Sunday, April 28, 2013

Night-Weaning My Toddler: "Real-Time" Log

On Monday night/Tuesday morning, April 23, at about 2:00am, I suddenly decided that I didn't want to nurse my 19-month-old to sleep anymore or allow him to nurse at night. At that point, I had been nursing him for nearly two hours straight, he was still awake, and I was about to crawl right out of my skin. My milk is all but dried up at this point, and he's really just nursing for comfort. Knowing he no longer needs the nutrition or the calories, knowing that he is capable of falling asleep without the breast (he just doesn't want to), I made him let go and told him to go to sleep. He was surprisingly willing, and he eventually fell asleep. I spent that entire restless night in his bed, and woke around 6:00 feeling as though I hadn't had a lick of sleep the whole night.

I figured, if I was this tired anyway, and the nights were this bad anyway, I might as well stick to my guns and start the night-weaning process. I had been trying to decide when to do this; I knew it was becoming necessary, but I was waiting for "the moment." Finally, it happened. I knew it was time. I had already decided that, when the time was right, I would deal with one sleep issue at a time. First, I would help him learn that he can fall asleep without nursing. Anything else he needs, I will do. For example, if he needs to be hugged, or have his back rubbed, or just to have me lie in his bed with him, I will continue to do those things. One step at a time, slowly. Better sleep is on the horizon.

While I'm always in favor of meeting my kids' needs, it is also important to maintain my own health and sanity  so that I can parent them effectively and with patience. I think that at 19.5 months, G is capable of understanding "No, we're not nursing at night anymore," he is capable of falling asleep without nursing, and I will not be causing any long-term stress by making some changes at this point. I expect this to take three to five nights.

What I did is keep a nightly log here, so what you'll be reading is sort of a "real-time" account of how each night went.

Tuesday, 4/23:

I allowed him to nurse normally throughout the day Tuesday, including for his nap, and then I allowed him to nurse for a few minutes after his bath, in his pajamas in his bed, but I told him that he wasn't going to nurse to sleep anymore, and he wasn't going to nurse at night. I cut him off around 7:40pm. I made him stop, closed up shop, and steeled myself. He was very angry, and let me know by crying, screaming, and demanding to nurse. I told him no gently, said again that there was no more nursing at night, and that he needed to go to sleep. He calmed, lay down for a bit, snuggled with me a bit, then asked again to nurse. I reiterated the same trope, no,  no more nursing at night. He wailed again, cried, expressed his anger. He was definitely not happy about this. I continued to speak quietly to him, shhh him, stroke his face and back (he pushed my hand away). Occasionally, he crawled out of bed, walked around his room, and came back. He tried different positions, gathered his blankies around him, and tried asking to nurse again. Again, I said no, we're not nursing at night, and he needed to go to sleep. Finally, around 8:15 or 8:20, he was tired enough that he was willing to try something else. I was lying on my back on his bed. He climbed up on top of me, nestled the top of his head into my neck, put his arms around me, and relaxed. By 8:30, I was able to leave his room with him asleep on his bed. Many nights, it would have taken him this long to fall asleep even with nursing, so I am encouraged. I'm interested to see how the rest of the night goes.

10:25pm: Woke up asking for water and whining. I offered him his water, which he drank, then asked to nurse. I told him no, reminded him again that we aren't nursing at night anymore. He protested briefly. I stroked his head but he pushed me away, rolled away from me, and was asleep by 10:30.

1:00am: Similar to previous wakeup. Was asleep within 10 minutes.

3:24am: Again, similar to above. Was asleep within 5 minutes.

Wednesday, 4/24:

Woke for the day around 7:00am, as usual. Perfectly happy.

10:30am: Asked to nurse. I said yes, showed him that it's daytime. Started to fall asleep for his nap while nursing. I popped him off (with great difficulty -  he didn't want to let go). He started sobbing, wouldn't try to go back to sleep. I let him nurse for a few more minutes on the other side, told him "all done," and he hopped off the bed and went to play.

2:00pm: Nursed to sleep for his nap (finally), but I popped him off just before he was totally settled. He rooted a bit, but I put a little pressure on his chin with my finger and repeated "go to sleep" a few times, and he settled the rest of the way to sleep.

8:30pm: Bedtime started way too late. Had to start all over again to convince him that I really wasn't going to nurse him. He was very angry. He cried for a few minutes, then got up and wandered around the room, playing. He tried to go downstairs. I had to go bring him back to bed several times. He finally gave in to staying on his bed, but he sat there and said "no" every time I told him to lie down and go to sleep. I picked up my phone and started reading Facebook. He then grabbed a blankie and climbed on top of me like last night and fell asleep. I was able to leave his bed at 9:20. This is a stressful and difficult process, and you really do have to hit that wall of, "I just have to make a change!" You have to stick to whatever decision you make. The second I relent and let him nurse, I'll have undone any progress I made last night. It took about 40 minutes total, once lights were out and the other two boys were trying to fall asleep (rather than chatting) for G to fall asleep. Again, not really any longer than it might have taken him anyway. I think the biggest problem was starting bedtime way too late - he got overtired, then hyper, and I had to wait for him to calm down before he was willing to try to go to sleep.

1:24am: First wakeup! At first, seemed like he'd go right back to sleep, but then got upset when I wouldn't nurse him. Reminded him that he doesn't need to nurse at night, stroked his head, and he settled back down. Back to sleep at 1:36 (12 minutes).

2:38am: Woke up again. Took about 5 minutes to resettle.

Thursday, 4/25:

Woke for the day around 7:00am.

10:50am: Nursed down for nap, but popped him off before he was completely out. Rooted for a few seconds, then settled.

7:35pm: Began the going-to-sleep process. He had seemed to be a bit more reluctant than in the past to go to bed, possibly because he knew there was something that would upset him. Hard to tell. Demanded to nurse a few times, cried piteously when told no. Got out of bed once, went to the top of the stairs and cried. I brought him back to bed and hugged him, rocked him a little. Lay down next to me quietly for a few minutes, then tried to lift my shirt. I told him no again, and he sat up and started crying again. Cried for a few minutes, then climbed on top of me as in the previous two nights. Fell asleep that way. Was asleep by about 7:50 or 7:55 (hard to tell). I left the room at 8:00pm!

9:04pm: Roused briefly. Needed to be repositioned, reminded to go back to sleep. Was asleep in 2 minutes.

Friday, 4/26:

5:38am: Woke for the first time! Was angry with me when I refused to nurse. Insisted on going to my bed with me. Rested with me in my bed, calm and quiet, but not asleep. Got up around 6:15.

I want to make this a little more noticeable: HE SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT!

I will keep this log for two more nights to see if the pattern continues.

10:20am: Down for a nap. Nursed. It was quite difficult to get away from him. I'm beginning to think that nursing him for naps and not at night might confuse him. We'll see how it goes over the next few days.

Approximately 9:00pm: Lights out - late night again. Took about half an hour to fall asleep, but no crying! Some variables were that both Grandma and Daddy were in the room at bedtime, which doesn't happen on weeknights. Eventually fell asleep next to me (not on top of me!).

10:30pm: Woke briefly looking for his water. Back to sleep within 5 minutes.

Saturday, 4/27:

7:15am: Up for the day after no further night-wakings!

2:30pm: Late nap, very tired. Nursed to sleep.

4:40pm: I woke him up from his nap because I didn't want to him sleep any later than that.

8:00pm: Started bedtime. He was not tired yet and was playing and happy. Eventually settled down and fell asleep a little after 9:00, which was earlier than I expected. No crying, no asking to nurse!

11:00pm: Woke whining. Settled back down and was asleep within 10 minutes. Did not ask to nurse.

5:37am: Woke unhappy. Seemed uncomfortable, but did  not ask to nurse. I stayed with him for a few minutes until he settled. Eventually went back to sleep until about 7:00am. He came to my bed at that point, and I allowed him to nurse for a while. When his brothers went downstairs, he went with them.

I'm going to end this log here. After 5 nights, three of which he essentially slept through, and two of which there was no crying or asking to nurse at bedtime, I consider this a success!

Hopefully he will continue to sleep well at night. I'm very much enjoying my quiet nights after over 19 months of nightly interrupted sleep.

I've said many times before that if you're going to try to make any changes to your baby's sleep, it takes about three to five nights of absolute consistency to make the new routine and see if you've effectively made the change. That seems to have held up this time. I can't tell you how incredible it is to sleep through the night after so long. I still don't think I could have made it happen any sooner - the stars had to align just so for it to work so perfectly, but I just knew it was time.

Have you made changes to your baby's sleeping arrangements or habits? What methods did you use, and how old was your baby? How long did it take for you to see success?

Check out the "sleep" tag for more posts about sleep!

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