Oh! Sleeping Children!
I just finished night weaning my third child. It was by far the smoothest weaning process of the three. Here are some "take home tips" to possibly help you the first time around…
Only a couple of months ago, my good friend was embarking on night weaning and her daughter is the same age as mine. As she told me she was going to night wean, it was as if her words were being transmitted through an old-fashioned "cup and string"; I was no where near ready to night wean. If my baby woke to nurse, usually 1-2 times a night, I knew I wasn't ready to say, "no."
And then, my daughter hit 18-months and displayed the kind of daytime cognisance that let me know she would be ready to comprehend the limits of the new arrangement.
The decision to night wean will most likely be momma-led. There is an intuitive, non-verbal, ancient art at work between you and your baby. You need to feel that internal knowing that your baby will be ready to go back to sleep with out nursing before you start the process. You have to feel okay with this.
If you are waivering at all internally, you won't be able to say "no" when you're baby protests. Or you will say "no" one night and "oh, go ahead" the next night and any progress gained will be lost.
Do not start the weaning process until you are totally clear that you want your baby to "nurse during the day" and "sleep at night"; this is the mantra you will repeat to your baby and to yourself and you have to believe it and be at peace with it or it will be impossible to enforce.
If you are unsure internally for any reason ("they are so young," "they just had a new baby sister," "I've been working more during the day," "they are teething," "they were just sick," "it's the holidays," "we're on vacation," "they deserve to nurse whenever they want," "I like feeling so close at night," or "I'm not ready for them to 'grow up' this way") you will most likely cave when they protest.
Once you have made your decision and you are at peace and feel entirely comfortable with the concept of "nighttime is for sleeping, daytime is for nursing" you are ready to go.
Grab some kind of bottle, sippie-cup, or thermos filled with water and place this near the bed. You can offer this just in case they are waking for thirst.
Tell your baby during the day about your plans and your expectations: "I love you so much. I love nursing you, it gives me comfort and joy to be with you in that way. And, there's something you may not know, but nighttime is actually for sleeping and letting our bodies rest. We are going to do this from now on and save all our nursing for the day. If you awaken in the night, I will rub your back and stroke your hair and kiss your cheeks and ask you to please lay down, close your eyes and go back to sleep. We will nurse first thing in the morning but we will not nurse at night."
And then, do so. If your baby awakens and cries and whines and grabs at your shirt, just stay clear and aligned with your clear intension of "nighttime is for sleeping, daytime is for nursing," and follow through with this.
Some moms leave the bed and have their husband or partner take over when it's time to night wean. Whatever works. For me, personally, I always felt like it was too much to lose both the breastfeeding and me, the mom, all in one swoop. I night-weaned all three of my children while comforting them. With my first daughter, I walked her in a sling so she'd have the comfort of me and the sling; after 3 nights of this, she stopped waking at 1am to nurse. For babies #2 and #3, I night weaned in bed, with the help of my husband who was in the bed, helping to soothe back to sleep, which helped tremendously.
Remember, if you're going to night wean, wait until you are really ready. Then try to choose a week with as much stability and consistency as possible; night weaning is usually a trying process and you'll need extra reserves. But, once you're through it, your baby gets it and nursing at night is over (as long as YOU stay consistent.)
We are on Day Six here. My 18-month old is still waking once a night but she is quick to go back to sleep. She has her last feeding at 7:30/8pm when I nurse her to sleep and then she nurses first thing in the morning at 6:30am. (Generally, 5am and on is considered "morning" when it comes to night-weaning.)
Enjoy the ride, sweet mommas. It is a small moment in time in the big picture. Feel free to share any tips or stories in the comments section.
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About Jessica Williams
Jessica Williams created L.O.V.E. Parenting with a series of techniques for effective communication, deepened connection and more joy in parenting and life. Jessica is also the creator of www.UltimateParentingCourse.com with the best of today's progressive parenting experts together in one program. Jessica is a featured expert internationally on both Mothering.com's Ask An Expert and the upcoming www.KidsInTheHouse.com. Jessica is a regular contributor to Mothering Magazine's All Things Mothering, LA Parent Magazine, LA Mom Magazine & DailyBuzzMoms. She has been interviewed on television and radio and taught workshops at family wellness centers, schools and doctor's offices. Her BirthKit has helped women have a transformational & empowering birth. Jessica maintains a private coaching practice in her native Los Angeles where she lives with her husband and their three children. "Truly amazing woman. I love her advice."-Carrie-Anne Moss. "All you have shared has helped tremendously."-Lisa Bonet. "I am experiencing nothing short of a miracle thanks to your laser beam approach." -Andrea Bendewald.
Posted by: Jessica Williams
Last revised by: Jessica Williams on November 23, 2010.