Just another post about weaning from breastfeeding and #sleep.

Sorry to those followers who like to hear new stories about my goings-on. This is old news. We’re trudging through the challenging and sad territory of weaning from breastfeeding with a toddler who has only ever been able to sleep through breastfeeding.

It’s been about a month since we night weaned again (I say again because we night weaned a few months ago but that attempt only lasted two weeks). There have been two – maybe three – nights where I’ve broken down after hours of middle-of-the-night wakefulness and nursed my toddler back to sleep. Other than that, she only nurses twice a day – to sleep for nap, and to sleep at bedtime. She has handled the night weaning well for the most part, and doesn’t ask for milk through the night anymore. Thankfully, there really weren’t very many tears over the change. Occasionally when she’s having a rough time with a cough or congestion, an itchy rash, or being overtired she’ll ask politely for milk, but when I calmly say “no milk until bedtime” she doesn’t ask again. She has unlimited access to hugs, kisses and cuddles, as well as warm mint tea for that belly-warming feeling.

The first time we tried night weaning, she ended up sleeping through the night for the first time ever. I thought night weaning was our golden ticket to better sleep. I thought she was only waking so much at night because she had become conditioned to get milk at those times, and by de-conditioning her, she’d no longer wake. But last night, not unlike every other night this month, she woke up 5 times and stayed awake from 1am until 3am. And then she was up for the day at 4:30. She’s at daycare right now, but I’m just waiting for the call that she needs to come home early to sleep (she does half days and has her nap at home with me after lunch).

We’re just as exhausted as we were when she was an infant. It has me aching to spend a night in bed with her, letting her nurse freely through the night, so we all get a good sleep. But we keep hoping that eventually she’ll figure out how to fall back asleep without milk, and we don’t want to drag this process out by taking a step backwards.

This experience has reinforced my decision to not sleep train her using conventional methods – it’s right for some kids, not right for others. She’s the kind of kid who will stay awake ALL NIGHT LONG to get what she wants. In the crib, she would have cried for hours. In her toddler bed, she can get up and get a stuffed animal she wants, she can come and get me from my room without crying for me, she can easily remove or get another blanket… I’m happy we waited to try independent sleeping (without nursing or co-sleeping) until she was actually independent. I think she would have been awake just as much had we done it earlier, but she would have been a lot more distressed about it.

So life now is a waiting game, and we’re just trying to survive while we wait. We’re doing what we can to help her sleep – cuddles, reassuring cheek kisses, lots of rest through the day – but nursing through the night is no longer a tool in our toolbox. We want to see this through.

Wish us luck…

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Daylight saving time had nothing on us

Sleep has been so messed up lately that we didn’t even notice the daylight saving time change.

My mom did bedtime on Friday night because my wife and I were out on a date until 11:30 (cue applause). It didn’t go great… It’s the second time my mom did bedtime, but the first time she did it there was frozen milk to offer in a bottle. This was the first night Avery had to go to sleep with absolutely no milk. Apparently there were lots of tears, and she finally fell asleep at 9pm. She woke a lot through the night and wanted long cuddles – she clearly missed us. I felt really guilty.

She continued her 4:30-5:30am wake ups over the weekend.

On Saturday night she was awake from 11:30pm until 3am, trying valiantly to get back to sleep without nursing. She tossed and turned both next to us and on her own, she sang to herself, she played quietly with stuffed animals, but finally she started to lose her patience at 3 (as did we), and I nursed her to sleep (it took just a few minutes, after hours of trying on her own). And then of course she was up for the day at 5am.

On Sunday she begged to go for a nap at 9am. We had a friend’s first birthday party that day over Avery’s usual nap time, so we thought an early nap would be ok. She slept for 30 minutes. She was so exhausted that by the time we got home from the part she slept for 3 hours. She woke up at 6pm. Never a good sign for bedtime.

She went to bed at 9pm, and although she only woke twice through the night, I was so tired that I fell asleep sitting on the floor next to her bed both times and now I’m super stiff.

This is nothing too out of the ordinary for us, but the tough sleep stints are always hard. I know it will be over soon enough, and I just have to cling to that thought.

Anyway, we barely noticed that daylight saving time was occurring. I’m not sure if that’s better or worse that having to deal with transitioning a schedule-rigid kid to a different bedtime and wake up time… Either way, we’ve always had bigger sleep-fish to fry than to worry about a time change.

Reflections on Night Weaning (at it again…)

*Photo from Pixabay.com

Night weaning is hard, even when it’s easy. Avery’s only nursing twice a day now, to sleep at nap and bedtime. It’s a big change from nursing all night long, snuggled beside me. We’re doing this to give her a gentle nudge toward sleep independence, but it’s just as much about me breaking my dependency on nursing away her every tear, every cough, every nightly stir. That has been such a wondrous gift, and although I’m theoretically ready to make the separation, my heart never will be.

I miss her as I lay in my bed and listen to her snore through the monitor. I feel jilted that I can’t lay with her all night anymore (part of our night weaning plan). I feel anxious waiting for her next wake up, wondering how difficult it’ll be to get her back to sleep, how many tears she’ll shed, how long the protest will last.

We have officially been one week without night nursing. I’m going to give it another couple of weeks before claiming that the transition period is over, but so far Avery’s doing a really good job learning to get back to sleep without nursing. Last time what broke us was her 3-5am insomnia, and her being sick. Both of those things are happening again, but we’re powering through this time. With every month older she gets, she can also understand better what’s expected of her at night, and that makes me feel better about it.

With the huge decrease in nursing comes a change in hormones. I’m getting some signs that I might be ovulating for the first time in almost 2 and a half years. Yes, you read that right – I haven’t had my period since we conceived Avery. It has been a wonderful, crampless, dry, and clean part of my life. I’m not eager for it to return.

One final reflection on night weaning: choosing to night wean was a decision I made for my marriage over my child. That alone has a lot of complex emotions associated with it. And while my wife is purely excited, I have to keep reminding myself that my marriage deserves to get priority over the child this once. It will all trickle down to benefit Avery in the long run. If my wife and I are a satisfied, happily married team, Avery will have a good relationship role model to look up to in her parents.

30 Days of Blogging, Day 24

It has been what, maybe a week since I started down the slow weaning road again? She’s already showing signs of self-weaning all the way. We cut out all nursing sessions during the day except for nursing to sleep for nap and bedtime, and we still allow nursing through the night. She has started to come off the boob at bedtime and roll over to be spooned the rest of the way to sleep. She has only been waking once or twice a night for milk. It’s amazing what cutting back on nursing does to her sleep….

The downside is that she only had a bit of milk from one side at bedtime today, and she didn’t have any at nap, so one side is full of hard lumps. We’re staying with family this weekend and I don’t have a pump to help me out, and I’m garbage at hand expressing. So I find myself actually hoping that she’ll wake up soon for a nighttime feed…

30 Days of Blogging, Day 21

We had our first toddler bed challenge tonight, where Avery decided to get up and leave the bed and pull out half of her books from her book shelf and have a fight with the door knob trying to escape. She tried to fall asleep when we first got into bed. We cuddled, she nursed, and she seemed almost ready to drift off.

And then she decided to sit up and get her water bottle, and then she decided to feed her water to me, and then she noticed her books on her bedside table and wanted to read them again, and then she climbed down off her bed and walked away. I asked her to come back and lay down and go to sleep. She ignored me. I picked her up and laid her back down in bed. She screamed and flailed. She got out of bed. I asked her to come back. She ignored me. I brought her back. This went on for a few rounds, until I decided to stop fighting her and just laid down and kept calmly repeating, “it’s bedtime. Time to sleep. Come lay down.”

And then, suddenly, she stopped fussing at the door and walked over to me and gave me a big hug. She climbed back into bed beside me and after another 20 minutes or so of cuddles with only intermittent nursing, she was asleep. It feels good to win these battles. It gives me confidence for the post-weaning bedtimes that are ahead of us.

 

30 Days of Blogging, Day 13

Bed-sharing is helping my marriage.

OK, it’s way more complicated than that, but here’s the thing… When I wanted to bed share and my wife didn’t, and we tried for months to get her to stay in her crib, fighting with her, fighting ourselves at 2am when we just wanted to give up and bring her to our bed, it was hard on us. I resented my wife for pushing for Avery’s night time independence. My wife didn’t deserve resentment, and she felt like an evil outsider with me and Avery in cahoots. But baby/toddler sleep issues are tough on everything, especially marriage.

Avery still starts out the night in her toddler bed, but since she got sick again a week ago, she is welcomed into our bed after we go to bed for the night. My wife welcomes her. Avery wakes up happy in the morning, grabs her Mo by the ears, and gives her a big kiss. It makes my wife happy. We’re no longer silently fighting each other on what to do about sleep. 

Sure, we sleep toddler-width apart (which is like 5 feet, it seems), and we haven’t been giving each other the physical attention we need to give, but just being on the same side of the argument for a change is so refreshing.

*The pic is of us at my wife’s work Christmas party, free from the stress of bedtime for the first and only night of our lives as parents. 

30 Days of Blogging, Day 9

It’s cold again. It’s supposed to go down to  -20°C again tonight, and it’s icy and snowy outside. It’s the kind of weather for family cuddles. The kind of weather where I miss bed sharing with my baby. 

And when your baby has another nasty cough and cold and has to choose whether to breathe through her mouth and trigger more coughing, or breathe through her nose and not get enough air to her lungs, it’s really, really hard to withhold nighttime nursing. Nursing is the throat soothing cure-all that helps her sleep through anything. 

So about that night weaning we started… the night weaning has gone out the window during my shift. While my wife is on call for nighttime wakings (from bedtime till 1am), Avery goes back to sleep with nothing more than my wife poking her head through the doorway and saying “go back to sleep.” During my shift, I’ve started nursing her again. It’s how she sleeps well through being sick. It’s the only way to get her back to sleep during her bouts of middle-of-the-night insomnia (even during my wife’s shift). 

So weaning is a discussion topic for another day (or month, or year….).

On a related note, Avery LOVES peppermint tea. It’s just a dried mint leaf from our garden steeped in hot water. And when she’s sick, a little dollop of honey is a great throat soother.