Nightweaning ’n Dreaming
There have been big changes over here in the sleep department. One word says it all: Nightweaning
By Shannon Gallagher
There have been big changes over here in the sleep department. Coraline has successfully moved to her own bed and nightweaned, all in one week! She goes to sleep by 7:30 and doesn’t wake up until 5 a.m. (Of course, it can take over an hour to get her back to sleep, or she may not go to sleep at all, but we’re working on it.) Let me tell you, this shift was a game changer — and while I don’t regret the way we’ve done things until now, I feel remarkably different about boundaries and how and why to establish them. Let’s just say I can (sort of) see where Erica Jong was coming from...
Nightweaning was actually pretty painless, for all of us. While I always thought I’d use a gentle weaning method like Jay Gordon’s, we ended up going cold turkey — Coraline could nurse to sleep but then no “baba” until after 7 a.m. She did great: The first night she woke three times and protested loudly, but by the second she only woke twice and didn’t even ask to nurse. By the third night she had begun waking only once; a few sips of water and some snuggles and back out she’d go (though her staying asleep was contingent upon me staying with her in bed). A week later, I’m in my own bed and she’s even settling herself back to sleep unassisted. It’s remarkable how easy it was to make such a monumental change — the longer we co-slept, the more impossible it seemed we’d be able to stop. But that was more my fear of change than anything else, the complicated dance between my own needs and hers. I didn’t want to ruin our attachment, but it turns out she’s a happier kid with all this good sleep, and I’m a happier, more patient mom. We made it out alive, with our hearts intact.
If you think it’s time to close up shop at the all-night milk bar, here are a few helpful tips:
Meghan Casano of Baby Sleep Science notes that many co-sleeping parents wait to nightwean until their child can understand what it is they’re being asked to do. A 14-month-old will have a much more difficult time conceptualizing what is happening than a two-year-old; that said, every child is different and so go with your gut. Regardless of age, make sure you prepare your child for the changes by explaining to them what is going to happen (ex. “When you go to sleep, so will mama’s milk”), reassuring them that they’ll get to nurse again in the morning.
If it seems like they’re not ready, they’re probably not ready. Postpone your plans and try again in a couple weeks. Don’t try to night wean if they’re sick or teething, it’s a recipe for disaster.
If you aren’t comfortable letting your child “cry it out” then be prepared to offer other non-nursing comfort — back rubs, singing, rocking, cuddling, water, or a pacifier — for as long as it takes. You may get less sleep for a couple nights, but remember that more sleep is just around the corner. If any sort of crying makes you uncomfortable, then try Jay Gordon’s method, or read this article from Mothering.com, which explains the difference between “crying it out” and “crying in arms.”
Be lovingly consistent — once you set boundaries, stick with them. Otherwise you’re sending mixed messages that will draw out the process and probably lead to more tears from everyone.