Thursday, August 27, 2015

Night Weaning Our Co-Sleeping Toddler

About two weeks ago, I decided to start night weaning JaiseAnn. I recognize that most of my readers here will think that sounds insane--She's like 1 1/2 right? Yes, you're right. And before I had kids I would have thought it sounded insane,too. I also would have probably cried a million or more tears--or not had kids at all if I had thought I would still be up several times a night with a 1 1/2 year old--but here we are. And you know what? I'm surviving and most days I do okay--more than okay even. But there are still rough nights and nights where I've had it and nights where I tell myself, "No more kids!"

At about 16-17 months JaiseAnn started sleeping a bit longer during her first stretch of the night. Until then she'd usually wake within the first hour of putting her down. She finally started sleeping 2-3 hours straight to start the night off. When that started,  I usually would try to refuse one nursing session throughout the night after I came to bed. (She woke anywhere from 4-8 times a night so one session still meant lots of nursing and I felt okay about taking the food away and offering other forms of comfort). For the most part, she handled those refusals really well so I kept thinking maybe she'd make some of the big progress on her own and kept allowing her to go at her own pace. My biggest hope was to let JaiseAnn have as much of a say in the situation as I could handle--I wanted to honor and respect her needs and really wanted to avoid anything too traumatic. 

About a month ago, something was going on--not sure what--and she was up all night long. It was bad and brutal and I decided it was time. I'd done a ton of reading from co-sleeping/attachment/gentle parenting parents and had basically seen a recurring theme. It seemed everyone carved out a stretch of the night that they wouldn't feed, they'd have a code phrase that they'd say, and they'd comfort their child throughout the night with snuggles/words/back pats, etc. Many of them admitted that there was crying, but after a few days the child got the hang of it.

While many of the posts and articles I'd read suggest a six hour stretch to start, I felt better about starting with a four hour stretch. I typically don't go to bed until close to midnight (because I'm working/spending time with Zach) so I decided to choose midnight to 4 a.m. as my first stretch of the night to not nurse JaiseAnn.

I've been trying to come to bed just before midnight so that if JaiseAnn wakes, I can nurse her while I'm still awake and before the clock starts ticking. After that, I've been telling her, "No nurse until morning." When she wakes. I also tell her she can cuddle with me and I try to pat or tickle her back. After two weeks things are better but they're not solid yet. (I promise to keep updating). 

Some nights she'll wake twice before 4 and I'll be up longer than I would have if I just nursed her, calming her down and waiting for her to fall back to sleep on her own. Other nights, she'll stretch from midnight to 5-5:30--which is amazing but also weird. My body isn't used to sleeping for that long unintterupted so I still wake frequently even if she's not awake. I'm hoping my body gets the message soon, too.

Once JaiseAnn is sleeping straight through for the 4 hours for a good few weeks, I will increase the stretch to six hours--but maybe she'll start going six hours on her own (fingers crossed). I am not sure I'll do anymore weaning after we hit six hours until we fully wean because of the way our bedtime/nighttime/morning routine works and because I plan to wean JaiseAnn near her 2nd birthday.) It seems JaiseAnn is making great progress on her own and I am hoping that she continues to do so. 

If you have any questions about this process or anything about our parenting choices when it comes to JaiseAnn's sleep, please feel free to ask them in the comments or email me. I'm happy to share. I also promise to keep you updated as we progress.

In the meantime, here are some helpful blogs/blog posts that I have read so many times in preparing to night wean/wean JaiseAnn:

Sleep, Changing Patterns in the Family Bed

The Milk Meg: Sleep Challenges Posts (possibly the site I frequent the most and the one that has been the most helpful for me)

The Leaky Boob: Our Night Weaning Journey Even More Questions Answered (this post contains links to other helpful posts)

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