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A gentle night weaning is what I’ve always wanted for my little man! I knew from the very beginning that weaning off breastfeeding would be such an “interesting” yet challenging adventure. For some can take a week and for some more than a month. I guess you never know in which pile you end up in.
I always wanted to be able to breastfeed my baby for at least a year. That was my main goal. And I actually managed to achieve that! Which is awesome!
But because of a change in his sleeping patterns, I felt that I couldn’t handle it anymore and I needed to do something about it.
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Why did I want to start night weaning?
1. Waking up too often
One of the main reasons why I took this decision was because he started to wake up too many times per night and I just couldn’t handle it anymore.
2. Lack of qualitative sleep
Another reason, of course, was that he wasn’t getting good and qualitative sleep. Even more, I think that all these night-feeds kept his tummy busy.
3. Sudden sleep pattern changes
For a certain period of time, he used to wake up around 2 times per night for a feed. But, after a while, he started waking up even more often than this and he’d nurse for about 2 minutes and then fell back asleep.
4. Not enough nutrition
In my opinion, the night feedings weren’t nutritious for him anymore. It was more because of comfort or maybe thirst.
Because of his previous sleep pattern my milk supply started to drop.
Now, please don’t get me wrong! I really loved nursing my baby and I am so so grateful that I was able to do it for this long, but I simply couldn’t do it anymore. Not sure what has changed. I started to be so sad and anxious because of these awakenings.
That’s when I thought that breastfeeding should be a joyous thing to do not a burden.
Sadly that is what it became – a burden. Suddenly I felt used and just wanted to get some more sleep.
Sounds silly, I know. But human’s brain is full of strange things. Why am I saying that? Because according to my heart it wasn’t the same.
Strangely enough, I didn’t have a problem with breastfeeding during the day. My biggest problem was just with the night feeds. Maybe the lack of sleep got to me and after all this time I just couldn’t handle it anymore.
All these were the main reasons why after almost 12 months of restless and sleepless nights I decided that it’s time for a change.
Anyway… let’s move on with this article, shall we?
The importance of a gentle night weaning
You may think that weaning your baby from breastfeeding can’t have some sort of effect on him.
Well… Let me disagree with you on this one!
It has a HUGE impact on babies! Actually, all the changes you do, HAVE some kind of impact on your baby.
At first, I thought: “Oh, he’s too little to understand”, or “It’s OK, he’ll adapt or get used to the new stuff”.
I figured it out after a while that all the changes or better said EVERYTHING we do with him HAS some kind of impact on him.
That’s why I think twice or thrice before I make a change in his routine. He’s not the only one suffering, the whole family is.
There are two main reasons why I think (it’s also proven by science) it’s a good idea to opt for gentle weaning: for baby and for you.
Let’s see what I mean by that.
1. For baby
Gentle weaning is extremely important for your little one!
Imagine if all of a sudden you decide to stop breastfeeding your baby, he’ll be confused or even angry and he won’t understand what’s going on.
And you don’t want your baby to be angry or have bad experiences. Over time these can become very dangerous for your baby’s development.
That’s why it’s important and recommended by your pediatricians to gradually remove a nursing session from his schedule so that he can get accustomed to the new schedule.
2. For you
Gentle weaning is not only beneficial for your baby, but for you as well. It will prevent you from having mastitis or lumps or any other painful things.
If you’ve never heard of mastitis before it’s when your milk ducts get clogged with milk or better said the fat from your breast milk.
I’ve never had it so I don’t know much of it and how it feels but what I do know (from other mommies) is that it’s really painful. You need antibiotics to treat it, so it’s best just to avoid it altogether.
Read more about how to prevent mastitis in one of my previous articles on “Breastfeeding after C section”.
Another HUGE benefit of a gentle approach would be your breast milk flow. It’s always a good idea to gradually stop your milk flow, this will prevent all those things I mentioned before.
If you do it gradually, the milk flow will adjust according to how often and how much your baby nurses in one session.
Do you remember that I mentioned a similar thing in the introduction of this article? This is what I was writing about.
My son has started self-weaning himself. He didn’t want to feed as often and as much as before. But a few weeks later, he most probably had a growth spurt, he wanted to be on my boob all the time. He was pulling me and wanted to nurse even though noting’s coming out.
That’s how I knew that I don’t have enough milk for him anymore and realized how this happened.
My biggest issue was that he was waking up 3 to 4 times per night (before that he was waking up only once or maybe twice per night). For some of you might sound silly, but I couldn’t handle it anymore. I wanted my sleeping hours back.
He was about 11 and a half months when I took this decision of night weaning him.
I knew from the very beginning that I wanted a safe and gentle weaning approach. So I didn’t mind if it took us a longer period of time to accomplish what we wanted.
Even though I knew it was “the right” decision for us, deep down in my heart and mind I didn’t want this chapter to end.
I LOVED breastfeeding my little guy!
It was the only moment where I felt that it’s just us and nothing else mattered.
I felt so good and powerful! I was lucky enough to be able to nurture my little baby, who was getting bigger and bigger by the day.
But I still wanted to let go of everything.
So, I did quite a bit of research on the subject because I wanted to know what other mommies are doing.
That’s how I find this article from Dr Jay Gordon about sleeping patterns.
It had really positive feedback, so I wanted to implement it. But I’ve adapted it so that it would fit better to our family.
I came to the conclusion that I wanted to do it gradually and without putting too much pressure on either one of us.
Meaning that I would drop a feed every week or so. That’s why it took us so long (around 2 months). As I said earlier, deep down in my heart, I didn’t want to let go so easily!
In case he would wake up, I substituted breastmilk with water. We used the Munchkin Miracle 360 Trainer Cup. It’s his favorite water cup.
So, how did we do it?
Like I mentioned earlier, we followed Dr Jay Gordon’s technique, but I adapted it has a better fit for my little one.
And I suggest you do the same! You know your baby better than anyone!
Before we actually started night weaning, I used to gradually remove a nursing session from his night feeds.
Meaning that if he used to have 4 feeds during the night, I would remove 1 session and continue on feeding him the other 3 times. This is IDEAL for your little one to get used to the change and he won’t even notice it, I promise!
This whole thing lasted for about a month. When I decided that this is it, he was down to two nursing sessions. But he wasn’t even nursing for more than 2 minutes. That’s all he wanted. Maybe it was just thirst or comfort. No clue! So I knew that’s my cue to start the weaning process.
I, finally, started the night weaning procedure in August, a few days after his 1st birthday, which was the 5th.
As part of his bedtime routine was also a nursing session. Yep! You guessed it, he was falling asleep on my boob. I also tried removing him from the breast when he was half asleep. This was also to encourage him to be able to fall asleep on his own.
This is where the fun has begun.
If he was to wake up before 2 am I wouldn’t nurse him back to sleep. I’d just hold him in my arms until he’s gone back to sleep. Whereas if he’d wake up around 5 am or later I would nurse him back to sleep, but I wouldn’t keep him there for long.
I wanted to do it this way because I didn’t want him to get bombarded with the change. I felt like he was too little to start night weaning him.
Everything was going as planned for a few days, but after that, he started “complaining” and he just wouldn’t go back to sleep. So I would hold him for literally hours until he would go back to sleep. Sometimes we would sleep for 3-4 hours straight.
At that time (end of July) he was sleep trained (it took me 6 awful days for that). At least I thought he was. Turned out that he wasn’t. And because I thought he was sleep trained I would put him back into his crib semi-asleep. It didn’t work so well and he would immediately start screaming. So I would pick him up again.
We’ve had really rough days because I was trying to do 2 things simultaneously and he wasn’t loving it.
What I was trying to achieve was to night wean him and to teach him to fell asleep on his own (without the boobie).
If you ask me these are the most difficult things you could teach your baby! But I am so glad that we’ve done it this way.
After 3 to 4 days my breasts were starting to feel sore. I didn’t know what to do. I was thinking to pump, but then I didn’t want to throw away the milk so I decided to feed my baby instead.
I said to myself: “We’ve started this breastfeeding journey together, helping each other, we’re going to end it together!”
It was terrible! As soon as I removed him from my breasts he immediately started screaming his eyes off.
“What have I done?!”
Anyway, after another 3 to 4 days I did the same thing 🙂 – bad mommy! But he didn’t cry this time. I guess he understood what’s going on.
We’ve kept it this way for about a month. And then something happened and he didn’t wake up anymore!
He slept through the night! I was so HAPPY!
“We did it!”
But he started to be an early bird – he was waking up at 6 am! 🙂
I didn’t mind that as long as I was sleeping during the night…
That’s everything I wanted to share with you today, but I am going to write a different article that will include all the tips I’ve got when it comes to weaning off breastfeeding your toddler.
So definitely stay tuned for that one!
Now it’s your turn, please leave me in the comments what method did you use to night wean your baby? I would love to read about those in the comment section.