Need to Night Wean 16 month old--need help thinking through logistics! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 3 Old 08-15-2012, 11:25 AM - Thread Starter
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At one point I actually thought I was no longer going to need this forum, but alas, I"m back. I spent so much time here with DS who is now 3.5 when he was a baby I thought I'd read/heard all of the ideas. And then DD came and she was such a great sleeper for such a long time....but now feels like the absolute worst sleep deprivation I've had in my almost 4 years of parenting--I'm too foggy to think through how best to manage it.


So I bit of context first....DH suffers from chronic back pain, chronic sinus migraines, and associated depression and anxiety. So he is on lots of medication and so can't sleep alone with the baby. He does the best he can to be a good parent and has been primarily responsible for nighttime parenting for DS since DD was born. But he doesn't have the patience or resources to be of much help to me in starting a nightweaning program for DD.


DS has his own bed (a full size mattress on the floor) in his own room and will sleep there for the first part of the night. Most nights (but not all) he will come and get in bed with us at some point in the night. DD starts off in a side carred crib and then rolls over to me at some point in the night. This arrangement has worked wonderfully for the last 14-15 months. As an infant DD slept through the night or would just wake once or twice to nurse. Even as recent as 4 months ago, and when teething, she would wake more frequently but quickly nurse and go back to sleep--hardly disrupting my sleep.


However, the last 6-8 weeks have been a nightmare. She wakes at least four times a night and it takes forever each time to get her back to sleep. She wants to nurse constantly and immediately cries out loudly if she doesn't get the nipple right away when she wakes up or if I try to pull away. The first few wakings I can sometimes get back to sleep while she is nursing, but she has a stronger, more painful suck now so its so much more uncomfortable. And I absolutely dread the 4am hour because it is almost impossible to get her to sleep  without nursing from 4-6am. The cumulative effect of not having slept well for so long is definetly having an effect on my ability to consciously parent my two young children, and is also making it so much harder to deal with DH's disabilities. Oh, and then there is my cognitively demanding academic job!


I have waited for now almost two months because I thought at first maybe it was the dropping of breastmilk during the day (she is now pretty much only eating solids during the day), and then I thought it was teething (but she now has pretty much all of her teeth). But at this point I think its just habit, combined with an emerging stubborn streak and maybe some early 2 year old tantruming.


All this to say that I've made the decision that I really need to night wean her. But I can't figure out the best way to go about it. The arrangement we have now won't work because there is really no way to do it without waking DH and DS if he is in our bed. DH can't stay in DS's room with him because DH needs a special mattress to reduce his back pain. I could work on the nightweaning in DS's room, but that would require that DS spend more time in our bed, something that kind of feels like going backwards for DS, not to mention we would then have to re-transition both of them back to their beds after the nightweaning trial.


DD does have a room that will be hers at some point. It's a guest room now and we had planned on having the kids share a room until they are older. I guess we could go ahead and transition her to that room now and I could nighwean her there. Does anyone have experience with both nightweaning and transitioning out of a family bed at the same time? Would you advise transitioning to a toddler bed and just going full force into sleeping on her own? Or should we use the guest bed and start with me being able to lie down with her if needed?


The one really good thing I have going for me is that my parents live nearby and my mom takes care of DD during the week. They have also kept DD overnight when I have had to go out of town for work, so DD is very used to them. And my mom is willing to help out however she can. We are starting with her taking DD tonight or tomorrow night, just so I can get caught up on some sleep so I can function again. I'm just not clear how best to use her help.


I really really would like to keep my nursing relationship with DD and let her self-wean when she is ready. I just can't do the all night nursing anymore. If I could get to just nursing at reunification at the end of my work day and then at night before bed and in the morning, that would be so ideal. I didn't get this far with DS--he self-weaned when I got pregnant with DD and then we soon after transitioned him to sleeping with daddy.


Ok, I think maybe this is starting to sound rambling so I'll leave it there. Any thoughts? Advice?

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#2 of 3 Old 08-20-2012, 03:51 PM
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Bumping for input. :)

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#3 of 3 Old 08-21-2012, 08:04 AM
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I haven't nightweaned my 16.5 month old yet so I don't have much to offer on practical matters. However, you did mention that your DD has dropped her daytime nursing almost completely. If you do want her to keep nursing and nightwean at the same time, you'll either struggle really hard with the night weaning or she might just stop nursing altogether. I would invest a few days or even weeks to get her to nurse a lot more while awake to fill that need and make nighttime weaning easier. I don't know if you offer the breast every chance you get and she rejects it or if you wait for her to initiate. Just so you know, don't offer don't refuse is a well established gradual weaning technique. I would do my best to establish at least two daily nursings while awake (say in the morning and at bedtime for example) before starting to nightwean. Then I would work on eliminating one overnight nursing session at a time. I always have a sippy of water nearby and suggest you do the same. When baby wakes for that feeding, nurse but set a time limit and gradually shorten that. For instance if you normally nurse for about 30 minutes then take it to 25, then 20, etc. give baby a few days in between to adjust before shortening nursing again. You can offer water if baby isn't satisfied after nursing and work toward only offering the water and comforting her with rubbing her back, etc. Now nightwean king won't guarantee that she won't wake up but it may help and eventually may be easier. I'm not sure how to use your mom's help except maybe with helping DS get back to sleep if baby cries or have her take over DD once a nursing session has been eliminated.
I'm not sure how helpful you will find this but it's a rough outline of the gentle night weaning methods I read, tossed in with some personal experience. I do think it is important to establish nursings during the day to help baby adjust. My DD definitely nurses more at night if she was too busy to nurse much that day. Good luck!
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