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Night weaning a toddler - how long might it take?

(28 Posts)
AngelDog Thu 01-Sep-11 23:19:43

I know the answer is 'how long is a piece of string', but can anyone tell me how long it was of your DH resettling at night before your DC got the idea that milk was no longer forthcoming (whether you did it for part of the night or all of the night?)

DS is 20 m.o. and DH wants to night wean (well, completely wean tbh sad) and I don't think he has any idea what he could be letting himself in for. If I can, I'd like some real-life examples of how long / easy / difficult it was for others so we can have an informed discussion about it.

At the moment DS and I co-sleep and DH hasn't dealt with a single night-waking ever. Most nights DS only wakes once, but when teething or working on a developmental leap (like now) he can wake up to 8 times. I currently bf him to sleep and every time he wakes.

2ddornot2dd Thu 01-Sep-11 23:38:47

DD2 was 13 months, and about 11 months for DD1 (I think) when they were fully weaned. I can't quite remember how old they were when I night weaned, but it took about a week for DD1 as she was only having one feed, and about four weeks for DD2 as she was having about four feeds and I dropped one feed a week.

However as your DS is so much older he will put up more of a fight, so you will have a few very sleepless nights. If you can I would try and book some time off work unless you are a SAHM and start on a Thursday so DH has only one day when he has to go to work with no sleep, and I would drop all the feeds at once. He doesn't need to feed in the night at that age.

It might be work investing in some lilypads so that he actually can't latch on if you are co-sleeping (they stop you leaking) and some long nighties that he can't get any access with so that you don't cave in at 5am. I cuddled my babies until they were asleep and then put them in their cots, but it was very very tiring for the first three days, and then after that it got easier, until they were sleeping through.

(I repeated the three days bit four times, a week apart each time with DD2, if that makes sense.)

TheSecondComing Thu 01-Sep-11 23:42:53

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

TheRealMBJ Fri 02-Sep-11 06:21:06

Hi Angel


Sorry to hear about your DH's attitudes sad. Has he agreed to help with the night weaning and night wakings once weaned?

Our DS's are the same age (we often seem to be going through the same stuff at the same time too), and I am pregnant too, so I was the one more desperate to night-wean. DH would happily have continued with the status quo as it meant little or no disturbance to him, although we always have (and still do most nights except when DH's snoring is too irritating) sleep in the same, family bed. Anyway, I digress.

We first attempted night weaning at 15 months. It was a disaster. We chose a weekend and I was to sleep away from home opn the Friday and Sat nights, but come back to feed during the day and we would then share out the night with DH taking all wakings before midnight and again anything after 6am.

The first night was ok, he woke a lot and wanted me but DH cuddled and sang and settled him and they both got some sleep. Second night he was wise to our tactics and he essentially ran around the house shouting for me for about 4 hours, not distressed really just wanted Mamma. DH gave up, rang me (down the road at IL's) and I came back, fed him and we admitted temporary defeat.

I reluctantly left things as they were for a while (I've had quite strong feelings of aversion, especially to night feeds, since becoming pregnant) but at 18 months I was at the end of my tether and ready to let him CIO sad

But, as I don't have the heart to do that, we decided that we would use Dr Jay's method. I had previously been reluctant as I didn't think I'd have the strength to refuse a feed at night while he was screaming. However, it was a breeze. I just didn't offer, and sang and patted his back instead and within a week we had night weaned.

However, it has not improved his sleep one jot! He still wakes as often as before, still needs me to settle him by hugging and patting him (we're still co-sleeping for the largest part of the night)

It has been a relief to me though, as I was resenting the feeds in the night and as a consequence starting ti resent DS.

I realise that this might nit have been much help, but I suppose I just wanted to reassure you that it may not be as difficult as you are anticipating BUT that if you are not totally committed to doing it, you will probably find it verynhard. The only thing I can suggest is that if you do decide to night-wean, your DH would need to be willing to do the settling, especially at first as you may not be string enough ti refuse.


TheSecondComing Fri 02-Sep-11 08:03:47

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

EauRouge Fri 02-Sep-11 09:37:05

I'm confused as to why your DH is so keen on night-weaning when he's not the one dealing with the night waking confused

We took 2 attempts to night-wean DD1. At 15 mo she was not ready at all and after 2 nights of loads of crying, we gave up. We tried again when she was about 18 mo and there was very little complaining, she was quite happy to take a drink of water, have a cuddle and a little song. I just told her "booby's asleep" and she was OK.

HOWEVER, the night waking didn't stop. She still woke up at the same times, every 2-3 hours so it was all for nothing really. We've gone back to night feeds now because I couldn't exactly pull the "booby's asleep" trick when her newborn sister was chowing down all night.

So if you're night weaning to get a full night's sleep, don't count 100% on it working. I was kind of glad to stop it, it took longer to get DD1 back to sleep and I had to wake up more. Plus I wasn't getting all those lovely back-to-sleep hormones that you get from BF so it took longer for me to get back to sleep.

If your DS is ready for night-weaning then it's worth a go if it works for all of you, don't be put off by my experience. Dr Sears website has got loads of good articles about sleeping and BF.

Iggly Fri 02-Sep-11 09:43:23

Angel sad

Honestly? It took us a few weeks - DH did every night waking. There's was no way on earth I could resettle DS as he'd get very upset and ask for milk (at that age he would sign for it). DS was also in his own cot.

So your DH needs to get ready for some tough nights!! He can't expect you to night wean if you're co-sleeping (IMO), so you may have to stop that too. I found that once DS stopped night feeds though, I could resettle and when he did ask for milk, he'd quickly accept it when I said it was all finished and would settle for a cuddle.

Also WRT fully weaning - I think I might know why - but night weaning might be enough. Obviously keep the bedtime and morning feeds because stopping feeding has an emotional impact too.

Iggly Fri 02-Sep-11 09:44:30

Also DS started sleeping through much more consistently after night weaning (could be coincidence) - at 23 months he does wake once a night every now and then but that's it.

Iggly Fri 02-Sep-11 09:47:16

Oh and for every night waking when weaning, DS would scream "mummy" which I could hear. Was hard for me (I didn't like night feeds because was pregnant) and I felt awful. DH also found it hard too. I did relent every now and then - maybe that's why it took a bit longer!

AngelDog Fri 02-Sep-11 12:54:23

Thank you for the replies and the support. I'm feeling pretty low about it TBH.

Basically DH wants to wean completely and he recognises that the nights will be the hardest to do (for us at least). I don't understand all the reasons why he wants to wean, as we've only talked about it once, but TTC is part of it. I think he also feels that if we don't stop soon, it'll go on forever, and if I do get pg again, it'll be difficult to wean then (from which I guess he's not overly keen on the idea of tandemming).

DS has also just had a difficult spell when he was asking for milk about a million times a day, and getting really upset unless I offered it, but then not really wanting it most of the time. I was tired and upset and got shouty with DS which made it worse. However, the first of his last set of molars has come through and all that has stopped, so things are serene again - but I can imagine that DH might see bf as a problem making DS be more demanding and me be more cross.

I don't think DH has ever 'liked' bf - he's never been unsupportive, but has said on occasion that it 'makes him feel funny' (he is really, really squeamish about pretty much anything at all biological). I think DH has 'put up' with DS bf'ing past 12 months because it made our lives easier (& especially because DS used to be an appalling sleeper), but now he wants wean by the time DS is 2.

I'm a SAHM and rarely have any time away from DS - my last whole day away from him was in January! shock However next week DH will be looking after DS during the working day Mon - Thurs while I go out. He said that DS will have to manage without bf then, so he should be able to manage without on a normal week. I don't think it works quite like that, but I can understand why he thinks that.

DH wants to day wean first and then think about the nights. I don't think DS is ready - he wants milk when he's in pain or upset about things. I don't relish losing my tool for calming both of us down and I'd like to keep going with all the other benefits of bf for a while at least. Also I suppose I 'still' bf DS because I love him, so the idea of stopping bf makes it feel like not loving him IYSWIM, although I know it doesn't mean that really. sad

DH knows he'd have to do all wakings while we night wean. I don't think he appreciates how hard that could be for him (depending how it goes). He's had insomnia in the past so doesn't sleep fantastically anyway. I suspect that once weaning was over, I'd have to keep dealing with nights. DH wants to wean by Christmas and he'll be re-starting part-time work on top of full-time studies in January, so he will be very busy & very tired from then on. In theory I can nap during the day to make up for nights, but in practice I find it really hard to nap unless I've fed DS first (helps me to sleep as well as him!)

I doubt that stopping night feeds will improve DS's sleep much. It might persuade him to cut out his usual wake up at my bedtime, which doesn't bother me (and about once a week he sleeps through anyway, so he's moving in the right direction). I can't imagine that it'll have any effect on the developmental type wakings though as about 50% of the time then he needs rocking/patting back to sleep after he's fed anyway, and those wakings always stop once the developmental leap or teething is over.

I really don't mind doing night feeds nowadays - it's easy to deal with DS without having to get out of bed. I don't really want to stop co-sleeping either, but I can see that I might have to. Bedtimes will be harder if not feeding to sleep - DS will be rocked to sleep, but it doesn't always work. I don't think he's ready to properly self-settle yet, and when he does sort-of-self-settle at bedtime or naptime, he wakes much more often than he does if I feed him right to sleep. confused

I've told DH I'd like to discuss it more and he suggested I found out about other people's experiences of night weaning so we can talk around that now.

I've stopped offering feeds on waking and with a small amount of distraction DS hasn't had the feed on waking from his nap for about 4 days now (to my amazement). Distraction doesn't generally work for him though and definitely doesn't if he's upset.

Sorry for the eassy blush, it's a relief to get some of this off my chest.

EauRouge Fri 02-Sep-11 13:32:36

Angel, that sounds like a very difficult situation sad I know it's tough but I really think you need to talk to your DH about his feelings about BF in general before you think about night-weaning. It sounds like you and your DS don't feel ready to stop at all and if you are pressured into stopping before you are ready then you may end up resenting your DH because of it.

What are the chances of him reading Politics of Breastfeeding? Or perhaps seeing a BF counsellor together? There are some great articles here that might be helpful.

When DD1 was that age my DH found that when I wasn't around then she rarely asked to be BF. If I am around then even now she will ask to be BF very often (she is almost 3) but can happily go the whole day without BF if she's distracted.

I think you really need to find out your DH's true feelings about BF and you need to tell him what you just told us. Your feelings are perfectly fine, there's nothing wrong with what you've said. I really hope you manage to find something that works for you all, please keep us posted x

Iggly Fri 02-Sep-11 13:35:23

It sounds tough Angel sad

I think you need a long chat with your DH about your feelings because if you do wean as per your DH's plans then it could cause resentment later on.

There's part of me that wonders if there's something more going on - does your DH sleep in a separate room? You don't have to answer but wondered if he thinks BF keeps you apart.

As for day weaning first - I think that's a madness. I'd sort out the night feeds first (this, I think has more of an impact re TTC). So you keep all day feeds plus the bedtime feed. Then you could move towards only feeding at certain times in the day (eg before naps) - I've been doing this with DS and tell him he can have "mummy milk" as he calls it, at nap/bed time. His interest in bf has reduced a lot since nights have stopped. When at home, I have to be careful with the tops I wear otherwise DS will pull them down and look for "two mummy milk" blush there are ways of distracting or stopping toddlers think of BF - including clothing and also being careful about putting them in the bf position inadvertently!

I've got a book somewhere called the nursing mothers guide to weaning which covers weaning at different ages.

Maybe you need to find a way to compromise which works for both of you as you won't be BF forever anyway!

mawbroon Fri 02-Sep-11 13:48:16

Ds1 wouldn't night wean for love nor money until he was 3.5yo. Obviously I could have refused to feed him, but it would have been awful for everybody. We had two or three attempts and it was very clear that he wasn't ready. And he never, ever would settle for DH. Oh, and even at 3.5yo, night weaning didn't stop the waking.

DS2 is a different kettle of fish altogether. He is 18months and will settle for DH or granny with no problem for naps or bedtime. He still wakes in the night and I feed him back to sleep, but I know that if I wasn't there during the night, (unlikely) he would be ok with somebody else. Some nights, he even goes right through during the period that I am in bed too. Because I am happy with this arrangement, I am hoping to let him drop night feeds on his own, so have no idea when this will actually happen.

I guess I am trying to show that they are all different.

Sorry to hear about your DH's attitude. Mine got really arsey about it a while ago re ds1 (although ds1 is much older). He read some of Ann Sinnott's Breastfeeding Older Children" and agreed that the issues were entirely his. I don't think he feels any different having read the book, but is at least willing to admit that it's his problem and ds1 is doing nothing wrong by continuing to nurse, and he's stopped going on about it.

Do you have a local LLL group? It might be worth going along to see if there are any other mothers in the same boat?

TheRealMBJ Fri 02-Sep-11 16:39:06

sad Angel I'll come back and post a bit more later but just wanted to let you know I'm thinking of you.

Anyway, I am reading 'Mothering Your Nursing Toddler' available from the LLL bookshop and it is really excellent. It deals with all the difficult emotions And situations and even has a chapter for fathers (which I am trying to convince DH to read)

Anyway, after DS's dinner/bath time.


AngelDog Fri 02-Sep-11 17:27:51

Thanks, MBJ and everyone else. Will be back again myself later when I've got more time to reply - about to do dinner/bath/bed for DS myself.

AngelDog Fri 02-Sep-11 21:36:01

Right, I'm back. Thank you all again. DH and I do need to sit down and talk it all through - I've told him I want to talk about it, so hopefully we can do that in the next week.

I will be interested to see how DS gets on with DH looking after him in the day next week. In the past, DH has been able to get him to sleep largely without problems, but if he wakes up during the evening he sometimes won't go back off again if I'm not there to feed him. Twice he simply wouldn't/couldn't go to sleep at all, including the last time DH tried putting him to bed (about 2 months ago, although that was when visiting friends so it was a strange place for him).

MBJ, you are right that I think I'll find it very hard to wean (day or night) because of not feeling committed to it. Nights are hardest as the best thing about co-sleeping is not having to wake up properly when DS does!

DH is aware that nursing toddlers is normal in most of the world and not unheard of here. I have 2 good friends with similar aged bf toddlers, and I belong to an AP type group where most are bf, including a 3.5 year old. DH met them all recently. I don't know if that's been another reason for him to want to wean DS - worrying that he'll still be feeding at an older age.

The way DH's mind works is that he copes with things he doesn't like by seeing them as only happening for a limited time. So if there's a defined end to something, he can put up with it much more cheerfully than if it could go on indefinitely. I think he feels that if we don't wean soon, DS could continue 'forever' (well, you know what I mean). I suppose age 2 is a good opportunity for him to suggest it because then I'll have ticked the minimum WHO recommendations, and by then we really would like to be able to TTC.

DS is teething at the moment - the first of his last molars has just come through the gum after a couple of months of disturbance - so I don't think there's any point in trying to mess with nights till after they're all through, or DH will have a rough time of it.

AngelDog Fri 02-Sep-11 22:00:39

Iggly, you're right, I think he does feel that BF keeps us apart, although I don't know whether or not there's any objective justification for that. We usually sleep in different rooms, but we did more often than not before DS was born due to DH's insomnia. DH has been joining us recently though, until the current bout of teething. I know he feels that bf has had a negative effect on our sex life. And we both have been rather slack at putting in the effort in our marriage in the last year or so, which we've recognised and started working at again, but adds to that 'apart' feeling. We've not discussed the issue of co-sleeping, but that might be adding to the issue, I suppose.

I suspect a lot of that is just life with a baby and nothing to do with bf. DS has generally been a frequent waker which is obviously harder work, although he's much better now. We haven't been able to continue our previous interests together much, as weeks away on your own without DS just aren't possible.

DS has also had separation anxiety since about 6 months - not awful IMO but worse than the other children we know IRL. It's only been recently that he's been happy to be left with grandparents for a short while - before, he wouldn't even play with them. So DH and I have hardly had any time together without DS.

That hasn't bothered me too much as I know he'll grow out of it, and it's been improving all the time. But of course, other people are constantly suggesting that we are therefore doing something wrong or should be working on getting him to be happy to be left with other people, which doesn't help.

DH's approach to parenting is more 'traditional' than mine in general (no lentil loom!).

I can't see him reading the PoB, although I've got it - maybe something shorter might be a possibility. He just doesn't have the time to read stuff.

I'll have a look at those links, Eau - thanks, and I'll see if I can get hold of the books suggested. I'll have a look into LLL too. I think I'd prefer not to talk to the people in my AP group as DH has met them and might meet them again, so it feels a bit like airing your dirty washing in public IYSWIM.

Thank you again everyone. I feel a bit better about things now.

TheRealMBJ Fri 02-Sep-11 22:11:24

Yes, I think that it is wise for you to sit down and discuss expectations etc with your DH. Weaning against a child's wishes is very, very hard, I think more so now than say 6 months ago as they are really, really determined and know what they like. If you pop your head onto the end of our preg and bf thread you', see that I am still frequently up at 4am/4:30am because I can't feed DS at that time of the morning without going bonkers but he still really wants a feed. So we get up and he has a cup of milky rooibos (red bush) tea instead until my designated time of 5:30. Which is a compromise tbh as I am not really ready to feed him until 8ish.

It is very, very hard and the only reason we have managed is because he happily accept not being fed between 7pm and 4:30ish and I am able (not happy to, but able) to get up then ad distract him. AND because, I really, really, really just could not continue with night feeds.

My DH is much more a 'take it as it comes' type bloke and doesn't really like thinking too far in advance if he can at all help it grin so as I've said 2 years, I think we'll probably cross that bridge when it comes. But as the new baby will be about 8 weeks old when DS turns 2, I don't actually foresee it to be a problem as the newborn will be feeding anyway.

In terms of days apart. I'm a SAHM too and rarely spend more than a couple of hours apart from DS, but have had a few whole mornings (8:30-13:00) away from him and a couple of days (prob about 7 hours in total each) in the last few months, and one 12 hour day in June (DH's grandfather's funeral). And although DS did ask for me he didn't ask for milk. And was fine without it, so I don't think your DH will have a problem, although DS will definitely want milk as soon as you step in the door grin

I can see that the TTC thing would complicate matters and night-weaning could have quite a quick impact on your return to ovulation, but still unless you are really committed or your DS is very ready (as mine seemed to be) you it'll be very tough.

I can't recommend MYNT enough. It really is helping me to understand the complexities of mothering and nursing a toddler.

Let us know how you're doing.

AngelDog Fri 02-Sep-11 22:38:03

Yeah, I think it wouldn't take much to get AF back. When DS went on a fortnight's nursing strike 7 months ago, dropping from 6 to 3 feeds a day, I had a week of really bad PMT-type symptoms, but nothing since.

Just ordered MYNT!

TheRealMBJ Mon 05-Sep-11 10:13:41

How's it going Angel?

AngelDog Mon 05-Sep-11 20:18:18

Thanks for asking, MBJ. We've not had time to sit down & talk yet.

When I was out today DS apparently talked about me all day but didn't ask for milk when I came back - in fact, not until bedtime. He has been asking less often in general now his teeth have settled down, although he's been waking a bit at night.

DH managed to get him to sleep today. Tomorrow he's trying a pushchair nap I think. Normally that only works well if I bf him first so it'll be interesting if that works or not.

I'd kind of hoped he'd find it hard to sleep with DH as that's my best argument for carrying on! wink

I'll be back once DH and I have had time for a chat.

FlowerBee Tue 06-Sep-11 22:31:04

Thought i'd post as im about to start night weaning my 14mo DS off the breast very soon as i want to go away for a weekend (2 nights) in December with my DH to Munich.

I thought it interesting that some people suggest that night weaning should come before day weaning, as i have found the opposite easier. I have weaned him off the breast in the day gradually since he was 6mo. DS used to need BF to sleep but now i just take him out in the car or walk him in the pram to get to sleep. I make sure he gets plenty of calcium through yoghurts etc. I have also had some success with a sippy cup of cows milk once or twice in the day.

I don't feel like i am withdrawing 'love' by not BF when he's cranky in the day as i give him plenty of cuddles and attention, and distraction (and Iggle Piggle) works wonders! In fact i think distraction is the keygrin. The night however, is different!

He still has 9pm, 3am and 6-7am BFs as he struggles to sleep without the first, and then the next to are to get him back to sleep (and the pram/car inset an option at these times!). But this will change soon as i intent to drop the last two very soon. Not exactly sure how yet, may involve moving him into a cot in his own room eventually.

We co-sleep and my DH also doesn't 'want to be disturbed as i get up at 6am' angry so weaning will be down to me. I suspect DS will probably cry but i will cuddle him and i am hoping my resolve to wean him will not falter. I feel ready myself. Like most other people, Angel i feel it is important that you are ready to not it and not doing it for someone elses sake. My mother has been banging on about me weaning my DS for ages and making me feel uncomfortable for continuing to BF for so long but i'm glad ive held out till I am ready. DH is indifferent.

Hope it gets easier for you Angel.

TheSecondComing Tue 06-Sep-11 22:46:18

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AngelDog Tue 06-Sep-11 22:56:37

Thanks, Flowerbee & for updating, TSC. Glad you're getting more sleep.

I'm lucky that DS is a very good-mannered co-sleeper - usually doesn't wake that often, doesn't bash me and likes to sleep over on the other side of the bed so I have plenty of space. smile

Miffster Wed 07-Sep-11 14:38:53

TSC that sounds amazing, could you say how you did it, how long it took etc? Your description of your dicking about climbing etc night feeding Dc sounds same as mine only mine is only 9 mo.

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