they move on him at all) wakes him and we have to repeat the process.

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#9 of 14 Old 05-17-2012, 11:08 AM
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Originally Posted by kblackstone444 View Post



My son is 15 months old.  He nurses to sleep at naptime and at bedtime, and yes, I'm trying to work on his nursing almost to sleep and then falling asleep.  Sometimes it works at naptime, never at bedtime.  He's teething and he's been nursing every 45 minutes to an hour during the night, and nurses for 20+ minutes.  We also cosleep.  I'm DESPERATELY looking for ideas on how to at least cut down, if not completely nightwean during the night.  If I deny the boob in the middle of the night, it turns into an 1+ hour long full blown screaming tantrum, and if I do get him back to sleep, he's such a light sleeper, the slightest movement or sound (me opening the door to go to the bathroom, me shifting over in the bed so that he's not literally on top of me, me turning the nightlight off or pulling the blankets up on me, if they move on him at all) wakes him and we have to repeat the process.

I just wanted to quickly share that this sounds like my DS.  I powered through because I knew that he was nursing so much because he was teething, that it would pass, and that I'd rather nurse him than give him ibuprofen every night.  I also realized that while I hate, absolutely hated, the night nursing in the moment, that in the light of day I was fine as long as I took a nap with him.  Yes, that means you don't get much "me" time and the house doesn't get clean, but sleep is important and it was important to me to keep meeting his nursing needs.


Anyway, now he's 17.5 months, just got all four molars, and for the past week has been sleeping for 5-6 hour stretches (for the first time EVER), and only nurses for a minute or two before turning away from me and going back to sleep.  Sometimes I'll pull him on my chest and he goes to sleep that way...I don't love being pinned, but when I'm so tapped out with the nursing that I feel claustrophobic and my skin is crawling, it's the better alternative.  


It gets better, even if you do nothing :)

Living and loving in ATX with DH (of 7 years) and DS (3.5)
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#10 of 14 Old 10-18-2012, 06:33 AM
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Just came across this post on a google search for night weaning- I am currently going through the exact same thing- gitanamama and kblackstone444's descriptions are exactly my DD! I had resigned myself to just waiting but it is getting to the point where I am so sleep deprived that I dont think its safe for me to drive any more (of course I kinda need to drive to get to work, etc). She is 22 months now and has been an all night nurser since day 1. I've tried Dr Gordons method several times. The first week or so is great but then after a week and a half it all falls apart and she will scream and cry for over an hour to the point of gagging, throwing up, shaking, and claw at me to try to get to my boobs, and gets so upset she doesnt want me to comfort her, she only wants milk. Like gitanamama, my DH is not able to help (he works nights). We cosleep but have also offered her a big girl bed which she wants nothign to do with and I dont want to force that on her if shes not ready. Just wondering if anyone can give any updates on any progress? Is there hope? Thanks!

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#11 of 14 Old 11-10-2012, 07:08 PM
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hey hikermama,


i haven't read dr. gordon's approach yet (though i might soon!), but one thing that helps me a bit with my frequent nurser (26 month old dd2) is to put something i've been wearing right next to her (e.g. shirt) so she has the right smell to help her keep sleeping (this means for maybe 3 hours instead of 1). we co-sleep, so this is generally something i do if i'm trying to get out of bed to do stuff, but it might be helpful even if you're in bed with your girl--maybe you can move away, but have her cuddled with the shirt/sweater that smells like you and is still warm from you so she won't need to nurse as often? i haven't tried this with me in the bed b/c we don't have room for me to move away (also have 6 year old in the bed who flops about). i believe i got this idea from the book "the no-cry, gentle, sleep solution." recently, i have introduced the idea that "nummies go night night and need to sleep too" when we do. i think this worked with dd1, but i'm so sleep deprived after almost 7 years that i can't remember!!!! i love the idea of telling a story about sleeping through the night too. stories are so so powerful. you could check out master storyteller nancy mellon's books on storytelling with children to think about how to shape the story. or just come up with something and stick with it? my dh also not here at night b/c he's a musician and plays at night frequently. i can tell you that when dd1 was a little older (probably more like 3.5 years old) and able to understand better, we were able to night wean. so there is hope.


re: moving out of the bed.i have friends who do a pallet on the floor next to their bed if they're trying to segue out of the family bed, but not ready for big girl bed, but maybe not yet if she's not interested. honestly, our almost 7 year old is still in our bed. we're planning to get a "new" big girl bed for her and try to commit to doing that soon, but a big part of it is that we have been ambivalent. we like having them in the bed--usually. a friend of mine has recently implemented--very successfully--a plan with her 7 year old: big girl starts out in her bed, and if she needs to do stuff in her room, that's okay as long as she doesn't wake mom. if she needs to come into mom's room (on pallet on floor) she may, as long as she doesn't wake mom. i know this would be far in the future, but figured i'd share anyway.


good luck to you.

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#12 of 14 Old 11-10-2012, 07:58 PM
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I have a 2.5 year old boy who will immediately scream his lungs out if I deny him in the night.  It has gotten somewhat better over the last several months, but I am still up at least 3x a night (which is definitely an improvement) or more if it's a super bad night.  I don't sleep well anyway, so that's part of the problem.


DH is not even a factor since our toddler wants absolutely nothing to do with him when it comes to "night parenting" stuff.  It has been a big problem for us.  Sometimes I wonder why they say "oh, he sleeps like a baby" instead of "oh, he sleeps like a husband."  DH just doesn't have it.  As good of a dad as he is, he can barely change a diaper in the night the couple times I've ever asked him to help.  It's just the way it is.


I think the only thing that helps is time.  We would have had a second child were it not for the sleep thing.  It makes me sad sometimes.  I am 42 & DH is 39.  I can't go another couple years as sleep-deprived as I've been the past few.  Plus we're broke.


Good luck, mama.  Hang in there.  Get some protein and caffeine.

 sleepytime.gif I got tired of my signature, but I still love my children and husband and miss my little brotherkid.gif

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#13 of 14 Old 11-13-2012, 08:23 AM
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Wow!  It is so comforting to read these posts.  I thought that I was the only one with a 19month old all night nurser. All of my friends did some form of cry-it-out very early and weaned their babies by around a year or so.  These ladies are rested and happy and are already on to having more babies.  It is very painful and disheartening to watch other people experiencing something that I want so badly.  I would love more than anything to have another baby right now, but dealing with my DD’s sleep issue is a 24-hour job.  It is hurting my health, my relationship with my husband and my ability to be a good mother.


From the time my DD was born until about 9 months old, she not only nursed all night, but actually had to be attached to my nipple while she slept.  The moment I would pull away, she would wake up and start screaming.  I tried thousands of times, but no amount of rocking, singing, patting, etc. ever worked to get her to go to sleep.  I either carried her around with me while she slept, or laid down next to her. 


By about 15 months she no longer had to be attached all night, but would wake every 1-3 hours throughout the night to nurse.  Once she got teeth it also became very common for her to bite down as she fell asleep and really hurt me.  Additionally, she has always been an incredibly light sleeper, so I can rarely leave the bed or even turn over on to my other side to sleep.  The sleep deprivation that I have been experiencing is to the level of being physical pain.


My DD is now 19 months old and I am in the midst of trying Dr. Gordon’s plan.  It worked pretty well until we got to the phase of cutting out the nursing. Yikes! Despite patting, singing, rocking, etc. my DD will end up screaming for an hour or so until she passes out.  Then she will only sleep 5 minutes to an hour and we start again.  Then she is tired, whiney and clingy all day. Out of desperation I have started nursing her again and have a feeling I will be for a long time to come.


Unfortunately, my DH is no help whatsoever.  He has some health conditions that make it impossible for him to go long stretches without sleep.  He is also completely fed up with having a grumpy wife and the complete lack of a normal life.  Now his Dr. wants to switch him to a medication that, as a side effect, would probably make him sterile.  I am terrified of this, but my DH is considering it because he can’t image having another child after what we have been through with our DD. My heart is really breaking right now, and I don’t know what else to try. It has always been my greatest dream to have a big family; but if this doesn't resolve quickly, my dream will probably be over.

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#14 of 14 Old 11-13-2012, 06:18 PM - Thread Starter
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Oh Amanda, I'm so sorry for what you're going through! And I can relate on so many levels. It was always my dream to have a big family-- I thought I wanted at least 5 kids. Then DS was born :) He is the light of my life and brings me incredible joy--- but he also requires so much more energy than I ever imagined. He's two and a half now, and I just now feel like we're getting some sense of "normalcy" back in our life. I recently found out I was pregnant (surprise!) and instead of being excited and happy, I was absolutely terrified! I lost the pregnancy rather early (6.5 weeks) but what hit me hardest was realizing just how much *heaviness* I carry from the experience of raising a very spirited baby/toddler. In general I have wonderful memories of my son's first two years---but there is an undercurrent of darkness and fear about going through it all again. I think not sleeping for more than two hours at a time for two years really affected my mental health and happiness. But all that being said-- I don't regret nursing my son on demand for as long as I did. I guess that's the catch-- I know I'd do it again for DS and for any future children we have, but the idea of giving up my sleep (and general well-being) really scares me. 


To update on our situation (to give you some hope Amanda and to any other mama who is struggling!):

DH was out of town for 2 weeks when DS was about 26 months, and I took that time to wean DS. The first few days and nights were really hard. It was cold turkey and DS obviously had no idea why he was being denied his biggest comfort measure. We both cried a lot. I let him watch cartoons at odd hours of the night--when he woke up and wanted to nurse. It probably wasn't the best way of weaning-- definitely not the most gradual or gentle-- but it worked for us. And I needed to do it for me. After day three, DS stopped asking to nurse at night, and by day five, he didn't ask at all. He still woke up a few times a night, but was comforted by me rubbing his back. And by day 10-- he was sleeping through the night!!! It's now been a few months and DS only wakes every so often when he has to pee or needs water. And I feel like a new woman! I have more energy, DH and I are much happier, and I feel like I have more to give to everyone in my life-- including myself. 


Amanda-- I don't know what health condition your DH has or what medication he's considering, but hopefully his doctor can suggest another option that wouldn't lead to sterility. Or perhaps your DH could take measures to preserve his sperm? I still can't imagine having another baby--and I always thought I'd be ready by now-- but I would hate to have the option taken away permanently. After lots of soul searching recently, I realized that it's time to change my old dreams to match the reality of my life. I'm fairly certain we'll have another child in the future-- our kids just won't be as close in age as I always imagined, and I don't think we'll be going for 5, or even 4. Mothering is much harder than I ever expected....but I also love DS more than I could have ever imagined. 

Hugs Amanda-- you'll be in my thoughts!!

~may all beings be free from suffering~
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