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  • Nightweaning 3.25 yr old

    (Cross-posted at MDC)

    This is insane.

    Its day five of no night nursing, and we were up until 4am last night. Neither of us are getting nearly enough sleep.

    She tries really hard to fall asleep for about an hour or so, but just can't. Sometimes she'll let me snuggle her up. rub her back, or rock in the rocking chair but the last few nights she doesn't want to be touched and just kicks and screams for milk.

    I'm nightweaning because she wakes 7-9 times a night to nurse and my body and mood just can't take it anymore. We're using Jay Gordon's gentle nightweaning techniques (and have been at the point where she goes to sleep awake after nursing for a year now - and just moved to no nursing).

    How long does it take for an older toddler to become comfortable with not nursing at night? Anyone have any stories? I was expecting 3 nights of really rough times, but its been 5 nights now and last night was worse than the first.

  • #2
    This must be really hard for both of you. *hugs*

    I don't have personal experience with night weaning yet, but I've heard it can take up to two weeks for children to adjust fully to a change in routine.

    Have you talked to her about why this is happening during the day and before bed time so she has a better understanding of what is going on? Maybe focusing your discussions on what you can do before bed or when she wakes at night as opposed to what you can't do (nursing)? Just some ideas that popped into my head.

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    • #3
      I nightweaned around my son's third birthday and we also did the Jay Gordon approach. I just kept telling him that the nup needed to sleep and it only worked when the sun was up. This backfires in the summer when the sun rises at 6am but it did work for the evening. For about 2 weeks, he would wake up once or twice and say "Is the sun up yet?" but then he started sleeping through the night. We didn't have the screaming you are seeing and I'm sorry to hear you are suffering! The other thing that I did was offer a sippy cup of water and he still sleeps with that next to his bed (6 months later). He often wakes up in the middle of the night and drinks from it.

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      • #4
        Thanks for both of your replies.

        She tries really hard to fall asleep, but just doesn't seem to be able to (until she conks out from exhaustion). She understands that milk is "sleeping" and pats my breast and says, "night night milk." She is trying so hard, it breaks my heart. As soon as the sun starts to come out, she says, "good morning milk!!!"

        Last night she kicked and screamed, not just a "I really don't like this" kind of scream, but a scream I rarely hear - once when she was waking up from anesthesia, and once when her old ped (we have a new one now) yelled at her for not holding still.

        None of the nightweaning stories I have read have gone quite like this. Its really intense. I sob along with her, and am so tempted to give in.

        She seems fine during the day. Happy, playing, running about, not especially clingy, not nursing more than usual, with no indication that the night was so awful. She's a little more tired than usual.

        She is such a wonderful child. She tries so hard to do what we gently explain. I can't stand doing this to her. But... I HAVE to get more sleep. If she would just wake once or twice a night to nurse, that would be okay. But its 7-9 times. We've tried everything else (melatonin, magnesium, iron, bedtime ritual, white noise, total elimination diet, reflux meds, raising the head of the bed 6 inches, lab tests for inflammatory processes, consulting with an OT, weighted blanket, blackout curtains, etc). The ped and OT have concluded its "behavioral." Whatever that means. She doesn't sleep well because its some behavioral associations and they all recommend nightweaning.

        My poor, poor baby. When this is over, we're going to both need some serious therapy.

        Is there anyone at all that has been through a nightweaning as challenging as this? I could use some comfort

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        • #5
          I haven't nightweaned yet, but just about to try round three. I have to say that my gut believes mine dd will be just like yours. I've tried the no nah's nah's until the sun comes up....the unlatching before falling asleep.....all those...and they have all gone horribly wrong. My mood is awful and I swear I have aged 20 years in the past two from lack of sleep. Bella is a sweet sweet child, but is sooooo used to night nursing that it will be incredibly difficult to even slightly decrease the frequency nonetheless completely night wean! I will be keeping an eye of this thread in hopes you get some amazing advice and inspiration! Hugs mama, I am sooooo there with you!

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          • #6
            This has been on my mind a bit today. I hope things are going better for you tonight.

            It sounds like you are no longer nursing her to sleep at all. I was wondering if you would be able to nurse her to sleep at the beginning of the night, but then try to use other methods to get her to back sleep for any interim wakings? Or is she only having trouble with the interim wakings at this point?

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            • #7
              Night weaning was also very difficult for us and I felt as you have expressed. I was exhausted because Arianna would nurse all night long. She was just over 3 years old at the time and was not drinking milk. My husband, who is military and frequently out of the country, was an integral part of night weaning. We began putting a cup of water next to the bed at night. If she woke up, my husband would attempt to give her the water. Sometimes they would both move to her bed because she would try and crawl under my shirt and I just wanted to sleep. I saw their relationship blossom during this short time he was home and within about 2 1/2 weeks, she was night weaned. She still wakes at night to crawl into bed with me, but I don't mind the extra cuddles!

              I believe "How Weaning Happens" by Dianne Bengson has a section on night weaning that you might find helpful. I hope tonight is going better for you both and you are able to awake refreshed tomorrow!

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              • #8
                I see myself in your shoes down the road. I thought I was going nuts with nursing every 2 hours all night (more durind day) long for 21 months now.... I am so tired that I had a car crash last month!!! ugh! My high need - (hate to label, but want to explain temperament), DS had birth issues. Craniosacral therapy has helped some, but with teething we are at square one. I was told to wean also... but I know he needs to suck. I hope to learn good tips here.

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                • #9
                  I nightweaned my nursling at 22 months for the same reasons you described. Maeve still woke every 45 to 90 minutes to nurse and, thanks to two years of this, I now have chronic serotonin issues. My husband had long since moved to the guest room so at least one of us could get some rest. In addition to my health, my daughter was chronically tired so we knew that night weaning was the best for everyone.

                  I used a combination of Dr. Gordon's methods and Pantley's method. We talked about what would happen for several nights before D-day. I explained, just as you have, that the nursies would go night-night after Maeve went to bed and would wake up when the sun came up. What actually happened was more like no nursing before 4am which ended up working fairly well. The first night when she awoke the first time she cried for four solid hours in my arms. Then fell asleep from exhaustion. When she woke an hour or so later, she only cried for two hours. By the next waking, it was after four so she nursed like a maniac then fell asleep and slept for three and a half hours; her longest stretch ever. For the subsequent five nights, it was much the same but the sleep stretches lengthened and the crying shortened. By the ten day mark she was starting the night in her own bed, nursing to sleep, then staying asleep for four hours, then coming to my bed and going right back to sleep until the four or five a.m. mark when she'd nurse, doze, nurse, doze until six or seven. After 13 months of this schedule, she finally started sleeping all night in her own bed. She didn't give us any warning or any indication. She just did it.... on Christmas Eve, no less.

                  Are you still nursing her to sleep at night? I would encourage you to continue nursing her to bed at night. I think it's much easier for a child to wake in the night and return to sleep without nursing than fall asleep for the first time without nursing. It took many months of good nighttime sleeping before Maeve could handle falling asleep without nursing. Now, we nurse for ten minutes after lights out at which time I leave her to fall asleep alone. She's great about it now but if I would've started that way she probably would've run away from home!

                  The older the child, the longer and more set in the stone the association. You're doing this for good reason. If you give in now, you'll have essentially made the last five miserable nights for nothing. I suspect your daughter would find that very confusing. Your with her every step of the way. She isn't crying alone. You are there to comfort her which is why she's still attached and delightful during the days. Hang in there. It WILL get easier. And you will be an even more fabulous mother when you're well rested. And believe it or not, she'll be even more fantastic, too! Keep talking to her. Keep trying to console her. Just don't try too much all at once.

                  HUGS!!!

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                  • #10
                    I haven't read all of the replies -- so forgive me if this is repeating what has been said.

                    First of all, hugs to you. I know how hard this can be! Cora was almost 3 when we night weaned. She was nursing 6-7 times a night too! I just couldn't take it anymore. So I understand where you are coming from. It is a gift that you have nursed her this long!

                    What worked for us was to start by limiting night time nursing rather than eliminating them all together. At this age, Cora was old enough to know that she could nurse 2-3 times in a night. If she woke up after that, I would comfort her in other ways and ensure her that we would nurse when the sun comes up. We did have those days where she would stay awake until the morning though! Talk about a strong willed little person! But rest assured that we got through this -- and you will too. As silly as it sounds to say this, I don't know any 6-7 (or 5-6 for that matter) year olds who are still nursing at night like this!

                    Try to remember that the same qualities about your child that are making this difficult for you (strong willed, strong sense of self, knowledge that she IS important and that her needs matter etc) are truly wonderful qualities! The difficulties you are experiencing in this situation are not an indication that you have failed somehow as a mother (I know my mind always goes here when something does not go the way I think it should) but that you have succeeded in creating a strongly attached, aware, intelligent little person. Hang in there!

                    Rachel

                    PS have you tried getting a special new cup for her to take to bed with water in it? Cora still takes water to bed!

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                    • #11
                      Thanks for your replies. Its so reassuring to know that we're not alone.

                      Yes, we still nurse to sleep and as often as she likes during the day.

                      Last night (night 7) she still woke frequently, but didn't cry at all, or try to nurse. She said, "Mama, hug" so I snuggled her up and she fell back to sleep pretty quickly each time.

                      I feel like we are making progress! Maybe the worst is over.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by BellinghamCrunchie View Post
                        Thanks for your replies. Its so reassuring to know that we're not alone.

                        Yes, we still nurse to sleep and as often as she likes during the day.

                        Last night (night 7) she still woke frequently, but didn't cry at all, or try to nurse. She said, "Mama, hug" so I snuggled her up and she fell back to sleep pretty quickly each time.

                        I feel like we are making progress! Maybe the worst is over.
                        That's terrific! I'll be thinking of you tonight. Sending strength and hugs.

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                        • #13
                          Here's to another great night for you! I hope last night set a new trend.

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                          • #14
                            I've just read this thread for the first time, and am glad to see things are getting better for you. I just thought I'd share that when we nightweaned at 2, the Jay Gordon approach didn't work for us. My daughter became really upset. I truly don't think she knew how to go back to sleep - she had developed a very strong association between nursing and falling asleep. That isn't a bad thing, and I sometimes wish I could have made that work for our family for longer. But I just couldn't. What worked for us to break the habit was to get up out of bed and walk around bouncing until she fell asleep. It didn't help me get any more sleep during the transition, and I had a lot of back aches! But I think she remembered that motion from being a baby and it really settled her. She would get a little upset, but not that true distressed upset. I think it slowly taught her that she was capable of falling asleep without nursing. I would sing to her and talk to her the whole time. Gradually, over several weeks, it took less and less time of walking for her to go back to sleep, and there were fewer times she woke up. Sometimes, I could just sing the same songs we'd been singing while walking, and she'd go back to sleep. I felt as thought I'd changed the association from nursing to the songs. Eventually, she stopped waking up altogether, and I was able to get a full night's sleep. At least until she hit four and started having scary dreams!

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                            • #15
                              Great post...

                              We are also having issues with nightweaning (and weaning in general). I'm 20 weeks pregnant and the last few weeks my milk has totally dried up!!! I had planned (if I was able) to continue nursing through pregnancy, but alas...it is not to be. I really hate the feeling of "dry nursing" and I'm crawling the walls when she tries to nurse. Until a few weeks ago, DD was still nursing about 10 times a day (and night nursing), but that has all changed in the past few weeks.

                              I'm sorry for the weaning...I had wanted to nurse her longer (at least she was over 2 years), but really need to at least nightwean for my sanity.

                              DD rarely asks for it now during the day, but our bedtimes have been HORRIBLE (nighttime has been okay, but not bedtime). Alot like you have been describing for your DD. I have tried a million different things to help settle her down at night, but she still tantrums (like your DD is doing). I have ZERO milk left, so that is really not an option anymore. I can only let her nurse about 10 seconds (I count out loud) before I ask her to quit. She rarely asks for it now when she awakens in the middle of the night.

                              I wish you all the luck...I really hope it gets better over here at our house too.

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