So, I’ve shared some night weaning tips, and the plan I created and used to night wean Emerson. But, what exactly happened during those seven days? Here is the journal I kept to share just that with you all…
We put Emerson to bed as usual, with the exception of the quick talk we had with her reminding her that the num nums were going to sleep tonight so she would have to wait until the morning to nurse again (remember, we chose a 11-6 sleep window). Emerson only nursed once before 11:00. Then she woke up A LOT. There was some upset—whimpering and crying each time she woke up, but only for maybe 30 seconds at a time (not hours and hours like I anticipated). The first time she woke up and was told she couldn’t nurse was the hardest, but the whole protest didn’t go on for more than 5-10 minutes. She asked to nurse a few times throughout the night, but seemed to really get that the num nums were sleeping and easily accepted other forms of comfort.
The hard part—she was sleeping in 15-minute intervals (yes, really) most of the night once she realized we were serious so I got a total of THREE HOURS of sleep. It was like that I-know-the-alarm-is-going-to-go-off-any-minute-so-I-can’t-fall-back-asleep syndrome (Emerson being the constant alarm clock, that is). I was up comforting her and just really wanting to get through this difficult first night being as supportive as I could. And it seemed like she was ok, but understandably nervous about the change and had to constantly wake up to check and see if num nums were awake yet.
Since I was awake the whole night, I watched the clock until it hit 6:00, at which point I turned on the light and yelled out “we made it!” At which point, Emerson nursed like it was her last meal. Wow. And I was just as relieved as her on account of the engorgement. I will say, my breasts had grown several cup sizes overnight…haven’t seen them look like that since Em was a newborn.
I feel like hell today, but am in the best mood I’ve been in in so long because not only did we get through it, but Emerson was so loving and happy when she woke up! She was ok. Totally ok. The first thing she said was “I love you so much, mama! You’re so sweet!” and she proceeded to kiss and hug me repeatedly. I am now filled with the hope of a more normal life.
Em woke up just once before 11:00 again. After that she did really well most of the night! Not to be premature, but it really feels like she was up “studying” all night the first night—really trying to understand this new routine. And after that 12-hour study she just got it. That’s her personality, though. She practices things intensely until she masters them.
She did not cry at all until early morning. Every time before then she just woke up, flopped around while grunting/whimpering, then dozed off again on her own by snuggling up to me. She still woke up a lot—every half hour to hour—and woke me every time with all the movement, but such big progress.
After 4:00 things were rough. She was hungry. She tried to go back to sleep but just could not stay asleep because her tummy was rumbling. She accepted some water in lieu of milk. She cried and was pretty unhappy, but we made it to 6:00.
Emerson didn’t nap yesterday (what? why?! you haven’t slept in days child!) so she passed out at 6:45 last night. I was sure we’d all sleep for like seven hours without interruption given all the sleep deprivation and lack of napping, but instead we were up a billion times to nurse before 11:00. I felt like she finally caught on that this small window of opportunity to nurse (before 11) existed, and because she hadn’t eaten enough food during the day she used it to tank up. It was kind of tortuous after two nights of such little sleep to not be able to go to sleep early. How is she managing to sleep so little and be up all night? Ahh!
After 11:00, she woke up pretty regularly, on the hour, but with little upset. Just a snuggle and she was out. We once again had trouble with the early morning hunger. I think this two-hour window is going to be tricky to change on account of that, and just because she’s always struggled with the early morning hours, but I think we’ll get it done eventually. The progress she’s made during the rest of her twelve hours in bed is enormous, and there is progress here too (4-6), it’s just at a much slower rate.
She skipped her nap AGAIN, which was miserable because I needed to sleep so badly. She was, of course, really tired but would not sleep. I think it was nerves. When she needs extra reassurance from me she often skips her naps, because it means extra time with me.
We had a very cranky afternoon. She kept trying to fall asleep on the couch. She literally fell over asleep while I was reading to her several times! But, it was too late in the day to let her stay asleep. To top off this exhausting day, she fought bedtime and was an overtired crazy person. We got dad involved and she passed out by 7:30.
Then the miracle happened. She nursed just once before 11:00 at 9:30. Then she woke up just once more at 2:30. Other than that She slept all night…it was glorious! She still had trouble with the 5-6 stretch (I guess it’s better than 4-6), which I really hate, but it’s more manageable if I am sleeping relatively well the rest of the night.
She napped, but fought bedtime again. I’m not sure if this is an emotional reaction to the process. She spent some time away from me during the day so that could be it. I always notice she wakes up more at night when we aren’t as connected during the day, and I’d think that phenomenon would be exaggerated right now given we are weaning.
Anyway, she woke once before 11:00. After that she woke pretty consistently and frequently, but was very good at settling herself with minimal to no fuss. 5-6:00 was once again hellacious. She cried and fussed and refused water. This time she just woke up fully and sat in bed waiting for 6:00. Her new thing is asking us to turn on the light…because that means num nums will wake up. Clever girl.
For the first time she didn’t wake at all before 11:00. It was 11:24 when she woke up, and I was worried she would be hungry and pissed off because she had missed her nursing window, but she just went back to sleep quietly! Since we’ve had so much trouble making it to 6:00 am even with an extra feeding before 11:00 pm, I assumed she’d be up even earlier in the morning or just really angry that the restaurant was closed, but no. She slept just fine. AND she made progress. She was still restless and tossed and turned, but for the first time she did not fuss or cry all night. AND she actually fell back asleep in the morning and slept PAST 6:00, and right through the alarm going off, rather than jumping me like an animal ready to devour her kill at 6 on the dot.
It happened…she slept through the night! Wohoo! Not the lame “five hours of consecutive sleep” kind of sleeping through the night—the whole darn night!! She did wake at 9:00 for a 30 second feed, but then she slept until about 5:30. She sometimes rustled around when transitioning between sleep cycles, but never actually woke up. This is huge! She is getting it! She’s really learning how to sleep on her own.
On another note, though—she has been sleeping cheek-to-cheek with me—the two of us curled up into one ball of intertwined limbs—throughout the night weaning process. This actually began shortly after I taught her to fall asleep without nursing two months ago, but she’s gotten even more on-top-of-me in the past week (as if it’s even possible to get closer). She was previously a relatively independent sleeper as far as giving me plenty of personal space. Back then I could move her into her crib (which is attached to our bed), and she would move herself back there after each night feed.
So, I have been a little concerned about suddenly sleeping like cats, on top of one another, all night. I have been wondering if this is what I have to put up with in exchange for some sleep. But, last night there was some progress here so I am feeling hopeful that it’s all part of the process and she is just getting comfortable with our new arrangement.
I will also point out that last night Em slept through the night…but I did not. Pre-child I slept through hurricanes and cars backfiring, but I now have to retrain myself to sleep through the night. I’ve read that this is not only normal, but it may take me a few weeks to actually feel the full effects of sleeping after not sleeping for two years. That’s a lot of sleep deprivation to make up for! Well, yesterday was the first day I felt different. It was the only day since my child has been born that I didn’t at some point during the day wonder how I was going to keep going. Yay!
Also, the morning nursing session (once we hit 6:00) has shortened. Throughout night weaning it has been an hour-long session of nervous feeding and comfort sucking, but I can tell she’s getting used to the whole routine because she’s shortening it every day.
Bonus…the day after we learned to sleep through the night…
I wanted to put this down, because last night we were able to test this new routine in the face of our worst enemy: teething. I was nervous about teething, developmental milestones, and illness, because previous to night weaning Emerson would wake about every half hour all night when going through any of the above. She heavily relied on nursing to comfort her through those challenges. So, what the heck would happen if she didn’t have that source of comfort??
Well, Emerson started cutting two molars yesterday and was in serious pain and cranky all day. But, I am happy to report this did not prevent her from sleeping through the night again! She did wake before 11:00 a couple of times, but I’d rather deal with two times at the beginning of the night and then sleeping through. There was also minimal to no restlessness from 5-6:00. ALSO, I was able to move her into her crib for the beginning portion of the night for the first time in months so we continued to move forward even in the face of an obstacle (teething pain). Progress is bring made!
She seems very comfortable and actually happy with the new nighttime routine (maybe because she’s getting a better quality of sleep?). And the day time has changed so much already! She likes the new improved (rested!) mama. She is a bit reluctant to be away from me right now (I hear a lot of “I want mama “), but she is happy.
If you found this helpful, check out my 5 tips for night weaning and my night weaning plan. Come back tomorrow to see what surprises and bonuses were gained after we night weaned.