Gentle Night Weaning- our journey

Gentle Night Weaning- our journey

So, we found out we were expecting our second little bundle of Grubby Bubby joy right around our son’s first birthday. It was a huge shock to say the least. We were actively trying to not get pregnant and I was still breastfeeding my high needs guy at least 2 hourly around the clock.  
I did not think my son was ready to wean and so as soon as I learned of my pregnancy, I immediately started investigating breastfeeding while pregnant and even preparing myself for the fact I may end up tandem feeding. After my initial investigations, I felt confident that I could continue to nurse but also decided that my main goal would be to have my toddler down to as few feeds as possible before the arrival of the baby. I had no idea how this was going to happen but at least I knew what I wanted.

The first lot of breastfeeding aversion (common in pregnancy) hit at the end of the first trimester. It was awful. My skin crawled. I felt like physically throwing him off me. My face scrunched up and my toes curled every time he latched. I had no control over this feeling. I struggled along with it and after only a week or so it disappeared again and I had no trouble carrying on nursing.

But then when the second lot of aversion hit, it happened to coincide with my guy getting his molars and his sleep went from bad to worse to sheer insanity. I had done it all before with him but being 20 weeks pregnant, still ridiculously thin and with severe aversions making me dread his very touch (particularly at night) I couldn’t just ride this one out.

I decided that I needed to night wean so that there was at least 12 hours of the day I knew he wouldn’t be attached to me (at least on the boob anyway). I organised a Skype consult with Meg Nagle, IBCLC from The Milk Meg to get my head around a plan of attack that would see me successfully night weaning my 15 month old guy in the gentlest, fairest way possible. The consultation really built my confidence and we started preparations right away. I had already ordered the book, ‘Nursies When the Sun Shines’ a few weeks earlier so I introduced it and really stepped up our conversations about night and day. I had already started working on him going to sleep during the day without boob and even had minimal success with dad settling him to sleep occasionally. 

Meg’s advice was quite clear. She doesn’t advise night weaning before about 18 months as this is when most babies have the understanding required to make the process fair. Although after talking with her about my specific toddler it became clear that he was in fact capable as his comprehension was quite advanced for his age. She advises that once you decide to start, you should stop feeding entirely at night (cold turkey) rather than trying to stretch out feeds as Meg explains that at this age, your toddler can understand time in terms of night and day but cannot understand time in terms of ‘no, you can’t have boob now because it’s only been 2 hours.’ And ‘yes, you can have boob now because it’s been 4 hours.’ It’s confusing to sometimes have it on the menu and then other times not. Meg also explained that at this age, my booby crazy toddler would not like this change despite understanding what was going on and he was likely to get very upset and would need all the comfort and reassurance he could get from us while he worked through his anger and frustration with the change. She was also clear that we may go backwards and that was okay. Set backs happen and to not fight it. If I felt he really did need boob one night it wouldn’t mean all was lost. We could just try again the next. I had a plan.
My husband and I had intended to keep the transition slow but in the end, my hormones and aversion hit the STOP button first.

At the time, I kept a diary on the mothers forum I am a part of and so to give you an authentic feel of how it went, I have copied in the eight entries I made. It really was a very successful process and although my guy did get very upset, at no point was he without every other comfort he could be offered other than the breast. We were right there with him through this massive upheaval which I know, while not what he wanted or needed at the time, I desperately needed to do to be able to keep mothering him the way he deserved.

So here’s our journey-


Night One– I have been preparing mentally to start night weaning but wanted to give Bub another couple of weeks of settling for his daddy and adjusting to the other changes we’ve made (not boobin to sleep in the day or to bed, new little mattress next to our bed, daddy putting to bed). Then along come his molars and although he’s now busted out two he is super irritable and crazy fussy on the boob and I was finding that he wanted to suck all night long once he started … I’d get him down for 5 mins and then he’d grizzle, refuse his dummy and demand boob. Feeding to sleep simply wasn’t the foolproof method of resettling it has been for so long and my breastfeeding aversion has been getting worse with his fussiness and constant demands so at midnight last night I made the call. No more night boob. I kicked my husband out to the spare room (he’s been missing a lot of sleep with these teeth and wonder week too) and I took a deep breath and relaxed into my decision to comfort my extremely angry baby back to sleep with no more boob. It was a massive session but he did eventually sleep. At 3:30 we kicked off for round two and my clever little man woke knowing boob was off the table and didn’t even try for it but threw the most almighty tantrum instead. He was furious with me. He kicked, screamed, bit and threw himself around. He even climbed off the bed and went to the door and started banging his head. I remained calm and offered him lots of cuddles (which were often refused but kept offering nonetheless) and kept trying to soothe him while still reminding him there would be no boob til the sun comes up. We went to the window and talked about the night and how it was dark and quiet and sleep time. I sang to him and offered sips of water and his dummy. He continued to rage on and off for an hour but eventually after he’d had one last big yell I used my firm voice and told that it was enough and to go back to sleep now. He took his dummy and snuggled on my chest and went to sleep. He slept next to me until 7:30am (normally up very early but was exhausted I’m sure) and then happily had morning boob session.

I’m feeling calm about my choice right now. I am ready and I feel like I have the mind set to push through calmly. Only time will tell though if I can maintain the calm and just how far and hard my guy will push. Fingers crossed it’s easier than I’m imagining.

I’ll update on night two tomorrow. Wish me luck 🙂

Night 2– was a real mixed bag but overall pretty good.

He started off brilliantly. He woke twice at 9ish and 11ish but I said, ‘remember, no boob baby. Would you like some water?’ He’d have a drink and a two second cuddle with dummy and then he rolled off me and back to sleep on his little pillow. At 1ish he woke up angry and was trying to bite me. His mouth seemed sore so we hopped up and got him some teething tablets and he then had a drink, cuddle and dummy and back to sleep easily. He woke about half an hour later doing the same thing so this time I gave him panadol and he once again went back to sleep with cuddle and dummy. At 3ish he woke again but this time he was furious and determined to get boob. I reminded him that it was still dark outside and the stars were out so no boob until the sun’s up. He raged and fumed for about 45mins. I stayed calm and reassuring and offered lots of cuddles while he let loose. After that time, I did the same as the first night and used my firm voice and told him that it was enough and no more crying. Time for cuddles and sleep. It took a couple of goes but then he relaxed on my chest and he slept til 7 when he woke with a huge smile as I offered him boob because the sun was up 🙂

(In response to a question from a mother on the forum)- I can’t say it’s nice watching him get so angry but at the same time I feel good doing it now as I can see he really does understand now. I couldn’t have done it earlier knowing he didn’t get it but now, he does. He’s not necessarily happy about it but he does understand. We talk a lot during the day and before bed about having boob while the sun’s up and I am very clear after his bedtime feed that there will be no more boob til the morning. The water does seem to help but I’m not sure if he’s only taking it now because my supply has dropped so much that he has too … He used to clean refuse it but now he chugs away.

When I consulted with Meg, she said that the 3-4 th nights can often be a very big challenge as Bub often seems to realise that this new situation isn’t going away and they buck extra hard so will wait and see how we go. So far though, I think we are okay 🙂

(In response to a question from a mother on the forum)- I strongly recommend a consult (I did a Skype one) with Meg from The Milk Meg. She was so encouraging but also very clear cut on how best to night wean in a way that is still fair on bubba. It’s such a hard decision. For me, my pregnancy hormones and aversion have made the decision for me really. I simply couldn’t keep doing it.

Thanks for your fabulous support as always ladies x

Night 3– wow! That was a good one! Daddy put him to bed at 8, woke at 11:45 (a fabulous first stint for our guy). He refused water and dummy and started to whinge but as soon as I said, ‘look outside baby, it’s dark. No boob til the sun’s up. Have some cuddles with my mummy.’ He flopped on my chest and fell asleep! He did wake a few times when I put him down but after repeating the same convo he flopped back on my chest each time with no tears. He then slept til 4:15 when we had the same experience. Whinge, remind dark, flopped on chest asleep. He did have trouble staying asleep for a few goes again but was out by 5 and slept soundly til 7:30 when he happily had morning boob 🙂

So proud of my clever little man! It is still an adjustment for him though and he won’t go down on his little bed after that initial wake up now as he likes to hold my face while he sleeps which is fair enough considering how much his skin to skin has cut back without night boob. I’m sure as these longer stints kick in though that eventually I’ll get him back on his little mattress and right now I am so happy with our progress I could care less when 🙂

I feel so good that this gentle but definite method is working for us. I love that I have been able to have him go cold turkey on boob while still offering the comfort he needs at night. Feeling all warm and squishy just thinking about it.

Fingers crossed we stay on this track now!

Night 4– went really well considering it was a crappy night for all of us. You know those nights where you toss and turn and can’t get comfy? Well my husband , babe and I all seemed to have one together!

Night weaning wise, babe was a star. Didn’t even really need a cuddle until 4 but needed a sip of water and a hand hold every couple of hours. He ended up being happy on his own little mattress too because daddy’s tossing and turning was annoying him, so another small win.

He was pretty cranky this morning when he woke up and had morning boob, as we all were. Here’s hoping tonight is a more restful night for all of us 🙂

Night 5– the night was good and interesting. We thought we’d gotten off too lightly with only two nights of true protest … We had, BUT it wasn’t too bad and hopefully means he’s getting it out of his system. He started off fine going down to bed. I had to do it as DH was out and we followed our usual routine but just as he was about to drift off he spat his dummy out and started rooting around for boob. It took about 5 mins of reminding him that we were done until the sun comes up and then he crashed and slept well til 11:20. When he woke he was the angry little man from night one and two and no amount of teething tablet, panadol, offers of water, reminders it was dark were going to avoid his meltdown. So we let him go for a bit with the usual offers of cuddles etc. Daddy then tried to cuddle and look out the window which looked as though was working but really he was just regaining strength for more fury. We let him rage for a little longer and then I sat him on my hip and stood by the door pointing out stars. He slowly relaxed, took dummy and put his head on my shoulder. We laid down and he conked out quickly and slept well til 4ish where we had a quick cuddle and he slept til 6:30 and had happy morning boob.

Still a great night overall.

It does make me wonder when I’ll actually be able to call him ‘night weaned’. We are definitely still a work in progress but very happy to have gotten this far relatively unscathed. I am also happy to report that I am feeling so much more rested without those extra calories of night boobin being taken out all of the time. I’m finally gaining pregnancy weight as well which is very reassuring 🙂

(In response to a question from a mother on the forum)- my husband is wonderful but him being able to settle babe is brand new. From 6 months he wouldn’t have a bar of daddy for sleep but thankfully in the last two weeks he has started settling for him. It was exhausting doing it on my own.

I did start doing the night weaning on my own really because my husband was exhausted and had a lot on at work and it was okay because although he was hard work, I don’t think I was missing out on much more sleep than I would’ve even if I was boobin because he was so unsettled.

In answer to your question about space from boob. My guy has been settled into his own cot for every day nap and the start of every night forever and before night weaning I had started settling him on his own little mattress next to ours instead of having him in with us after his first wake up. It honestly made no difference for him. Apparently it can for some kids though so would still be worth a try 😉

Night 6-I think we might be in for it tonight 😦

He would not get off boob tonight after his last feed before bed and then screamed for near on an hour and refused his dummy. Daddy has just gotten him down after I tried for half an hour. I think tonight might be when he really bucks. Wish me luck.

Interesting new development. Apparently we don’t take a dummy anymore. I am unsure if this is going to be a good or a bad thing just yet. I was thinking it was bad as he was a complete nightmare to get to bed last night. Firstly, he wouldn’t get off boob. He usually now hops off when I say, ‘that’s enough now baby, let’s go have a story and cuddles, it’s bed time.’ Last night, he chucked a whammy when he’d finished one boob so I offered him the other and then he proceeded to try and drift off on the boob and wouldn’t hop off. I ended up taking him off and that’s when the dummy refusal and tantrum kicked in. He screamed and threw himself around for the better part of an hour. I tried for half an hour as my husband was at training and then DH took over and finally got him down (sans dummy which he continued to refuse).

He woke two hourly overnight but a quick cuddle and sip of water saw him back to sleep with no fuss and he slept on his little mattress all night with no dummy … Maybe it’s not so bad without dummy?!?

Then he refused dummy for his morning sleep too and tried to demand boob but after a few reminders he drifted off with a cuddle and no dummy … I wonder if this is a permanent development or just today’s thing because he’s realised dummy is replacing boob.

The two hourly wake ups are making me think we may not have been lucky enough to to score the kid who happily sleeps through once weaned. I think we are still a long way from that but at least a quick cuddle is less draining on me than boobin all bloody night.

So just when you think things might be settling in … Who knows where we are headed. Still on a good track overall though and you never know, I might just miss out on having to dummy wean later 😉

Night 7– one week down!!! I really thought we were in for it last night as he was a wonder weeking terror during the day and continued his dummy strike for both day naps with much screaming involved. But surprisingly, he fell asleep on our evening walk (we always go for a walk after his bath as the bath really razzes him up). I’d forgotten to give him boob before our walk (he normally has one before and the other after) so my husband and I decided that when we got home, he would try to put him down but if he woke and protested, he’d bring him out for boob. He didn’t even stir while being transferred from pram to cot (a small miracle) and then slept for 3.5 hours! When he woke, I brought him in with me and he had a sip of water and quick cuddle but conked out almost immediately and went easily into his own little bed and slept for 3 more hours where he once again stirred, had a sip of water and straight back out for 3 more hours!!! This took us to 5:45 which is an hour earlier than he normally wakes and the sun doesn’t rise here (far west QLD) until 7am. Even though he’d had an awesome night, he’s been waking up earlier and earlier for that morning boob so I decided to maintain the sun rule. He wasn’t going back to sleep though so Daddy took him while he got ready for work and he explained to babe that the sun was still asleep and so was boob and little man was fine with it. As it got close to sunrise we went outside and watched the sky lighten and talked about how the sun was rising and he could now have boob oh he liked. He grinned at me and we came in and had morning boob 🙂

Fingers crossed for repeats of that night!!!

Night 8– I think I’ll make this my last update. We had an up and down night last night. The upside… He gave in pretty easily and slept well (albeit back in my bed) between wake ups. Downside, I had to growl at him each time for having a tanty… I really think he gets it though as he gives it up so quickly. Three wake ups last night is still 50 000 times better than the 6+ average we had while boobin.

So I’ll leave it at that … Still a work in progress but I know we won’t be going back now so feeling confident in saying the night boob has gone 🙂

I hope I didn’t scare anyone off along the way, it really has been way better than I ever thought possible! Good luck to those embarking on the journey soon. Let me know how you go x

And that WAS it for the night boob. He still wakes frequently on and off even now and he is over 2 but for the most part, he sleeps quite well.

After night weaning, I decided to follow the ‘don’t offer, don’t refuse’ technique for day feeding as I thought it would help me reduce feeds without forcing him to wean more than he could handle. To my huge surprise, one month after night weaning he day weaned completely. I know my dropping supply due to pregnancy and also stopping night feeds would’ve contributed greatly but still… To go from feeding constantly day and night to nothing at all in one month?!? This baby of mine is determined to keep us guessing in every department.

So that’s my tale of gentle night weaning. Not perfect nor pretty but certainly gentle and loving nonetheless. As I type, my second bubba is latched on having boob while he naps … I wonder where this journey will take us. Right now, only the universe knows …


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