night weaning

We were having a lazy morning and all of a sudden it was 10am with no plan- so I decided to take E to the zoo. I guess that recent gorilla incident had me thinking about the zoo and we hadn’t been since E was a baby and way too little to appreciate it. Interestingly, when I asked him which animal he wanted to see most, he said “gorilla.” They were fun to watch, especially one that was spinning like a whirling dirvish. It would be virtually impossible to fall into their enclosure due to floor to ceiling windows from the viewing areas. (I must say, though, that for marginally supervised kids, there are a gazillion ways to get into serious trouble in most areas of the zoo. I think it’s kind of like Yosemite- much more “at your own risk” than you might think.)

This weekend, I’ve been pushing nap time and he’s been successfully transferring from the car! Lucky me- he is snoozing away and I just chopped all the fruit in the house and started the laundry. Now I can catch you up on night weaning.

I’ve been hemming and hawing about weaning for a while now, feeling paralyzed, resistant, unsure. Yet having the sense that at two years old we could stand to dial it back. Advice coming from a variety of trusted sources didn’t resonate. I set up a dinner date with my doula. Through pregnancy, she encouraged me to trust my intuition that I know best and don’t need to turn to books and experts. Yet I was struggling to get the right frequency on my intuition. It’s hard to get all the answers from within- to know what you need and what your kiddo needs…probably even more so without a co-parent. Sometimes you just need someone to reflect back what they’re hearing from you.

So, we went out for sushi, with E who really liked it. He let us talk while he worked on his chopsticks (aka drumming) skills. I laid it out for her- and I heard myself saying that I’m a natural mama, I’ve always breastfed on demand, my impulse is to just roll with it. I don’t want to impose limits on this or force him to slow his roll. I heard it. I heard it more the way she heard it, or the way I wasn’t hearing it, and it really helped.

I paused, and she said wisely, ‘K. In parenting, there are going to be many times when you’re going to have to say “no” and E isn’t going to like it.’

Lights went on in my mind. But I was a little defensive, like, “I know, totally, yes- I’m good at saying no! In other areas! Just not… this one. This one seems different somehow.” But even as I was talking, I realized that it’s not all that different. He’s not nursing for survival anymore. And I do get a vote here.

The most helpful thing she made me realize is that this isn’t just about withholding- I’m helping him learn to sleep through the night. And, let’s be honest- I really would love to sleep through the night. She said, “You wouldn’t let him wear Velcro shoes forever- you would help him learn to tie his laces.” I’ve been believing that nature would or should handle this, and it does for some kids. But this kid is going to take full advantage as long as the buffet is open.

I didn’t start right away. I ordered a book called “Nursies When the Sun Shines,” which is good for co-sleeping breastfeeding moms of toddlers- beautiful watercolors, simple messages about nursies going to sleep when the sun goes down. There is a dad in the bed too but he doesn’t factor into the actual words, interestingly. (Maybe I’ll write the one for co-sleeping breastfeeding SINGLE moms of toddlers- although something tells me this would be quite the niche market.)

I started talking to E about light/daytime and dark/nighttime, not knowing if any of it was getting through. I tried to read him the book- he sat through it once and now will have nothing to do with it. Truth be told, I think he totally gets what I’m saying and wants to ignore it! He’s never said no to any other book.

Friday night was Night One. I was nervous. I went to sleep with him at 8pm and woke up around 2am. I laid there thinking, “What are the chances that this is the night he sleeps through?” and, of course, it wasn’t. He woke up and, as usual, asked to nurse. The second he got denied, he cried hard, saying “no, no, no, no, no.” I don’t know if this is because it’s the first time I’ve outright denied him (I’ve definitely paused before) or because he was disappointed that “the nursies were sleeping.” I listened closely, analyzing to see if the cry was different from, say, when I don’t allow him to bring his tricycle in the car on the way to school. It was. It was a more soulful cry. Or maybe he was just sleepy. I didn’t cry. I felt like a scientist, watching and waiting, trying to soothe him different ways. He rolled to the other side of the bed for a while, putting space between us. Then he came back and figured out how to snuggle with me with our heads together, quiet with his eyes open, eyeball to eyeball. It wasn’t easy but it definitely wasn’t the end of the world. I told him a story. He relaxed and went to sleep. He woke a few hours later, whimpered, and went back to sleep in two minutes.

Last night was Night Two and I felt so much more conviction. Once you invest the work you don’t want to undo it. This doesn’t feel as sad as I thought it would. I’m teaching how to sleep through the night. He woke again around 2am and went in and out of whimpering (never full-on crying) for maybe 15-20 minutes with snoozing in between. I think that was it. He was on the boob like white on rice in the morning. I think he’ll get the daytime/nighttime distinction quickly.

Nursing to sleep at bedtime isn’t working well lately. He keeps saying “other side” eight times over the course of an hour and then sits up and tells me something about excavators, diggers, and bulldozers in a fully awake voice. And cement trucks and crane trucks. He needs to learn how to fall asleep at bedtime too- but we’ll take this one step at a time.

Like everything else! xo





9 thoughts on “night weaning”

  1. Once again our lives align. Eli is all about the other side and then sitting up and telling me things in a fully awake voice. We only once fell asleep sans boob. I sang to him. It never happened again. I have also told him hat the memes are sleeping but then he signs “please” with his sweet little whimper and how can I resist that? It’s like my kryptonite! But alas he nursed from 1am-7am pretty much nonstop last night. I barely slept! Something HAS to give. Yet going to sleep nursing doesn’t really bother me bc he almost always falls asleep quickly and he LOVeS bedtime and nap time so we never have a fight there. But the “when it’s dark no memes” thing is a great idea. Ugh. Can’t we just nurse until he’s like 8? Haha!

    1. We go through such similar phases at the same times! We have to stay in touch forever! This is night Three and we both slept from bedtime till 3am, he woke and asked to nurse, I said nursies sleeping, and he rolled over, yawned, and went back to sleep. He’s getting it quickly. So relieved!

      1. So lucky. After our day hiking in the mountains E slept from 9:30-4:45 without waking last night. I am unable to sleep that long anymore so i woke at 12:45 and watched him sleep! He has NeVER slept that long in his life! So technically he didn’t Nurse from bedtime until almost sun up. Small steps! So glad he is getting it! It gives me hope!!!!!

  2. Amazing! I think he’s catching on really quickly. And I love the deep thought about not letting Velcro forever. Habits and what we are used to are not the same as deep needs, are they? Still, even reading about weaning make me tense. I think the scientific observer of transition is a great model. Much less wrenching and distressing. Love, Wig

  3. I’ve just found your blog – it’s a great read! I’m a SMC to a 14-month-old girl. Thank you so much for sharing about your experiences with night weaning. Based on your post, I have requested that my local library orders “Nursies when the sun shines”. It sounds like a very good resource. Cheers!

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