Are you ready to night wean your toddler? Have you scoured every source to learn the best way to do this and not cause irreparable damage (spoiler alert- you won’t damage them!)? Read the books, got the t-shirts, hashtagged about not getting good sleep for so long you don’t know if you could sleep the night through even if you do get your little bundle of joy to sleep through the night? Have you tried before and been unable to truly get them to wean? Me too! To all of the above.
My son was 2.5 (and I had a 6 month old nursling) when I FINALLY was able to get him to night wean. My son was and is a boob baby. Hands down he nursed around the clock since the day he was born. Would still nurse all day if I let him.
This isn’t to say we didn’t have our challenges in the beginning. We were unable to figure out how to latch and for the first 6 weeks. We ended up having to use a nipple shield to help us. I had massive oversupply that due to some misinformation took forever to straighten out. My son also turned out to be very sensitive to dairy. Even once I removed all that, he spit up until about 9 months old. Constantly. (An apparent affliction my second son shared as well- oh joy).
Here is a list of 5 things to consider when night weaning a toddler:
- Is your child able to tell the difference between night and day? This was huge for us, as I would tell him he could nurse when the sun came up. When I attempted prior to explain daytime he didn’t understand. He would think it was daytime even when we were nursing to go down at night. At 2.5 he fully grasped daytime versus nighttime.
- Can your child understand concepts in books? We got the book “Nursies when the Sunshines” and when we read it he understood it. So we casually read it in the 3 weeks leading up to the big day. Then every morning and night I would reiterate “look its daytime” right when he woke up. Then “its night time and time for bed” just to help drill home this concept of night and day.
- Pick the parent that will be the comforter. Some people say it’s easiest if the dad takes over since we have the ultimate source of upset (aka the boobs) but I personally say you know your child. I knew that my son would only want me and taking the boob and myself away would be a double whammy. So I just wore clothes he couldn’t get access to me in.
- Pick a day and include your child in the time frame. We chose a Saturday when I would be off work Sunday/Monday. Leading up to the event I would say at different times “next week we are going to stop nursing in the middle of the night” or “on Saturday we won’t nurse anymore in the middle of the night”. I could tell it was sinking in even though when I said these things sometimes he would just stare at me. There were random other times he would bring it up with no prompting and say something like “we don’t nurse anymore in the middle of the night” he also attempted to explain this new change to his grandma “grandma mama says no more nursing in the middle of the night”. It was sinking in at least conceptually.
- Be prepared for him to be upset. This is a huge change for him and change is hard for everyone-adults included. We may not cry with all changes but we certainly do for some of them! Have compassion that though they understand they are still upset about the change. There is absolutely a difference between being upset with a transition and losing their mind over the change. In my opinion this is not cry it out- I was with my son for his entire upset, however long that took. He always calmed back down and went back to sleep.
For us it looked like this: Day 1 he woke up 2 times and each time I stayed calm and when he asked can he nurse I would say in a calm voice “no baby, remember no nursing in the middle of the night.” He cried for a few minutes and I offered to rub his back instead. He declined the first night but did go back to sleep each of the two times after some tears and me holding him. He did cry a bit while I held him and said “I want to nurse” I just continued to stay calm and quiet and empathize. “I know you do baby but no more nursing in the middle of the night”.
Day 2 he woke up 2 times cried for about ½ the time as he did the first night and did allow me to rub his back to get back to sleep. Day 3 he woke up one time fussed for a minute and let me rub his back to go back down. Since then he has slept through the night except for a handful of times. For a couple months after he would randomly bring up not nursing in the middle of night anymore. I would reaffirm for him that that was true.
One note on your mama intuition, if it doesn’t feel like it’s the right time take a step back and review. If you are in the beginning stages of just introducing the topic and it doesn’t feel like the right time. It might not be. Can this wait a few more months? At these young ages a few months can drastically change their capacity to understand.
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