Nightweaning, For Real

Months ago, we started thinking about nightweaning. Felix is 20 months old today and still up at least twice a night, for an hour at a time. Ours is not a baby who sucks for a few seconds and drifts back into beautiful sleep. No, Felix fidgets frantically while he nurses in the middle of the night. He picks at my zits and slaps my chest and kicks me in the bladder.

Then, when he pops off, he’s still awake and looking to party. Only gentle marching in Mommy or Daddy’s arms for about a half hour lulls him back to eventual sleep. So these are aerobic, energetic, draining night wakings involving movement and sweating and being upright in the wee hours. We’re dragging our bags hardcore.

Several of my friends decided to use Christmas break to nightwean. Many of our partners had time off work and so we knew we’d have reinforcements for naps and catching up on sleep during the day. And so, our family began.

The first night was just awful. We prepped Felix all week by reading the¬†Nursies While the Sun Shines¬†book and talking a lot about how everyone in our family goes to sleep at night, including his “milkies.” We nursed to sleep…and then he was up at ten.

So, we took it in turns to comfort him, offer him water, march him around. His distraught cries woke his brother, and so we had two kids crying and awake three times that night. Ugh!

The next night, we decided it was too confusing for me to be involved at all, and so my beloved Corey shut himself in the boys’ bedroom, sleeping in the twin bed with Miles (4.5) while Felix “slept” in the toddler bed a few feet away.

Theoretically, I could have gotten a hotel room or something. Instead, I lay in my own bed on the other side of the wall with a pillow over my ears, listening to the drama unfold in the next room.

We never wanted to “let” Felix cry, even in our arms, and it would certainly be easier for the other 3 people in my family if I’d just rush in and nurse him each time he wakes, but I’ve reached my breaking point. Most days, I don’t feel safe driving a car because I’ve had so little sleep. I’m not a patient or kind mother these days.

Our family needs change.

For 11 nights of my husband’s vacation, we wrestled through the night wakings. As with our older son, night weaning did not translate into sleeping through the night. But our older son seemed just fine with the information that my breasts went to sleep at night. Our older son, who is ordinarily much more intense than our younger, was just fine with some water or cow milk in a pinch at night. We could take turns night parenting, and each of us felt a bit more rested.

Felix? He’s a stubborn fellow. He’s still waking twice. He only cries very briefly now at the reminder that milkies go to sleep. We march him, he falls completely asleep, we put him back in his bed, even lie down in there with him, and fifteen seconds later he pats down the hall again to our room. “Milkies? Mommy? Daddy? Cookies?” And on it goes, for an hour at least.

To be fair, he has a junky cold right now, which I’m sure isn’t helping him to sleep. If only we could give him some Sudafed! We’re going to carry on. Someday I’ll feel alert again!

Did you nightwean your baby? Leave a comment to share your tips.

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