Adventures in Night Weaning Continue
It’s been 10 nights since we implemented our night weaning plan (okay, it’s not really OUR plan, but Dr Jay Gordon’s that we committed to and then tweaked along the way). This morning I feel relatively confident in declaring the Doodle night weaned. The toddler hasn’t nursed at night for 7 days now. I think it’s going to be another 10-14 days to attain our other goals of limited night waking, accepting comfort from either mommy or mama, and more night space for us all with the Doodle sleeping in her own bed (ideally on her own, but we’re okay with just one of us for now).
So how did we get here? It wasn’t easy. It was pretty hard and led to many sleep-deprived days. Admittedly, I wanted to throw in the towel during days 5-8 as I had equated in my head that not nursing = more sleep immediately and it didn’t work like I thought it should from what I gathered from Dr. Gordon’s plan.
Nights 1-3. These are the nights where the baby can nurse on demand all-night long, however, you’re not supposed to allow her to fall asleep at the breast. The first two nights went better than expected and I thought we might night wean without a big fuss. She’s wake up, sign ‘milk’ or shout out ‘nunnas’ (her special word for nursing, nursing), I’d nurse her, then unlatch her, and she would roll over right to sleep. I think I was pretty tired so there may have been a few times where if the Doodle didn’t sleep right after nursing on her own, I’d let her re-latch and nurse some more and repeat the process. I don’t think that was part of the plan.
Full of confidence and bravado, we started night 3. I was dreading night 4, but in hindsight, night 3 was where the true pain began.
We’d nurse on demand when the Doodle woke up, and then I’d unlatch her to let her fall asleep on her own. She wasn’t having any of it. She was furious.
Sandwiched between Otto and I on her little full size bed, she’d kick, scream, flail, cry, hit, scratch and bite us. Her displeasure at the change in routine was obvious and she let her true feelings be known to both us and entire neighbourhood. It was awful. It happened several times that night and lasted a seemingly long time. Up to an hour at the first waking, and 20 or so minutes at subsequent wakings.
We woke up Sunday morning exhausted, but pleased that we managed to find alternate ways to soothe and comfort the Doodle. We were hopeful. And dreadfully scared of night 4.
Nights 4-6. These are the nights where the baby can nurse to sleep, nurse whenever she wants up until a set starting point (we chose 11pm) and not fall asleep at the boob, and then the kiddo is nursing-free for 7 hours (until 6am in our case), at which point nursing on demand can resume. For middle of the night wake ups, you can do whatever you want to comfort your babe. Rock, sing, pat, sush or hold. Whatever works.
Nights 4 and 5 were dreadful. Perhaps night 6, too. The Doodle was so angry and inconsolable when she woke up and we told her that ‘nunnas’ were sleeping. And that displeasure manifested in a complete meltdown and rage. She may possibly have inherited my temper.
As the Doodle raged on and on, she refuses to be touched or comforted. She lashes out while melting down into a puddle of tears. She pushes away your hands, shakes her head ‘no’ when you sing, all the while hitting, scratching and biting you. You’re trying to comfort her, meanwhile trying to maintain discipline around what is not a positive way to show your frustrations, at some crazy times like 11pm, 11:30pm, 12:30am, 1am, 1:15am, 1:50am, 3:45am, 4:45am and 5:30am.
When she finally calmed down at each waking, she’d throw her little body on top of yours and cling to you for dear life. Then you could hold, comfort, sing and settle her into a restless sleep. She moves from the extreme of not wanting to be touched to desperately needing to have every cell of her body connected to yours.
Those nights, Otto and I slept with a wriggly and squirmy toddler hat, toddler neck warmer and toddler breastplate armor. Sometimes it was face-to-face, and some times it was feet-to-face. The only guarantee was that you’d get hit or kicked in a squirming fit that would flare up just as you were about to go back to sleep.
Over these three days, the number of night wakings decreased and the time awake at each one seemed to be consistent. She was still horribly inconsolable and violent at each waking. She was desperate for her ‘nunnas.’ After four nights of pretty much no sleep, on the heels of 16 months of poor sleep, Otto and I were exhausted. I was ready to throw in the towel. I was ready to go back to the old way of doing things.
That’s when Otto sat me down and let me know that the Doodle hadn’t nursed at night for three nights and that was a success. She wasn’t sleeping more, or through the night yet, and night weaning didn’t mean that she’d never wake up when the moon was in the sky again. I needed to be patient and trust that sleep would come.
Nights 7-9 and 10. This is where we tweaked Dr. Gordon’s plan. As we were about to hit night 7, this was the next transition were you weren’t supposed to touch the child at any night waking in hopes that the baby would have learned how to go back to sleep on their ownsome. If parent support was required, it was only to be via voice. A little song or a little hush. Just no touching.
The first change we made to the plan is that I decided there would be no more nursing at night after she was nursed to sleep. The Doodle is notorious for waking up in the first part of the night and wanting to nurse again. She was up 1 or 2 times (sometimes upwards of 4 times) before 11 pm because I think she was getting that’s the time when she could get milk. It was also making things more difficult later on at night.
Her receptive language skills are great and I know when I was saying, “It’s dark, the ‘nunnas’ have gone to sleep” and that it didn’t make sense that she could wake up at 9 or 10 pm when it was still dark and get ‘nunnas’. So once she went to sleep, that was it for the nursing until the sun came up again in the morning. Starting at night 8, she only would wake for the first time after 11 pm. This was a good thing.
The second change we made is that we decided that the Doodle wasn’t ready to move on to night 7 of the plan. She needed a few more nights where she should be touched and held and comforted after her initial meltdown. She’s always needed to touch one of us in sleep – she spent her first night in the world sleeping while swaddled on Otto’s chest – and the next step of the plan didn’t address what to do if she was the one touching us. Simply hearing us wasn’t enough comfort.
Nights 7 and 8 followed the same protocol as nights 3 to 6 and we were rewarded with fewer wakings and wakings of less panic and shorter in duration. We decided that I would be the one to respond and sleep with the Doodle these nights. We decided to keep this going and then night 9 happened.
Night 9. This is the night that things changed. This is the night when it all came together. When the Doodle woke at 11am, I went into her room to comfort her.
When she wakes up, she sits up in bed and cries some variation of mommee/mama on repeat until I come into the room.
The instant I walked into the room she grew quiet. I went to the side of her bed and sat down in the dark. Before I could find the covers to peel them back and crawl into bed with her, the Doodle launched forward to rest her head on my leg. She quickly fell asleep. No crying, no fussing and no asking to nurse. She was up for mere seconds.
She woke up once or twice during the night and the same pattern repeated itself. Once she knew I was there by reaching out and touching me, she simply fall back asleep. No muss, no fuss and no demand to nurse. It was beautifully awesome.
The Doodle had learned to put herself back to sleep.
Night 10. Since one of our other goals is for the Doodle to accept comfort from her mama at night, and to give Otto the chance to be involved in nighttime parenting, we decided that Otto would go in at her first waking. We were hopeful that she’d simply roll over and go back to sleep and I’d deal with the rest of the night wakings. This is change three from Dr. Gordon’s plan (we’re trying to move away from co-sleeping in our bed to sleeping only with one or none of us).
The Doodle woke up right on schedule at 11pm. Otto went in to soother her. The Doodle was not happy with this at all. Not one bit.
There was screaming, crying and tears. The Doodle shouted out mommeee on repeat. She got off her bed and clawed at the bedroom door. This seemed to go on for an eternity. In reality, it was around 15 heartbreaking minutes where both Otto and I struggled in different rooms. She wouldn’t let Otto comfort her by touch. I could only shudder at the torture I was doling out to my kid and send Otto positive “be strong” vibes through the shared bedroom walls.
It got quiet in the other room and I fell asleep waiting for Otto to come back to bed somewhere between 11:30 and 12:00 pm.
Then I woke at 5:30 am. Otto was still sleeping with the Doodle. Mr. Mooster was curled at my feet. The birds were chirping outside my window. And the house was quiet.
I got out of bed at 6:00 am and poked my head in to check on both Otto and the Doodle. The Doodle was sound asleep lying sideways on the bed with her feet jammed into Otto’s ribs.
The sound of the door opening woke Otto up and she gave me a silent fist pump. Not only had she got the baby down, she had got the baby down for the night. The Doodle hadn’t woken up again. The Doodle had slept through the night.
Otto and I crept down the stairs to enjoy the stillness of our house on an early Saturday morning. The Doodle joined us at 7:10 am.
Our toddler slept for 7 consecutive, uninterrupted hours last night. The first time in 515 days. And she didn’t even ask to nurse one time.