Night weaning a boob addict…with a bottle
Back in July, I decided it was time to day wean my daughter. I had stopped expressing at work a couple of months before that when she was 13 months old, but I still tended to breastfeed her during the day when I was at home with her because it was easy and convenient. I had hoped that these day feeds would gradually reduce in frequency if I adopted the often touted “don’t offer, don’t refuse” approach, which is regularly suggested for people who want to wean their toddlers. Well that didn’t work because if I stuck to the “don’t refuse” part, I’d have been feeding her ten times a day, or more! So I just started offering her a cup of milk instead whenever she looked for a breastfeed, and within a week or two the day feeds were gone.
What I didn’t expect was the impact this would have on night feeding. Now we’ve been co-sleeping for months, and I would often give her a quick feed to nurse her back to sleep if she woke at night, a minute here, two minutes there. It never had a huge impact on me or her – I don’t think I really woke for it, so it worked well because it maximised all our sleep.
But in July our lovely arrangement began to fall apart. Suddenly she was waking three, four, five times a night for proper feeds. It wasn’t long before I was exhausted, feeding every two hours at night and then dragging myself out of bed for work the next day. My blog went quiet. I stopped contributing to Parent.ie and eventually resigned from it because the guilt that I just wasn’t pulling my weight was really getting me down. But even cutting those things from my life wasn’t enough. The night wakings and feeding continued and my tiredness grew.
I finally realised what was happening. Dropping the day feeds had caused her to reverse cycle. When I did the maths, we hadn’t actually dropped any feeds at all. We’d just moved them to a less convenient time of the day. Oh dear.
I looked for night weaning recommendations from my breastfeeding friends. Lots of recommendations came in for the Dr Jay Gordan method. Essentially you start by cutting short the feeds at night saying “no more” or something similar, and you work up to refusing night feeds between 11pm and 7am. We tried it. There was lots of screaming. It just wouldn’t work for us.
We needed a plan B. The recommended plan B seems to be for the breastfeeding mother to go sleep in the spare room for a few days and let the father settle the baby. Two problems with this approach – we don’t have a spare room, and Charlie wasn’t keen on telling herself that she was getting cut off from her milkies.
On to plan C. At almost 17 months old we decided to introduce a bottle. Madness I know, at a time when most people are trying to get rid of them. But she doesn’t really like the bottle, so we figured if she was hungry she would take it and if it was just comfort she needed then she could have cuddles instead.
We decided that we would offer a bottle the first time she woke for the first few nights. There were tears but it was obvious she wasn’t upset – she was angry with us. We just cuddled her, reassured her, and explained that if she wanted milk she could have a bottle. It took a night or two but eventually she accepted it. Or some nights she didn’t, but went back to sleep without it. Still a win in our book.
After three or four days we decided that we’d offer a bottle for any wakings up to 1am. Right now we’re about 9 days in to this bottle experiment and we’re down to two breastfeeds – one at 7pm and one at 5am. And there’s a 4oz bottle around 1 or 2am. Such a change from two weeks ago.
We’ll give it another week and then see about pushing the bottle out further and replacing the morning feed with it. And in the meantime who knows – maybe she’ll finally get some teeth and that will change everything!