With his first birthday looming, I am feeling ok to push for night weaning now as I know he is capable of making it most of the way through the night. So last night I decided to start. He woke at 10:30pm and I trudged in there with a bottle full of water as the new 'boob substitute' (a very nice Mimijumi bottle to boot!) and scooped him up to soothe and rock him. I was planning to do whatever was necessary to calm him, short of actually nursing....
I waaaaaaaaay underestimated his attachment to the boob. He screamed and writhed in my arms and no amount of rocking, cuddling, whispers of reassurance or kisses could calm him. He was so upset I even turned on the lights at one point just to snap him out of the momentum of his fit. I even at one point mixed a bit of formula in the bottle (didn't have anything pumped) to make sure it wasn't hunger - he vehemently rejected it. I nearly had him calm twice after vigorously rocking him and having him cuddle into my chest but inevitably he couldn't quite get comfortable enough to knock off completely and would start up again. My husband came in to take a turn - no boobs, no problem right? Wrong. He continued to wiggle and cry.
Two and a half hours later, after exhausting every option I could think of to soothe him, I caved. Five minutes of suckling and he went limp with exhaustion. I tried to sit him up and give him good night kisses in an effort to have him awake enough as I put him in his crib... He looked at me, rolled over and fell asleep. but two hours later he woke again and immediately started the crying routine all over again...
What can I do?? He is clearly completely addicted to nursing as his sole means of soothing and getting to sleep. I have been trying for months now to unlatch him before he is fully asleep, I thought I had done enough prep work to make this transition successful...
Any suggestions? Insight? I don't expect miracles... I am ok with 1, maybe 2 feelings at night but the two hour intervals at his age seem ridiculous now and I need my nights back!
I didn't have any success night weaning until older than that. You might be pushing it early. He's still going to be getting molars and having the discomfort associated with that, which will keep him up, and he's still going to hit some major developmental milestones, which also cause them to wake up a lot. He's also at an age of separation anxiety, and the concept of object permanence isn't great at that age. Plus they still have growth spurts at that age, and breastmilk is still a large part of their diet at that age, so he could just plain get hungry at night still. You're fighting an uphill battle, I'm afraid.
If you gently try to get him back to sleep when he wakes without nursing, he might occasionally (and more and more often as he gets older) get better about it, but with a weak sense of object permanent, he might react by becoming afraid of losing nursing for good and he might get more upset and it could backfire. The object permanence issue might make him think that not being able to nurse once means nursing is gone for good.
What I did when I night weaned (which finally worked at 24 months but might have worked a bit younger) was to say no when she wanted to nurse and then rub her back and snuggle. If she got upset, I'd nurse her, but when she got old enough (or maybe when she got used to the idea?) she just went back to sleep, and she nightweaned very quickly and easily at that point. Like the first night she woke and went to sleep without nursing twice, then the second night she woke and went back to sleep without nursing once, and the third night and every night after she slept through the night. I feel like when they're ready it will probably go pretty easily. But even if your ds doesn't night wean completely, if you gently try to quiet him without nursing, but nurse him if that doesn't work, he might give up a feeding or two during the night and give you a longer stretch.
Also, nurse a TON before bed. Spent the last few hours before he goes to sleep nursing every half hour to 45 minutes, just topping him up. It really does seem to help to get them really filled up before they go to sleep.
All kids are ready to sleep through the night at different ages, and mine was very high needs during the baby/toddler/young child era, so I don't mean to scare you. Yours might very well be ready to sleep through the night before mine was. My second slept through the night as a tiny newborn baby, so I had an extreme on that side as well. I just worry that a lot goes on during that 12 month age period that could cause you some real problems. I also feel like it's something better encouraged than forced.
Anyway, good luck!
As far as nightweaning, at 22 months I'm gently nudging her in that direction but she's resisting. I try to cuddle, offer water but often she insists and rather than a big fight, I let her and she's back to sleep MUCH quicker. She's down to 1-3 wakeups a night now and it has come from her growing and development rather than me changing things. There will be setbacks and anytime she needs more parenting at night, I comply and it blows over in a few weeks. The greatest thing we did was get a very low double bed for her where I nurse her down and get up once she's asleep. We don't sleep well together and this is the best of cosleeping and a crib for us. I don't know how moms nightwean before 18 months - maybe they have mellowed kiddos. Good luck but I honestly think laying down nursing on demand at night will be more restful than trying to nightwean if baby isn't tolerating it well.