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Holy crap, let me start by saying the anxiety around night weaning your toddler is way worse than actually night weaning your toddler!! Our toddler was exactly 13 months when we decided we were night weaning. This blog is going to tell you exactly how we did it, why we did it, how it went and how it is a month out!
We do things a liiiiittle differently:
- We nurse to sleep and also have done this since she was born… here's a blog about how we failed at sleep training
- Bed share and have out of necessity since she was born
- Use a floor bed instead of a crib, and I did a one year review of it here
- Started night weaning at about 13 months
You don't have to do these things but I had a hard time finding information about people who did the same when I was searching for stories about people who were night weaning their toddler.
HOW are night weaning our toddler
First thing is first, who's going to do this? Do YOU want to do it or (if a partner is present) do they want to?
There are two ways to think about this.
- If you do it, that is SUPER confusing for babe, why all of a sudden you're not nursing? On the other hand, tons of people get Dad's help here and they say it's a beautiful way for the babe and dad to bond.
- You've probably nursed your baby to sleep their whole life so to completely remove you and your boob seems like a huge change.
I felt pretty strongly about the second. For me, if I didn't nurse her AND I wasn't there, that would be harder. So I chose to do the weaning and my partner slept downstairs. He got to sleep at night and I slept in in the morning.
I was all over YouTube looking for help and information about bed sharing toddlers that were being night weaned. There were A TON of ways to do it… wait 5 min to nurse for a week, 10 min the next week, 15 min the following week, not nursing for a block of time during the night, and a few others. I'll let you look into them but for us it was simply “no weaning from 11pm – 6am”.
Why we are night weaning our toddler: KNOW YOUR WHY
I cannot stress enough how important it is for you to know why you or your partner is doing it. It will make it easier to stick to and have more compassion and patience for your little one. It also allows you to adapt to curve balls while sticking to your why while maybe adjusting your hard and fast rules.
There were two main reasons we wanted to wean our babe.
1. I still hadn't gotten my period and we were 13 months postpartum and we at least wanted the option to try for more kids.
2. She wasn't sleeping through the night (though night weaning didn't really change that for us). I've heard so many stories that say once babe finally night weaned, not much later, they started sleeping through the night. She was having terrible naps and waking 2-4x/night to be nursed back to sleep. I wanted this consolidated sleep for her!
We started (unknowingly) at 13 months exactly. It's funny… for me, once she hit a year I stopped keeping such close track of “how hold she was in weeks or months” and looked back and was like, oh snap!
Our (personal made-up) guidelines for night weaning:
- My partner slept downstairs so he could get some sleep
- I wore a high neck sports bra under my t-shirt tucked into my shorts
- No nursing from 11p until 6am when the sun is out. This meant if she woke up between bedtime and 11pm I would nurse her
- I will put her to bed in her floor bed, and try and soothe her back to sleep in her own bed
Spoiler alert: 2 of these things changed long term!
Items we use in her room:
Night one of night weaning:
First Wake Up: 10:56pm… of course.
I wasn't prepared for this… what do I do now? 5 min before I wasn't going to nurse her?! Something I'd found slipped into my head and said “what if she gets hungry in the night” so I decided to nurse her just to take that off the table so I wouldn't worry about it when she was crying later.
She fell right back asleep.
Second Wake Up: 11:15pm (45 min of crying)
Then when she unlatched 15 min later I decided it was go time. She cried for 45 min, but it wasn't the hysterical crying I thought it would be, it was more frustration than anything. She was clawing at my shirt and rolling around a bit, but every time she would roll away she'd come right back. Then she just sat on me and cried, eventually she got tired, and laid down on my chest and fell asleep. I couldn't believe it.
Because we breastfeed… always, I never got snuggles like this and it honestly melted my freaking heart.
Third wake Up: 3:30a (15 min of crying)
This one was tough for me, she only cried for 15 min before falling back asleep but this time I was asleep… and wanted to keep sleeping. But I felt like I was walking her through a little bit of grieving so I just comforted her, sent her love, rubbed her back, and tried to lull her to sleep by singing to her.
Fourth Wake Up: 5:30a (sun was up, we nursed)
Again, this one was tricky because… it's summer in Minnesota and the sun rises at 5am. I figured this was a VERY clear indicator on when she can and cannot nurse, so I showed her it was bright out and nursed her to sleep until about 7am when we got up.
Night two of night weaning our toddler:
I actually cannot believe how well night 2 went!
First Wake Up: Midnight (15 minutes of crying)
That's it. She woke up, cried, and then snuggled up to me and fell back asleep. She crawled down by my legs which was strange. I felt like it had something to do with skin to skin? And that was where she fell asleep! Down by my legs and of course I didn't want to move this little ticking time bomb… but I couldn't let her sleep by my legs, and she slept right through it!
Second Wake Up: 1:45a (cried for 5 min)
I could not believe it. It was almost like she woke up to make sure I was there and then snuggled up and went back to sleep! IT WAS INCREDIBLE!!!! But I also didn't cling too tightly because who knows what could be coming!
Third Wake Up:
Third Wake Up: 4:55a (nursed to sleep)
It was light out. 😑
Night 3 was a doozy.
So to be fair she had a THREE HOUR NAP the day before and I think that's what happened here.
First Wake up: 10pm (10 min of crying)
Second Wake Up: 3:30pm
She was “up-up” as we like to call it… meaning she wasn't about to go back to sleep. We tried for about an hour and half thinking it was close (Seth decided to sleep upstairs with us this night… big mistake). So around 5 am I decided to go downstairs with her and be up with her until she (we) were ready to go back to sleep.
When we finally went down for a 45 min nap (5:15 am-6:00 am). She took an 1 hr and 45 min nap later in the morning (9:30 am-11:15 am ) and then another quicky (2:30 pm-3 pm) and then bedtime at 8 pm.
Listen, I am NOT AN EXPERT. I'm just sharing with you my experience. It's totally possible I did this all wrong, but I chalk this one up to a fluke. I'm not totally sure why it happened but that seems to be the only constant with children…nothing is consistent.
One month after night weaning our toddler:
- She is night weaned and doesn't nurse from the time she goes to sleep until it's light out around 4:30-5 am
- Almost to the day, I got my period back!
- She is still not sleeping through the night and wakes up about 2-3x/night but goes back to bed very easily without nursing
- She goes to bed in her bed and then after her first wake up she comes into my bed. I was going to hers and getting TERRIBLE sleep so we've adjusted for now. Our bed is SO much more comfortable (it's fully adjustable) and it's organic and non-toxic so I feel better knowing it's totally safe.
The last thing I'll leave you with is your hormones may do some pretty insane things when you're night weaning.
Prolactin and oxytocin drop and they are called the “well being” hormone. YEP my wellbeing WAS NOT OKAY.
I was weeping, booked a session with a therapist, wondered if I needed antidepressants, anti anxiety, adderall, meditation, to go sit in a hole for a month?! It was a struggle fest.
Then I learned that your hormones go a bit nuts when you're weaning and it helped to know it wouldn't last forever.
I think once I came off the weaning hormones, I then got the period hormones… needless to say it was gnarly and you need give yourself some grace!
I watched a really good “weaning” highlight on instagram about it and some tips for general night weaning that helped a lot!