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Nightweaning questions

I know, I know, sleep post.

So we're thinking we're ready to nightwean our 18 month old. I actually think she is probably ready and I am hopeful that it won't be a total nightmare. I've been 'not offering, not refusing' for a few months now.

She is still nursing, but goes to daycare full time (8 hours/day, 5 days/week, since 12 months old) and drinks only milk or water there. Right now, she doesn't usually nurse on the way to daycare, nurses a lot on the way home from daycare, then doesn't nurse again until bedtime. I don't nurse her right to sleep, but to drowsy and she rolls over and falls asleep when she's done (most nights). She goes to sleep in her own room on a floor bed, which we started at around a year (co-sleeping the whole night before that). Most nights, she doesn't wake again until between midnight and 4am, at which point I'll bring her to our bed and nurse her, again not all the way to sleep. If she wakes up before midnight, I don't nurse her (unless we really cannot get her back to sleep otherwise). Once she's in bed with us, she will usually wake up 1-3 more times before I get out of bed at 6:30ish.

This is actually a huge improvement over where she was even 6 months ago (up 5-6 times most nights) but we're both starting to feel the affects of 18 months (+4 or so months before that for me, due to the how often I woke up to pee while pregnant) of crappy sleep. I know that nightweaning doesn't always mean sleeping better but it seems like it *often* does so we're willing to give it a shot.

We're planning on using the Jay Gordon method as a guide, but instead of his 11-6am schedule, I want to aim for no nursing from bedtime until...I don't know, 5 or so I guess. Since she doesn't usually wake up before 11pm anyway, this seems like it'd fit us best. I think I can handle her coming to bed with us in the early morning for nursing if I haven't been doing it all night.

Ok so my questions:

1. Does this schedule seem reasonable, any feedback on the jay gordon method, etc?

2. The Jay Gordon thing doesn't mention giving water or anything instead, but it seems like a lot of people swear by that (that eventually, the kid will realize that water isn't worth getting up for I guess?). My wife will be on night-duty and I'll sleep on the couch through this, and she thinks giving her water (or maybe a sippy of warm cow's milk?) will help. I'm wondering if it'll just reinforce that 'night time is ok for eating' instead of 'night time is for sleeping' that we're aiming for here. Thoughts?

3. How can I avoid the guilt I'm feeling over trying to cut back on nursing??? I want to go for 2 years but I'm feeling soooo tired of it sometimes, obviously not ready to wean her totally but I do want to cut back. But then...guilt. Help? Resources for making me feel good for going this long?


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 1st, 2012 07:32 pm (UTC)
We nightweaned at 14.5 months with no problems whatsoever using the Gordon method. I suspect you'll find it a lot easier than you think.

We did not offer water. He wasn't thirsty/hungry at night, he was waking because that was what he was used to, as much as anything. I nursed him a lot during the day.
Nov. 1st, 2012 07:50 pm (UTC)
Don't feel guilty. Bringing nursing to a manageable level is what allows one to extended nurse. Babyhood doesn't last forever. There is no need for the sleep deprivation to either.

I tried to nightwean my daughter around 15 months when I was expecting #2. It was too soon, but although the first couple nights were rough, it was worth it. However, it didn't truly stick until around 2.25 years. My son was a great sleeper. I don't remember consciously nightweaning him. I told him no, rubbed him and rolled over. That was it.
Nov. 1st, 2012 09:25 pm (UTC)
I don't know the Jay Gordon method, but we did keep a sippy cup of water in the bedroom while we were nightweaning and my spouse offered it sometimes if cuddling or soothing didn't seem to be working. It really helped a few times. I think there are times when a kid (especially one who is used to night time nursing) really does get thirsty and it wakes them up or keeps them awake. At 18 mos your son might even be old enough to articulate that.

Having/offering the sippy didn't seem to hurt the nightweaning process at all (we did it when my son was 14-15 months because I got pregnant and couldn't take the nipple pain at night).

We basically did no nursing from bedtime (8:30ish) to wake up (7ish). Before we started he was probably nursing 3ish times a night. Within days he slept through the night for the first time ever. It was probably a week or so of rough nights with lots of crying. Then another week or two where things went back and forth (some easy nights, some with a wake up here or there). Then we were done. It's hard, but so worth it.

And congratulations for nursing this long, especially contending with daycare! I understand the guilt, I felt terrible when I had to cut back, but here's the thing -- at least for me, nightweaning allowed me the respite I desperately needed to be able to keep nursing during the day. Even though I lost my milk supply in the first trimester, my son is still nursing (I'm 35 wks pregnant, he's 22 mos old). If I hadn't nightweaned, I don't think I would be. Once you're nursing a toddler I think it's important to keep in mind that it's a two-way relationship and your needs for sleep are really important too. Good luck!
Nov. 1st, 2012 09:30 pm (UTC)
We did a Jay Gordonish thing and offered a choice of water or cuddles-- she'd quickly learn to ask for one, or for neither, and fall back asleep. We still bedshare though, so that bit was different... but if your daughter requires someone to be in the room with her when she falls back asleep, that's similar enough to our situation.

Making breastfeeding a more mother-led experience has made me more, not less enthusiastic about it. It feels much better, more sustainable now that we only do it twice a day or so, sometimes only before bedtime.
Nov. 1st, 2012 10:21 pm (UTC)
You know your child. If you think she is waking thirsty I'd offer her water. If not, don't. My daughter didn't care for it when she night weaned but drinks water at night now. I definitely wouldn't do cow's milk unless you are going to get her up and brush her teeth then.
Nov. 2nd, 2012 02:09 am (UTC)
Water was key to night weaning for us at 15 months. My son was truly thirsty when he woke up, and most of the time he was happy with water and snuggles from daddy. Our night weaning method was to offer nursing only after he wasn't satisfied with water/cuddles. We still kept our family bed (although my husband started sleeping in the middle instead of me), and I don't think the process took more than a few weeks. We always put his water sippy in the same place, and he just learned to start grabbing it himself, have a drink, and fall back asleep without needing to involve us.
Nov. 3rd, 2012 01:53 am (UTC)
We used the jay Gordon method successfully at age 2. I had tried previously at around 19 months, but we were both not ready and there were a lot of tears and i gave up. Tried again when DS was just over two and it worked. Reduced his nightwakings to once or none at all from sometimes 4-5 times a night! I did offer water, and my son would take it occasionally. I wouldn't do milk - I would feel like I have to brush his teeth after.

Don't feel guilty!! You need to do what is best for you too. Night weaning doesn't mean weaning! My son nursed till almost 3.5 years old and I loved every minute of our nursing relationship.
Nov. 3rd, 2012 02:14 am (UTC)
I know I've responded to your posts a million times because we're on each other's FL and our sleep situation is so similar.

Anyway, I've found that we're sort of at a "wall" with getting beyond a 7-hour stretch. I don't know if 7 hours is his limit or if he just is acclimated to it . We started with 6 and it sort of naturally moved to 7 but doesn't seem to be naturally moving to 8...

In any case, it sounds like your schedule is reasonable.

I'm somewhat disappointed in that the initial better sleep that came from doing it seems to come and go, but overall it's still better than it was before we did it so I don't regret it or think it was the wrong method or anything.

(hugs) Don't feel guilty. Keep reminding yourself that your child will have opportunities to make up the calories during the day and that you'll make sure she isn't hungry/thirsty going to bed-- and that a happier, less tired mom will be a better mom than one who is totally worn out!
Nov. 5th, 2012 02:36 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much. Reading your chronicles about sleep has been so comforting....since it seems like so many of my 'real life' friends just "have to" cry it out as soon as they can with their kids...all I get from them is pitying looks and nothing useful.

Yeah, just keep focusing on the long term gains...last night was the first night I've actually had to refuse her, and it was hard but not nearly as hard as I thought it would be actually. I think because I know she's ready and she can understand me when I say 'time for sleeping' (to some extent anyway). Since we've started, she's been waking up more than before but I think part of that is that I realized this morning she cut yet another tooth. So I'm hopeful that once that settles down, she might get back to where she was. But yeah, it's not linear...two steps forward, one step back...as long as we're moving forward it's progress, right? :)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )


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