No more boobie in the night: Night weaning an older baby or toddler
After the popularity of our no more boobie in the night post a little while ago I wanted to share a bit more about our night weaning journey with you to help you night wean your older baby or toddler.
Before having children I didn't place expectations on myself about whether I would breastfeed or bottle feed. We just went with the flow and almost 2 years later William is still a little boobie monster, who, if he had it his way, would have breast on tap all day and night 😳
Contrary to most of the advice I read in books and what people told me, cue Tizzie Hall and comments like 'You're creating a rod for your own back', I fed William to sleep for most day naps and every night until he was one. Of course it didn't start like that, I did try self settling (very gently) in the early days, but we settled on breastfeeding to sleep as the best option for us fairly early on, especially with William (my second child). You know how it is, try with all your might to get them to sleep and then feed them and the rest is history.
Inevitably this turned into feeding to sleep for day naps, bed time and eventually throughout the night. Any time he would wake during the night, I would feed him back to sleep, until one day it was not having the same effect 😩 He would toss and turn, breastfeed and fall back to sleep only to do the same thing again 10 minutes later. Whhyyyy! I was beyond exhausted and eating my weight in chocolate just to keep my eyes open most of the time (say bye-bye to all of the weight loss benefits of breastfeeding).
I thought that phasing out his day nap feed may help with breaking the association between breastfeeding and sleep but unfortunately it didn't make a difference😢 After a few months of waking multiple times through the night and halfheartedly trying to resist feeding him, I made the tough decision to night wean. I was exhausted and knew that it had to be done for his sake and mine.
I wanted to share this with you because I know first hand how hard it can be to night wean an older baby (and how it feels like it may never actually happen). I am by no means claiming to be an expert, I'm just sharing my own experiences and what helped us in the hope that it will help some other parents out there. Although we night weaned from breastfeeding, I hope some of these points will work for mixed and bottle fed babies too.
What worked for us
Make some decisions
First of all set a date or time frame in which you would like to night wean. You may also like to decide on whether you would like to go 'cold turkey' and stop night feeding all at once or gradually stop over a few days or weeks. Once you do decide on the date and your strategy, choose the time that you will give your baby their last feed or how many feeds you are happy to give through the night and try your best to stick to it.
Be kind to yourself
This is one of the most important ones, look after yourself! 😍 If you have set the date and feel like you are prepared for some challenging nights, however you are faced with a hysterical and demanding baby, and you are crying yourself to sleep at night, try for as long as you can to settle your baby without feeding them and then offer a small feed. You're on your way to night weaning, your baby might just need a little more comfort before going cold turkey or might need to be weaned gradually.
Don't give up
This might seem like a contradiction to my last point but it's exactly the opposite. No matter how many nights you have to try and wean your baby, you're on your way so don't give up now. You will get there and it will make a huge difference to your sleep and your baby's. Of course, if your baby seems too distressed then you may have to put night weaning on pause and try again in a few weeks but if you think they are just resisting and you can handle the way they are, take heart in knowing that it will only be for a short time. You know what it's like to give up something you love 🍫🎂🍩 (you get my drift), so give it time.
Sleep is your friend
Start on a day that you know you will be able to sleep in or rest the next day. For example, if your partner has weekends off start on a Friday night, to allow you to sleep in and get some much needed rest during the days because those first few days can be tough.
Be prepared for a setback or two
Just as you think your little one is on the right track and you are starting to enjoy some longer stretches of sleep at night, your little one may get sick or start teething. This may call for some extra comfort and possibly some late night feeds but all is not lost. Once bubs is better you will be able to get back into your routine and it will be a lot easier than it was the first time.
I have had to go through this process with my son a couple of times as we slipped into some bad habits after teething 🙈 It was much easier the second time.
There can be many reasons for night time waking, including room temperature, teething, illness, sore tummy, nappy rash, the list goes on. Try your best to eliminate any of these factors, i.e. if you think that your child may wake because they are cold, use an extra blanket, if you think they may be getting sick or teething, maybe hold off until they are better.
Also, some children get thirsty through the night so it might be helpful to keep their cup of water near their bed so that you can give it to them without much fuss through the night or they can get it themselves if they're old enough.
I hope that these tips help you on your night weaning journey. Both of my children were night weaned when they were over one years of age so some of these tips may not apply if you are wanting to night wean a younger child. It is also important to remember that all children are unique and some will take longer and react differently than others. Only you as their parent knows what is right for you and your baby and whether you're at the point where you really want to night wean.
I would love to hear what has and hasn't worked for you and if you feel that this has helped you. Please feel free to write a question or a comment below or if you would prefer to contact me directly please email pamela@towellingstories.
All the best,
Please note: It is not recommended to night wean earlier than 6 months
Image credit: Rosie Harris and Fox @ohmywildhearts
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