Sorry to those followers who like to hear new stories about my goings-on. This is old news. We’re trudging through the challenging and sad territory of weaning from breastfeeding with a toddler who has only ever been able to sleep through breastfeeding.
It’s been about a month since we night weaned again (I say again because we night weaned a few months ago but that attempt only lasted two weeks). There have been two – maybe three – nights where I’ve broken down after hours of middle-of-the-night wakefulness and nursed my toddler back to sleep. Other than that, she only nurses twice a day – to sleep for nap, and to sleep at bedtime. She has handled the night weaning well for the most part, and doesn’t ask for milk through the night anymore. Thankfully, there really weren’t very many tears over the change. Occasionally when she’s having a rough time with a cough or congestion, an itchy rash, or being overtired she’ll ask politely for milk, but when I calmly say “no milk until bedtime” she doesn’t ask again. She has unlimited access to hugs, kisses and cuddles, as well as warm mint tea for that belly-warming feeling.
The first time we tried night weaning, she ended up sleeping through the night for the first time ever. I thought night weaning was our golden ticket to better sleep. I thought she was only waking so much at night because she had become conditioned to get milk at those times, and by de-conditioning her, she’d no longer wake. But last night, not unlike every other night this month, she woke up 5 times and stayed awake from 1am until 3am. And then she was up for the day at 4:30. She’s at daycare right now, but I’m just waiting for the call that she needs to come home early to sleep (she does half days and has her nap at home with me after lunch).
We’re just as exhausted as we were when she was an infant. It has me aching to spend a night in bed with her, letting her nurse freely through the night, so we all get a good sleep. But we keep hoping that eventually she’ll figure out how to fall back asleep without milk, and we don’t want to drag this process out by taking a step backwards.
This experience has reinforced my decision to not sleep train her using conventional methods – it’s right for some kids, not right for others. She’s the kind of kid who will stay awake ALL NIGHT LONG to get what she wants. In the crib, she would have cried for hours. In her toddler bed, she can get up and get a stuffed animal she wants, she can come and get me from my room without crying for me, she can easily remove or get another blanket… I’m happy we waited to try independent sleeping (without nursing or co-sleeping) until she was actually independent. I think she would have been awake just as much had we done it earlier, but she would have been a lot more distressed about it.
So life now is a waiting game, and we’re just trying to survive while we wait. We’re doing what we can to help her sleep – cuddles, reassuring cheek kisses, lots of rest through the day – but nursing through the night is no longer a tool in our toolbox. We want to see this through.
Wish us luck…