Night-Weaning Our Little One
There has been a lot more sleeping and a lot less nursing in our home lately. During the Thanksgiving weekend, we night-weaned our Little One, who is now 19 months. We had tried to do it before, but it did not work out. A little later, she started sleeping better again and we made peace with the unpredictability of sleep in babies and toddlers. Then we traveled and had a generally crazy month and sleep went down the drain again. She was waking up every couple of hours and frequently took 30 minutes to nurse back down. Her crib was broken by this point, and she slept on a double mattress on the floor. Often with me right beside her. My back and that mattress are not friends.
After speaking with her very AP friendly pediatrician, we settled on a plan to attempt night-weaning. This was already different than before: last time, we determined to night-wean. This time, we were attempting it, seeing whether she was ready to do it, and prepared to stop if she wasn’t. We purchased a Good Nite Lite and in the days leading up to using it we talked about the moon, sun, night, and day. We read books about babies and children sleeping, and talked about how they slept in their own beds, using their own blankie, and how their mommy was sleeping in mommy’s bed. Each conversation ended with “and soon you’ll be a big girl and you’ll sleep in your own bed too, and mommy will sleep in her own bed.” She solemnly nodded at this point, as if promising me she’d try, trusting me to lovingly tend to her as she needed it, even with this new way of doing things.
When the Good Nite Lite arrived, the Little One immediately took a liking to it. She recognized it as a moon and we practiced closing our eyes. Then it was time to go set up her room together. We worked hard, removing the double mattress (b/c Little One will have her own bed and mommy will sleep in her own bed). We brought in her crib mattress, a pretty rug with flowers, a night-stand for her books and a couple of stuffed animals, and her doll’s cradle. Little One now had her own “room” within the larger room she shares with her brother and sister. She was delighted. We plugged in the nightlight and practiced going to bed. We talked about how her bed was too small for mommy, and when the moon was up we would not nurse. We would nurse once the sun came up. After practicing, she rocked her baby in the cradle, then we read books, and finally she arranged and re-arranged the stuffed animals. After one more practice session, we were ready.
That night, I was supposed to get her to sleep, knowing that MrH would gladly switch with me if the not nursing thing got too hard. We nursed downstairs on the couch, then went upstairs to get into pajamas, brush teeth, and read some books. Little One asked to rock and sing her baby-doll to sleep so we did. The moon came on at 7:10 and we turned off the lights, re-hashing the same conversation we’d had all afternoon. She asked to nurse once and I said “when the sun comes up we’ll nurse again.” She snuggled up with me, I held her in my arms and she fell asleep, at which point I placed her gently in her little bed. She snuggled in and… was asleep. We were done by 7:23. I felt like doing a jig, this far surpassed all possibilities I’d imagined!
That’s a week and a half ago now, and while we have had some tears, it’s been nothing like our last experience. For a few nights, she cried for daddy. Big tears streaming down her chubby cheeks, truly wanting him. But as soon as we traded, she cried the same big crocodile tears for me. We played the switching game for a little while and then decided that was done. She went to sleep shortly after. There have been a few very early mornings, and her current preferred wake-up time is 6am, 45 minutes earlier than we prefer. A few times she woke up during the night and needed a parent to sleep on the floor next to her before she finally fell asleep an hour later. Was that frustrating? Yes. Are things more manageable than they were? Yes.
She currently just wakes up once or twice during the night and generally settles back down easily. She’s happy when MrH or I show up (which means I’m only doing one of the two wake-ups!) and continues to love both the moon and her “room.” She also nurses many more times during the day, which is just fine by me for now. During our last experience, many moms said “she must just not be ready, try again in a few months.” That was not what I wanted to hear because all the “experts” in their books and articles said that their method would work within a few days. But of course the moms were right. This time, our Little One was ready and the difference between the two experiences is mind-blowing. Yet another affirmation that we must be (and are) the experts on our own children, and that listening to them and trusting them allows them to develop and grow in ways that minimize the associated stress and anxiety.