Night Weaning – What Life Looks Like One Month Later
It’s been a month since we started the night weaning process which I talked about in two earlier posts: how we were starting weaning here and how it went over the first 10 nights here. I thought that it would be interesting to talk about what nighttime looks like one month later.
The good news is that the Doodle doesn’t nurse at all in the night and doesn’t (usually) ask to nurse when she wakes up. She only asks to nurse if she’s hungry. She’s gotten quite good at putting herself back to sleep when she wakes up one or two times a night provided that either of us are in the room touching her. Note that I wrote either one of us can comfort her at night now (yay!). She sleeps in her own bed, but she’s not okay alone quite yet. We alternate every other night which mom sleeps with her. She’s slept through the night five times in the last month (which for us means no waking between the hours of 10 pm – 6 am).
Here’s some of the lessons we learned and what we’re still challenged by.
Night weaning ≠ sleeping through the night. During the early days of the night weaning process when I realized that no nursing at night didn’t mean the toddler would suddenly start sleeping through the night, I was devastated. Otto talked me off that ledge and convinced me to continue with the process.
The Doodle wakes up 1-2 times a night and surely would wake up more if she was sleeping in her room alone. Our next step in the process is that she’ll need to start learning to sleep on her own. What’s easy about the Doodle’s wake ups is that she cries, and usually shouts out Mama, and once one of us rushes in to her room and touches her, she immediately falls back asleep. The whole wake up lasts usually less than 10 seconds.
So while it’s not hugely disruptive, it’s just disruptive enough that you end up wide awake more often than not due to the huge adrenaline rush that accompanies being woken out of a dead sleep by a crying baby. I thought that night weaning would be a sleep miracle, and it hasn’t been.
That being said, in the past month, we’ve had a broken arm, a pretty yucky cold, a camping trip and transitions in the daycare room. So in another month, I think I’ll be better able to assess the impact of night weaning on sleep.
How much can that toddler eat? This kid loves to eat. I’m not sure if she’s in the midst of a growth spurt, or if she’s just lucked in to a speedy metabolism, but night weaning and the amount of consecutive sleep we get at night is definitely tied to daytime caloric intake.
I was genuinely surprised that the Doodle has woken up a few nights around 3 am calling out for ‘nunnas’ (her special nursing word) because she was actually hungry. Once we worked with her to communicate that she wants to eat we’ve taken her to the kitchen for her choice of a snack which has been toast. After she’s eaten her toast, she’ll happily go back up to bed, snuggle in to you and quickly fall back asleep. This has happened once with me and once with Otto.
We’re still grappling with how much food this kid can pack away. While we’re not entirely clear how much she eats at daycare during the day, yet she eats non-stop from the time we get home until the time she gets to bed. She’s going for about 8 hours without food and I guess that’s pretty good. If we could get her to 11 or 12 hours that would be awesome!
If she doesn’t wake up for a 3 or 4 am snack, she’s usually up between 5-6am asking for ‘nunnas.’ Sometimes I’ll cave at 5:30 am just so I can get another hour of sleep.
Nursing fiend. The Doodle still nurses on demand, and since we’re not together all day and I’m not pumping at work any more, we’re down to 3 nursing sessions a day. In the morning before work, she’ll nurse on both sides. Sometimes this is a dream feed and sometimes she’s wide awake and will stay that way for the day. She’s nursing after work on one side, and then before bed on the other.
The biggest change since night weaning has been the post-work feed. It’s no longer a 5 minute feed. It’s a 30+ minute comfort session. Cuddles without nursing won’t do. It has to be the combo. It’s nice to reconnect with the Doodle, but now that the kids are back in school, and we’re often working on a schedule to get dinner on the table and to get to our evening activities, it’s feeling a little bit cumbersome. Unlatching her before she’s ready will result in a toddler temper tantrum of epic proportions.
Mommy or Mama. One of the best things about night weaning is that either one of us can now comfort the Doodle at night. It’s just awesome to share the night parenting, and it’s awesome that the Doodle and her Mama get to have night time cuddles. This was one of our night weaning goals and I’m so glad that it came to fruition.
It’s been confidence-building for Otto and now neither of us fret if I know I’m not going to be around. I feel like I can go out at night, whenever, without having to build my plans around the Doodle’s sleep schedule.
Messy Sleep for Me. I didn’t anticipate how much I would struggle with my own sleep once the Doodle was night weaned. I’ve had a harder time getting to, and staying, asleep. I find that the anticipation of maybe being woken up shortly as I’m about to go to bed, or knowing that I’m going to be woken up in just a few short hours, is taking its toll. I lie awake at night a lot. My sleep is continually disrupted with or without cause.
The whole other factor is that we think the Doodle’s begun working on her second year molars, and our dog has developed (what we now know after several mucho expensive vet visits) seasonal allergies. The poor dog is so itchy that he’s scratched himself raw. He was waking us up at night with his scratching, and now that the itchiness is under control cause he’s on steroids, he wakes us up to go out to pee 1-2 times a night (as a side effect of his meds). Between the Doodle waking up and the dog waking up this past week, there’s been a lot more awake time at night than there has been sleep.
All of this to say, my sleep getting messy coincided with the night weaning process, and due to a whole bunch of other life stuff, sleep hasn’t sorted itself out yet.
Diet and exercise. Night weaning is an ongoing process and I was more tired during the first weeks of night weaning than I have ever been with the ongoing nightly nursing (I think). I guess this is because you fully wake up and then have to fall back asleep.
In order to function at work, I’ve had to consume way more caffeine and eat more food to give me the energy to make it coherently to the end of my day. And I’ve been too tired to do anything more than walk the dog outside of work hours. And, I’m a bit limited because of my broken toe.
All of this to say, I’ve physically suffered and I’m pretty run down. I’m sure if we had just night weaning and no dog, teething or broken arm issues, it wouldn’t be nearly as bad. So I wouldn’t recommend starting night weaning during a heavy, complicated or busy time in your life. When we started this journey, we were on vacation for 1/2 a week, and then had three weeks left of summer with lighter work loads. Now is the crazy fall season and life has exploded again.
Milk supply. I have milk still, but not very much. I knew my supply would decrease, and it’s also an age thing, but it has declined more quickly than I anticipated since night weaning a month ago. I think I could make it 24 hours without nursing now and not be engorged. When I started work less than 6 months ago, I could barely make it 5 hours without feeling like I’d burst.
As the milk has decreased, my relationship to nursing and the Doodle’s too, has changed. She’s nursing mostly for comfort now. It’s a way to connect with me. It’s a way she relaxes and unwinds. It’s part of her routine. She doesn’t need milk to go to sleep anymore. She just needs to nurse if I’m the one putting her to sleep. She’ll now regularly go to sleep for others.
My milk is drying up. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to continue to nurse if there’s no milk. I thought we’d nurse until at least 2 years old and now I’m not so sure.
I’m getting ready for a life without nursing. And I can sense that the Doodle is getting ready for that, too.