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!
Sounds like great progress, after she’s settled into this routine for a few night slowly pushing out that bottle could lead to night weaning completely 🙂
That’s the plan Julie. I’d love to just have the bedtime feed and no others. But if it takes a few months to get there that’s fine. At least I feel there’s progress now.
Oh you poor thing, that sounds incredibly exhausting. I’m glad plan C is starting to work. We did plan B, which is why this time last year, I was sleeping on the couch. Every single night for months. I do not miss that 🙂
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I bet you don’t! The things we do for sleep, eh?!
Oh Lisa, that’s hard 🙁 But bloody hell, what a change in two weeks! hope this all settles down for you… And you know, in a couple of years the on,y memory you have of this (I hope!!) is from the account here! Xx
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And even more of a change last night Emily. Fed to sleep at 7.30. No bottle feed at all, and just one breastfeed at 4am. Amazing difference. Long may it continue.
How exhausting. Even reading this I am taken by the fact that you feed a bottle and a breast during the night and that is an improvement! We mothers are amazing, you definitely are.
From my own past I remember these days all too well. Thankfully even though we are upset by it, our children do grow up and some of the hardest things we cope with end.
I hope it all continues to go well… or better, and that you catch up on months of sleep very soon.
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Thanks Tric. I take comfort in the fact that my four year old, who was a terrible sleeper, has slept through the night for a couple of years now, and nothing wakes him. So I know it will pass. Eventually. 🙂
How drained you must be!Our little one has also been keeping us awake with the reverse feeding since I went back to work two months ago.She wakes at least three times a night looking for her bottle.We tried to cut them out but she would scream the house down.All we can do is ride out the storm.Hopefully things will settle down soon for both of us!
Repeat it with me Aedín – “this too shall pass”. When we look back in a few years it will seem like this happened for a short time. But living it is hard.
Glad it’s working for you. I’m going to have to try and night wean in a few weeks after our holidays. The night feeds are killing me! I think mine is hungry during the nights also, so will probably try offering some kind of bottle too.
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How did you get on Sheila? Did you try in the end?