It’s that time again. The night weaning time has come. I wish I could feed for as long as my children wanted. I wish lack of sleep didn’t impact so heavily on my mood and ability to function. But it does and there comes a time when everyone needs more sleep.
Both my eldest two children fed a lot during the night. A lot. I was feeding every 40 minutes. Which means awake every 40 minutes. I tried to follow a gentle route with Joseph. I saw how much he relied on me to get back to sleep even if it wasn’t for long. I wrote routines up and affirmations around the bedroom. But it wasn’t working and if anything it was prolonging it and making him more frustrated. He didn’t understand that between certain times in the night I wouldn’t feed him because night was just night to him. Also unlatching him before he fell asleep resulted in screaming too. The books I read were not working so this is was what I did:
Pick a Date
I think it was important to pick a time to do it that suited everyone and enabled me to have the most help. School holidays were alway the obvious choice as my husband was off work and could therefore give me the chance to have a nap in the day should it be needed. It also needed to be when the baby wasn’t poorly or teething.
So I decided that cold turkey was the only way to go. Joseph and Alice were 14 months and I spent three days telling them that they were stopping having milk from mummy at night. I’m not sure how much it sunk in or if they understood what I meant but it made me feel better that I had at least warned them. I would feed Joseph to sleep and again told him that when he woke there wouldn’t be milk. When he then woke 1/2 hour or so later I told him again and laid with him (he was on a floor bed which made this easier) he was upset then down right angry. I was pummelled and screamed at and he cried and cried. I felt awful but I didn’t leave him. I rocked, stroked, sang, patted, I did everything else other than letting him feed. In the end he did fall asleep and inevitably woke again and we went through the same thing. It was tiring and heart wrenching. It would have been very easy to just lift my top up and give him what he wanted but it wouldn’t have been fair for anyone.
It took two nights of this and then on the third night he sort of understood. He had water in a sports bottle which he could sip at in the night if he needed a drink. We cuddled most of the night and he began sleeping for longer stretches. It gave me a chance to sleep too and then slowly slowly I had the strength to crawl back into my own bed once I had got him back to sleep.
This was the same pattern with Alice.
It wasn’t until much later on, once we were all comfortable with the sleeping situation, that we stopped the falling asleep feed and introduced Daddy. For 18 months it was only me who could get them to sleep but with a baby being born in a couple of months I knew I needed back up. I wouldn’t manage putting a toddler and a newborn to sleep on my own. I know some people use their partners when they night wean as it means the baby doesn’t have the milk smell and the association but I always felt it was another thing to get used to. Another change that was huge in the child’s life. It worked for us and it will do again.
Three times round I’ve learnt it’s the long game. There are no quick fixes. Babies don’t sleep (well not ours anyway) but they will do eventually. Now Joseph and Alice are brilliant sleepers. There is light at the end of the tunnel!
In the time it had taken me to write this blog post (seriously it’s been days and days) Jude has self weaned. He’s only having one feed a night and is content with cuddles. It has been the most painless night weaning I’ve done! He is sleeping longer stretches and this means I am too. Woohoo! It just goes to show that every baby is different and there isn’t a one fit all solution. You do what you have to do in the most respectful way you can.