Zelie is almost 15 months, and as of last week, she is night weaned!
I put the call out on Instagram to see if anyone wanted to know anything specific about our process so I’ll explain how we night-wean as I answer your great questions.
How Did You Know It Was Time?
We do things in our family as long as they work for us, and night nursing was working great until a few weeks ago. As a big part of ecological breastfeeding, night nursing contributed to a year without any signs of a return to my cycle, and it facilitated amazing rest for our whole family since Zelie was born.
But, just like Philomena did at this age, Zelie went from latching on a few times a night for a nurse then popping off when she was finished, to her suddenly insisting on sucking the entire night in her sleep.
When they reach this point of constant sucking my nipples start to hurt and I simply can’t sleep anymore. In short, it just wasn’t working for us anymore!
However, before making any decisions on night-weaning, I went to my trusted mom group on Facebook. The gals reminded me to check if this was due to teething or genuine hunger/thirst in the night. I made sure no new teeth were coming in, and for a few nights we fed her a super big snack before bed and offered her the water bottle in the night… it made no difference. Once we ruled those needs out, we decided to try night weaning and see how it went.
What’s Your Process? Do You Use A Specific Method?
We don’t follow any expert’s specific method; Ethan simply takes over at night for a week. I told Zelie there wouldn’t be any nursies in the night before she went to sleep that evening. (I know she didn’t fully understand but I still think it’s respectful to explain. Plus, these little ones grasp more than you’d think!).
I nursed her down in our bed at night like usual, but when I was ready to sleep I went to our extra bed in Philomena’s room. Removing me from the room makes the transition easier so that me and my milk-filled breasts aren’t right there in front of her as she is being told “no nursies.”
Did She Cry A Ton?
She truly didn’t. When Zelie woke, Ethan was armed with a water bottle, clean diapers, and a patient, loving attitude to aid in comforting her. There were some very sad tears at 11pm, 1 am, and 3am that first night. Each time he changed her diaper if she was wet, gave her some sips of water, and then rubbed her back and comforted her, reassuring her that she would nurse mommy in the morning. I hear that the ABC’s and Holy God We Praise Thy Name were sung a bit as well.
Zelie cried at those intervals for fifteen to twenty minutes and then fall asleep cuddled up with Ethan. Night 2 she didn’t even really cry and she settled down again much faster.
Nights 3-7 Ethan says she didn’t cry at all.
On night 8 I returned to bed and she did really well with me being there with her but not nursing. It was an easy process!
Has This Reduced Her Daytime Nursing?
Not at all! If anything, my girls increase their daytime nursing in the mornings after we night wean, just to catch up on that special milk and mommy-cuddling. I don’t mind at all though – since I’m so much better rested now I feel like I can give increased day-time nursing without a problem because I’m not so drained.
Will You Continue to Cosleep?
Yep! Just like with the night-nursing, we will cosleep for as long as it’s working for us. Philomena had become a super light sleeper when she was night-weaned, and I was also pregnant, so we moved her into a toddler bed beside ours not long after.
Zelie is sleeping solid now until 1 to 3 am since night-weaning. Since we’re obviously not frequently waking her by our shifting in the night, we’ll gladly cuddle and cosleep for now.
Once she becomes a light-sleeper or I’m mid-way through a pregnancy we’ll move her to the toddler bed.
Doing What Works
I just want to note that I think it’s important with any big changes to make sure your child is ready.
We learned with Philomena that our first night weaning attempt was too soon her her. She was also 14 months when she started to nurse constantly at night, but she wasn’t eating nearly as many solids as Zelie is at this age, due to her food allergies. She was truly upset and hungry when we tried, so we immediately stopped the night-weaning attempt. When we tried again a few months later she took to it just fine. I legitimately had a hard time in the meantime when she kept sucking me so much in the night until she was eating more and could be night-weaned, but I was able to make that sacrifice and the rough season passed before I knew it.
If Zelie had any indication that she wasn’t ready for this, we would have reevaluated.
Thankfully, she was ready for the change, Ethan supported her so well during the transition, and this mama is much more rested!