Night Weaning Begins
When the Doodle was born, I thought we’d nurse for about a year. As that year progressed, I realized that we could, should and would nurse for longer. I relished breastfeeding and nourishing my baby. The Doodle is now 16.5 months, and having just returned from a 2 week family vacation, we’re nursing more than ever.
The Doodle has been breastfed for 1 year, 4 months, 2 weeks and 3 days. That’s 505 consecutive days.
This also means that I haven’t slept through the night for 505 consecutive days. And by sleeping through the night I don’t mean 8 or more hours. I mean 5 consecutive hours. I can count the number of times on one hand in the last 505 days that the Doodle has slept for 5 straight hours.
Otto and I have decided that I’m going to join the tribe of those who are attempting and will be successful at getting more sleep. We’re hoping to join Little Pomegranate Seed, Insert Metaphor, and Mama and Mummy in the land of those who are more well-rested.
I’ve become surprising functional in my sleep deprivation. I’m not as sharp or as quick as I once was. I’m certainly not as efficient. But I’m still pretty darn okay. I just want to be great again. I want to be able to do more than think about when I’ll have the opportunity to commune with my bed again.
The Doodle isn’t ready to wean. I’m not either. Although, I’m getting myself ready. I’d be sad, but not totally wrecked, if the Doodle self-weaned entirely today. I’m more than ready, however, to not be at the beck and call of the toddler all night long. Now that teething is past us with the exception of her 2 year molars, and she’s not sick, I think that she’s capable of night weaning. I think she’s ready to night wean.
Like so many before us, we’re going to try a gentle method and use Dr. Jay Gordon’s approach. Cry it out doesn’t work for us, and it doesn’t work for the Doodle. She’s one of those babies that gets more agitated and worked up when she cries.
This is about more than the all night nursing for our family. I’m tired of being the only one who can soothe the Doodle at night because I’m the only one who has boobs with milk. We’ve tried to get better sleep solutions over the past 16 months and nothing seems to make an iota of a difference. The only thing that has made a difference to her sleep thus far is time.
As much as sleep is still a challenge, it’s so much better than it was. We’ve gone from 20 minute naps that could only be taken while in arms or touching another human being to sleeping independently in a bed. The Doodle usually naps once a day for 2 hours at a time, but sometimes it’s as little as 45 minutes and sometimes it’s long as 3+ hours.
At night we’ve gone from waking every 40 minutes for the first 2-4 hours to sleeping 2-3 hours straight, followed by 2-3 wakings at scattered intervals throughout the night.
It’s better, but it’s far from ideal.
Aside from getting more sleep, Otto needs and wants to be more involved in the sleep routine and night-time soothing. Right now the Doodle gets so frustrated when someone else comes in to soothe her at night that she bites them (after inconsolably screaming her head off)! This ends up in very few date nights (who am I kidding, Otto and I have been out twice in the evening together in the last 16 months and it was for a work thing) and evenings where one of us has to solo parent can be quite stressful.
We’ve also moved from co-sleeping to having the Doodle sleep in her own bed and we need to make that transition final (we’d love to co-sleep if we could get a bigger bed, but alas a king won’t fit in our room). While the Doodle hasn’t come back into our bed at night since moving to a big girl bed, I often end up falling asleep next to her when I go in to nurse her back to sleep after the first waking. We’re all getting more space in our beds, and better sleep overall, but sleeping with the Doodle isn’t a long-term solution. I’d prefer to sleep with Otto.
Tonight is the third night of our weaning plan. The twist is that we’ve decided to also couple it with moving the Doodle to her own bed and learning to sleep independently.
The first three nights of the plan involve letting the baby nurse whenever she wants all day long and up until 11pm. She can even nurse to sleep. After 11pm, she can still nurse on demand, but not fall asleep at the breast. I also then have to stay awake till she falls asleep and then try to sneak back to my own room.
So far, the change in the nursing relationship is going better than expected. The Doodle is okay with not nursing to sleep. She’s woken up more times than usual in the past two nights. I nurse, unlatch, and then she rolls over to sleep by herself. Well, I think she’s not totally asleep but it’s pretty dark in her room and I have to listen for the sound of her breathing.
The hiccup that we’ve discovered is that the Doodle doesn’t like to sleep alone after these night wakings. The sleep doesn’t seem to be as deep or as restful as one that comes after falling asleep at the breast and it’s like we’re back to those early sleep days where she has to be touching someone to stay asleep.
I hear her breathing change and it’s sleep breathing. Only the instant I move, she pops up and we have to start the whole process over again.
We’re thinking that the weaning part may actually be easier than the getting her to sleep in her own bed part. But tomorrow will the true test. Tomorrow we stop nursing when the baby wakes up and Otto comes into the picture and we work together to soothe her without her beloved na-nas.