Nightweaning: Our Cry-With-Daddy Approach

Yes. The time has come for us to nightwean. I’ve reached the end of my emotional and mental capacity to be woken up every two – three hours and have my sweet baby yanking and sucking and grabbing and pinching and it going on and on and on. She is 16 1/2 months.  Not a bad ride for the all-night baby buffet.  And my current intention is to keep nursing her during the day until she’s at least two.

Lots of big changes are happening this month in our home– including me working full-time starting tomorrow (!!!) — so a decent night’s sleep is truly imperative.  There is too much at risk for our family’s financial well-being for me to continue to be the crazy no-sleep lady.

A lot of people in the Attachment Parenting community look to Dr. Jay Gordon for as having the best night-weaning method that aligns with our collective views on night-time parenting and providing consistent, loving care. He is quite clear on not advocating night-weaning at all for babies younger than 12 months and offers tips for the older baby or toddler.

When I tried his gradual approach with my first daughter when she was 17 months, this ended up adding to her distress.  She couldn’t understand that sometimes when she was sleeping, she would get Mama’s milk and sometimes she wouldn’t.

Within a few painful nights of this, we determined we needed to quickly eliminate nursing after first going to sleep at night and not nurse again until morning. I was so worried about this decision because I believed that allowing my baby to cry — even if I was with her — was cruel and could break her trust and harm our attachment.

But we received some great counseling from early parenting expert Carrie Contey, PhD, who suggested, like Dr. Gordon, that for babies there is an significant difference between crying alone and crying with a parent.  I remember feeling so much relief hearing this!

To be able to experience emotions like anger, sadness and disappointment…..and even despair — this is all part of being human. I think that having to feel those feelings alone would be quite terrifying as a baby. Feeling and expressing them fully and loudly in the arms of a loving parent offering sympathy and acknowledgment — that’s different in my book.

When we night-weaned my eldest, I still slept next to her and followed Carrie’s advice to make statements like, “I know you are so sad and so angry and you really want milk.  I’m sorry sweet angel – no more milk at night.”   We had two very difficult nights — with wildly distraught cries similar to those I heard last month when we weaned her binky.

This time, we determined that because I’ve got to be on top of my game in very short order and really need maximum sleep, that Mark would be the one to comfort Izzy in her middle-of-the-night wails for Mama. And instead of following Gordon’s gradual night wean suggestion, we’re going straight to it because we believe it’s less confusing.

God Bless our sweet new housemate, Jeanine.  She offered to stay with some friends last night and tonight so that Sadie and I could sleep downstairs in her room and be shielded from the sound of Baby Izzy’s cries.

I’m relieved that this first full-time job is freelance work which allows me to be at home and take nursing breaks during the day and hopefully make up for the nighttime separation sadness.

Looking for additional ideas and advice on nightweaning?   Kelly Mom offers some great tips too.

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8 Responses to “Nightweaning: Our Cry-With-Daddy Approach”

  1. amy says:

    oh gosh. i wish you lots of luck. we did the same just a few months ago, around the same age. i agree, it did seem less confusing to go “cold turkey”. dh was exhausted – but the process made him understand just how exhausted i had been for months AND it seemed to bring baby and DH closer. that was an interesting surprise!

    i wish you sound sleep…

    • Thank you Amy! We’re getting through it fairly well. Interestingly enough, Izzy (the baby) is napping better than she has her entire life. Yesterday 3 hours straight! And today, she’s been down for almost 2 hours and appears to be on the same 3 hour path. Yea! I look forward to our whole family getting more solid sleep at night soon too. 🙂

  2. Reggie says:

    Hi… just been reading this and have read the Dr Gordon Jay piece on this also… my daughter is 18 1/2 mnths and I am considering night weaning also… but I am very nervous. I hate – hate hearing her distraught and feeling ever so responsible for it. Has your rship with Izzy changed in any way? My daughter, Maya, has recently, every now and then started falling asleep on her Daddy and also went to sleep without the boob last night, apart from touching it as she fell asleep. But, sleep would make a whole heap of difference to me, cos’ I don’t think I can continue with the every 2 – 2 1/2 hr thing anymore. Lately, I’ve had the ‘luxury’ – can you believe it – of having 3 – 31/2 hr sleeps at the beginning of the night. Yet, I am in a foreign country, which has been extremely hard for me and I have no help, other than my husband. The boob is so important to her, I need advice, support – anything, to let me know I am doing the right thing. Maya seems utterly frustrated with waking up – really revved up and p’d off by it actually and often times, sleep deprived herself.

    • Hi Reggie! We appear to have similar personality types in our daughters. I spent the first 16 months of Izzy’s life waking up every 2 hours or so and really felt out of my mind. Now I’m sleeping more, but Izzy is still working through the night weaning. My eldest night-weaned quite easily in comparison. She had two really awful, painful nights of terrible crying — but I was right there with her holding her and talking her through it. And then it was done and she would just wake once a night asking for water. Izzy, bless her heart, is still waking up crying for “ik”. But the crying is much less dramatic and much shorter. And she’s now accepting water instead as well.

      I know your feelings well. I remember being so worried about what would happen to our bond when I night-weaned Sadie. And even more so when I weaned altogether when pregnant with Izzy. I was surprised and delighted to feel a new, different level of closeness. Instead of coming to me and yanking on my shirt for boob, she was coming to me for hugs and snuggles! She still wanted the physical closeness — and of course, so did I. Connecting this way was wonderful.

      I think I’ve personally come to peace with making the choice at 17 or 18 months versus 6 when babies can understand words like “no more” and “water?”, etc.
      It’s not like the utter despair and confusion that a weaned newborn must feel. And there’s something beautiful about being able to unload negative emotions in the arms of a comforting parent. I think I wrote in my post that Carrie Contey, the PhD parenting coach we trust nurtured me through the choice and advised to acknowledge and present to our baby’s emotions. So instead of saying “ssshhh, it’s OK” to say something like “I know you’re so sad and so angry because you really want milk from mama and we just can’t do it a night time anymore.”

      I hope that helps! I’m with you

  3. Reggie says:

    Thank You; I will look her up. That does help and every bit of support goes towards me being more at peace with it. Sorry if my post was a bit choppy, but I am sleep deprived! 🙂 and often forget words – I am sure you know 🙂 I love the cuddles too, just the twiddling thing gets me, but the closeness I adore as we all do, just need some sleep – guilt free. Thank you once again. I love your blog, it is great and reassuring.

  4. Reggie says:

    a wee update on the night weaning. I sort some friend’s advice and read Naomi Adorlt on the issue of night weaning toddlers also and it was extremely helpful. We have done two nights. First night, first waking was quite brutal – thrashing, crying and lots of anger. My husband and I talked her through it; explained we understood, it was time to sleep and we knew it was difficult, but ‘boobsters’ (as we call them in our family) would be out when the sun came out, but now needed to sleep. I tried to stroke and hold her, but she was too angry. Second waking, she was calmer and happy to be stroked and held and she fell asleep next to her Daddy. Third waking, early morning, she was still agitated, cos’ this is her hard time, even with the nipple. to fall asleep, but it was short lived. She woke three times from going to bed at 8.15 till 6.30 which is an improvement from 6 times. The next day she was totally fine – extremely connected, making lots of eye contact with me and very affectionate and I was more open too, because of the relief. Second night, first waking was much better, second waking not much at all and third waking was prolonged and agitated, but again, she was happy and connected when she woke up. I made the mistake of getting somewhat agitated when trying to get her back to nap today, and releasing the nipple before she was ready, she didn’t seem overly bothered, but later, when I admit, again, I made a mistake of having a negatively, intense conversation with my husband while she was at the breast, she got all agitated and pinched me really hard and bit down too, which really hurt. Luckily, I was able to dissipate this energy eventually between my husband and I later and her and I went for a nice walk; saw horses, ducks, chickens etc and she nursed in the Ergo and we reconnected just fine.

    SShe has gone to be at 7pm the past two nights which is unheard of for her – she is a 9- 9.30pm girl!

    Well… watch this space and your advice and support were ever so helpful and appreciated. Will keep you updated.

  5. Reggie says:

    last night went well until the early morning waking. she went to bed 7pm and was fine’ish’ with waking and not having boobster in the first couple of wakings. The final one, she wailed horribly for ages… it was terrible and I almost gave her the boob, but didn’t want to confuse her. It has been a weird day for me, so I think my mood effected it a little. What is the deal with the water? Maya rarely accepts any refreshment, its all about the sucking and me. She was v angry with me. She moved herself way away from me.

    This morning she is connected – a bit more clingy than usual, but smiling, running around and affectionate, but it was AWFUL AWFUL AWFUL.

  6. Reggie says:

    Monica, how did it all go with you? was wondering…

    much better here. For the most part, Maya sleeping 71/2-8 hrs in a row, and going to bed much earlier. She still tends to be restless but gets herself back to sleep. I usually do a feed aroun 4.45/5am and she falls back till 6.30/7.15

    Please let me know your news too.

    Thank you again!xx

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