crochet, originally uploaded by Kristy and Eva.

(could she be any cuter? a spontaneous pose with the baby blanket i made, and larry was quick enough to catch it.)

well, here we are, it seems to be the time for night weaning. i thought we might be a month or so away (i even said that in my last post i think?), but i should know by now that eva has her own agenda and it is rarely in line with what i expect it will be.

before i go any further, it bears mentioning that i'm sure there are those of you who are either flabbergasted (or bemused, perhaps) that i'm still nursing my 19 month old round the clock. then, of course, there may be those of you at the other end of the spectrum, perhaps in the attachment parenting community (of which i consider myself a part), who think that in general 19 months is really a bit young for night weaning. i have held no predetermined agenda about night weaning (or weaning in general, or the duration of co-sleeping, or anything else). my plan has always been to follow eva's lead, adjusting as necessary for my own sanity. that seems to be serving us well so far.

in the past couple months, i have started to sense the time for night weaning was nearing. i wouldn't mind having 6 hours of sleep in a row (something i haven't had for coming up on two years), but there was always something: we had about four or five trips in the last few months of 2006, plus she was cutting four canines at once, then a variety of viruses, and for most of january larry was working 100+ hrs/wk. so, i waited.

it had worked at various points when she was a baby to just go pat her back or snuggle her, and she would go back to sleep without nursing. for a great many months now, however (since her brain "woke up"), that method was met with vocal frustration and crying -- i was speaking of eva, but that applied to a tired mama on occasion, too, i'll admit. earlier this week, almost on a lark i tried not nursing eva back to sleep when she woke up early in the evening (i generally trot upstairs several times to soothe her before going to bed myself). basically, she protested as expected, but rather than nursing her after i had reached my threshold (about 15 seconds? or maybe a minute? it's not like i'm timing it, obviously), i held out just a tiny bit longer. i hate doing that. i hate not comforting her when i know she wants comfort, but to my surprise after an additional few seconds, she rolled over, seeming resigned to the state of things for the moment, and almost immediately fell asleep.


first thought: that can't really have worked. she's going to wake up as soon as i move a muscle. (she didn't.) second thought: why didn't i try this before?! (but, i really think it wouldn't have worked even a month ago, not in this way.)

so, i started by cutting back nursing to every two hours (yes, it's true, that really was scaling back -- not dramatically, but a little). then the next night, i stretched it to 3 hours, then 4 (you know, more or less), and now we're at about 5 hours. that ends up as she nurses to sleep, then nurses at 1 or 2 a.m., then again in the "morning" (some point after 6). i guess i'll slowly push that one night nursing later and later until it's eliminated.

i still can't believe it's working. from reading about this and discussing with friends who also are nursing their toddlers, it seemed like most people take a slightly different approach. a common one is to discuss it with the child, explaining that starting tonight, after we nurse to sleep, we won't nurse again until the sun comes up (an indicator that the kid can understand, rather than a time on the clock). this results in a varying amount of protesting, depending on the kid (by personality or level of readiness, i suppose), and generally after just a couple of nights, it all settles down.

this was basically my plan, but i was waiting until after larry was no longer swamped with work so he could help as needed. i was concerned, however, that by morning after that first night, eva would end up distressed due to a physical need to nurse out of hunger. she eats so little food, so she nurses all night, so she's not hungry in the day and thus doesn't eat much food. this chicken-and-egg debate would have resolved after that first night, of course, but i didn't want to feel like i was "starving" her (feeling pretty sure she would reject solid food while distressed and overtired, given she rejects it even in her best moods). so, after the first night during which i limited nursing, she ate more food, and she's continued to increase her food consumption (a bit, it's not overly dramatic -- she's not suddenly finishing off an entire sandwich or anything!).

stumbling on to this more gradual approach has worked well for us; i think it's a good match for her needs. and, it's good for mama: i slept five straight hours last night! pretty exciting all around. i'll keep you posted, but i presume that before long (maybe a few days, or a week?) i can count my baby as officially night weaned. yet another step down her own path, away from needing me so much... but unlike many of these milestones, the wistful sense of regret over time gone by is significantly diminished on this one. (ahh, sleep. it changes one's perspective.)

update: last night, she nursed to sleep at 9:30, nursed again at 3:30, and then when the sun came up at 7. she only woke up once before and once after that middle-of-the-night nursing session, and the first time she didn't protest at all, just rolled over and went back to sleep when she saw me, without even asking for milk. she's definitely understanding and accepting this change.


viva b. said...

i'm trying to figure out if/when to do nightweaning...my high need 14 mos old boy loves the all-night milk bar, but i'm getting exhausted. it was good to see your post show a gradual wean...i'll try it...even cutting down one will be great. he eats every couple of hours at night (my non-nursing parents/in-laws don't get this).
i co-sleep, so don't know if this makes it harder or not.

Kristy said...

viva b: i feel what you're saying, it gets really hard over time when you're so exhausted, and the people around don't really get it (and say "just don't do it then"... less than supportive :). we co-sleep, too, and i know for some kids, nightweaning is easier if they move to a different bed (sometimes with another caregiver?), but this method worked for us while co-sleeping. i think it's just trial and error, whether you do gradual or all at once. but yes, maybe if you can get just one longer stretch, that would help? from a certain time (2 a.m.?) until the "sun wakes up", to help make it clearer to him? (hmm, maybe that's not as doable at 14 months... i can't remember what age they start to get that.)

anyway, hang in there. sounds like you're doing a great job trying to balance the needs of your son with your own sanity... it will work itself out one way or another sooner than you think. :)

viva b. said...

kristy, thanks for the feedback! good to know there's a light at the end of the tunnel and that these moments will pass, maybe all too soon.