Monday, July 22, 2013

Our Nightweaning Journey

Just after Penny's 16th month milestone, I decided it was time to nightwean, which is also a stepping stone to the end of our bed sharing journey. This decision came from many places, the least of all being the quality of my personal sleep. I completely believe that night nursing and bed sharing has given Penny and I more sleep than if I had tried to make her last through the night earlier or if we had moved her out of our bed.

The problem was that she's a little wiggleworm. And she was starting to all out yell at night when she wanted to nurse. It went from gentle stirring and maybe a squeak to wake me up to an instant demand for attention. It was wearing on both Adam and I, him more so as he needs to get up to go to work in the morning. So the decision was made that with our impending move (in hopefully a month), she would be transitioning into her own room at the new house.

Penny normally nursed 3-5 times during the night, most often between the hours of 1 and 5a. When others ask me about Penny's sleep habits and if she "sleeps through the night," I have such a hard time responding. Yes, she does sleep well. I don't have to fully wake up to lull her back to sleep and I feel like she is a "happy sleeper" most of the time. She doesn't get up to party and never has confused night time versus day time. It's overall been a great experience, except with the recent wiggling / night yelling that she has started doing over the last almost 2 months.

I decided that the natural first step to transitioning her into her own space at night was to night wean. My hope is to slowly build her night time independence by giving her less of a reason to wake up. I plan to continue to nurse her throughout the day, as she requests, and will nurse at bed time. Some nights she passes out while nursing, other nights she's still a little awake and I've had success in laying her down in the pack n play that is in our bedroom. She normally naps in it and for the last 3 months or so she begins the night there too. Usually around 1 or so she would wake up and cry to be brought into the bed, and we'd oblige.

When I started night weaning, as expected the first couple nights were rough. She would awaken during her normal times when she would want to nurse, and I would gently have to tell her that "milk has gone ni-night" and that "Penny needs to go ni-night too." This was met with extreme frustration on her part. I'd rub her back and sing to her and eventually she would settle down and lay her head on my pillow or her own and we'd fall asleep again. It would be a very light sleep for her, and if I moved then she'd awaken and we'd have to start all over. I promised her that as soon as the sun came up, milk would wake up and she can have some.

Nights 3 and 4 got progressively better, with her accepting sooner that milk had gone to sleep and that she should too. I started keeping a sippy with water and a banana on my nightstand so that I can offer either to her if she was really struggling to go to sleep. My biggest fear was that she was truly hungry and I was denying her for too long. Some nights she will take a sip of water, other nights she declines (with a very groggy "thank you" sign, totally melts my heart).

Night 5 though, I feel like we had a true breakthrough. She slept in her pack n play from about 7:30 to close to 5a. She stirred a couple times and I got up and rubbed her back for a second, but she didn't need it. I was so proud of my little one! My fears of her being hungry throughout the night are quelled and I think we all will flourish from this transition.

It's been about 2 weeks of this process and she doesn't ask for milk very often at night anymore. She still comes into our bed between 1-3 and has only slept that one night entirely in the pack n play.

Did you night wean a co-sleeping toddler? How did you do it?

I found this article by Dr. Jay Gordon to be really helpful. 

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