Weaning is the most terrifying thought for any mom. I extended breastfeeding after he turned one. He is 26 months old now and still breastfed. What has changed is that I don’t feed him to sleep anymore and he is completely night weaned 🙂 This smiley does not justify my happiness because I never thought this day would ever arrive. Night weaning has been a blessing for us and I am loving these long sleep hours. My son loves nursing, sometimes for comfort, alright ! most of the times for comfort and sometimes when the teething troubles begin. In this blog post, I will share my journey to night weaning and why I stopped nursing my kid to sleep.
The night it all began
Ayu fell ill after his second birthday and had bad cold and cough. I used to nurse him while lying down during night feeds and I couldn’t do that because his nose was blocked. I used to get up, put him in my lap and nurse him to sleep. It became troublesome after 2-3 nights because the cold wasn’t getting any better and he woke up several times at night. One fine night I told him that I am not going to get up to nurse him and he must sleep on his own. He cried for 10-15 minutes and to my surprise turned his back towards me and went off to sleep. That is when i realised that he is capable of putting himself to sleep, he just wants to nurse for comfort. After that night, I reduced his night feeds. I did not nurse him till it was 4 hours till the last feed and gradually increased this duration.
The journey to night weaning
I read about the Dr. Jay Gordon’s night weaning method when Ayu was around 18 months old. But somehow I was not ready to wean him off at that time. Also I was confused how the child would understand the difference between day breastfeeding and night weaning. You can say my method was inspired by his … but I did not follow the steps mentioned in his blog line by line. You can try it that way if your child is younger. Ayu is at an age where he does understand most of the things, so I did not need to follow the steps and I abruptly stopped feeding after he slept till the next morning.
Night weaning our way
I introduced a new lullaby to him so that he associated it with bedtime. While getting him ready for bed, I kept telling him that mama will not feed you to sleep. We will nurse and then mama will sing rhymes and you will go to sleep. I made the bed room pitch dark and told him that its night and we will now nurse when the sun comes up. After unlatching, he used to protest to nurse while lying down because he was always used to sleeping that way. So, it was challenging the first few nights. Initially it took 1- 1.5 hours to just put him to sleep.
But after a week, it got better, he stopped demanding milk while dozing off. He would climb up on me and sometimes sleep on my chest. And on some nights the cycle of lying down on the bed and on my chest would go on for 2-3 times before he slept off. In the first week, he woke up several times at night to feed, but I repeated the same thing. There were a lot of tears and yelling but it got better every night. He understood by the end of the first week that I wouldn’t nurse him at night so he stopped demanding. It has been two weeks now and he has totally stopped breastfeeding at night. He does wake up 1-2 times but I pat him back to sleep.
Tricks that worked for us
- Introducing a new lullaby. This also helps because Ayu can recite most of his rhymes and he started singing with me while I was putting him to sleep. So I changed the lullabies. Nowadays, I recite mantras.
- Teaching the concept of day and night. Whenever Ayu wakes up, he checks if there is light outside. And only then demands to be fed.
- Story telling. I tell him short stories and then ask him to try to sleep. Do not spend a lot of time in telling stories or singing lullabies because then it distracts you from your actual mission. Keep a set time for these two. Once I see that Ayu is taking too much time to sleep, I just pretend to sleep with him and stop talking. He sleeps within minutes.
- Breaking the association of nursing with sleep. This should have actually been the first point. The whole idea of sleep training is to break the association of nursing with sleeping. The child feels that he would not be able to sleep without nursing and thus cries till he is fed. Nurse the child and then try to put him to sleep. Do not let him sleep on the breast. You may pick him up and walk around or rock him in the bed. Whatever feels comfortable in fine. But once this works, you need to let him sleep on his own on the bed. Just lie down with him and talk/sing.
- Patience !!! This requires a lot of patience from you. You might feel like giving up and nursing your child to sleep the very second day itself. But the key is to be determined. This will be very challenging emotionally, but remember why you are doing it in the first place.
- I had initially started putting Ayu down for nap in the afternoon in a similar way. But it was very time consuming.
- My plan was to wean him off completely before school but then I realised I was taking away too much in too little time. He is already going to school since a week and demands to be fed during the day. I am fine with this because I want him to feel comfortable with the new change in his life. He sleeps through the night. So the night weaning hasn’t been affected.
- I plan to continue this for at least a month before attempting total wean off. I wouldn’t rush after a month too, will analyse his situation, and then decide if he is ready or not.
Please feel free to ask your queries in comments below, I would be glad to help you all out 🙂