Sarah & Hank's Night Weaning Journey

Let's talk night weaning! 

Deciding to reduce or eliminate nursing or bottle feeding throughout the night with your little one is a decision that should be very personal. The motivation behind this decision is incredibly important to acknowledge and reflect upon. Unfortunately, many parents experience pressure from others to night wean as early as six months (we feel strongly night weaning should begin 9-12 months or later) which often leads them to make this decision for reasons that do not instinctually feel right to them. When the decision does not feel right to us, it becomes difficult to lead our child through this change confidently. Being a confident leader is a very important aspect of this change. 

Sarah has decided that the time has come to begin the night weaning journey with Hank (18 months). Part of our mission at My Connected Motherhood is to normalize infant and toddler sleep and one way that we find this is done best, is by sharing our own experiences with you. 

To start, Sarah will be sharing what patterns her and Hank are currently experiencing, her motivation behind this decision, as well as the preparation she has done to begin this transition. Our goal is for you to be able to check back in here for updates so that you can experience a real life example of how we put some of our strategies into place. Stay tuned and thanks for being here with us! 

Disclaimer: This journey will look different for everyone. This is one example. Sarah is a mom of 3 and a sleep and well-being specialist which of course will have some influence in her journey. The purpose of this blog is to give you a general overview of the process. If you want or need more guidance, we LOVE chatting through this in consults and it is also covered in depth in our Baby Sleep Course! This process is not linear, Sarah will provide updates as often as possible or as necessary to paint a picture of the journey! 

The Beginning - March 21, 2022

  • Hank is 18 months old
  • Hank is nursing 1-4 times a night - generally 1-2 but on harder nights or when teething 3-4 does happen 
  • Sarah has layered in a few other associations including a song she knows he loves, shushing when the song gets too distracting, back rubs, kissing his face. Sometimes Hank even just responds best to a snuggle or hand hold 
  • Sarah has not been setting any limits on night feeds up to this point but does respond with a menu of sleep associations and not every wake will end in a feed  
  • Sarah will be continuing to nurse during the day - mostly just for naps and bedtime but occasionally outside of this if Hank requests 
  • Sarah sets limits with Hank at other times of the day and feels very confident in supporting his emotions so he can work through changes with her
  • Sarah feels very confident in her decision to night wean. Despite the odd comment along the lines of "wow you're still nursing him, isn't that done by now" or "seriously?! he still doesn't sleep through at 18 months?!", Sarah knows she has met Hank's needs in the way that always felt right to her, but now she is ready to begin pulling back (a clear explanation doesn't always have to exist here, just that whatever the motivation, it is personal and leaves you feeling confident and empowered)
  • The first step for Sarah will be setting a limit of 11pm. If Hank wakes before this time, she will be supporting him in other ways and making space for tears and emotion. If Hank wakes the rest of the night, she will continue to nurse for the time being!

Update #1 - March 28, 2022

  • Of course Hank was diagnosed with double ear infection on our first official day of weaning.. because that's just how mom life goes! 
  • I stuck my my 11pm limit, with extreme caution. I did feed nurse him at 10:40 the second night because my instincts said forget the limit, he's uncomfortable. Two nights he didn't wake until after 11 anyways so I fed him, the other nights this past week I held the limit and then he woke after 1am to feed
  • So far he is responding well to a snuggle and back rub instead with maybe 30-60 seconds supported emotion.
  • The only thing I've noticed is I can't get out of his bed quite as quickly as if I nursed him back to sleep, just needing a bit more support to truly settle again
  • Moving to 12am limit consistently now! 

Update #2 - April 2, 2022

  • This week was a bit different! The limit was moved until 12am. Most nights this was not an issue.
  • Two nights this week Hank REALLY resisted the limit and I had to do much more emotion supporting. Twice I nursed at 11:45/11:50 when my instincts felt it was just too much. What was interesting was that both of those nights he then slept from when he finished nursing just before midnight until 6:30 or 7am! 
  • One night at the end of the week he even went all night without asking to nurse at all (one wake but zero nursing). Was it just a fluke? Time will tell!
  • I will be working on moving towards a 1am limit now with no nursing before, but nursing after 

Update #3 - April 10, 2022

  • Of course right after I said we were doing well .... we had two nights where it felt like I didn't get more than 30 minutes at a time. The first night I held the 1am limit and then tried to not nurse every 30 minutes after but he seemed quite upset so I did end up nursing a lot, the second night I didn't even try. 
  • Thankfully, after these two hard nights (he is cutting 3 canine teeth, ouch!) things turned around again
  • The third night of this week we got back to 1am limit, one other feed at 4am-ish and 6am-ish
  • The last 3 nights have been amazing! He went one night without asking for any feeds whatsoever, then a night where he accepted the limit at 12am quite easily and the third night where I even took it a step further and offered hugs instead of nursing at 2am. After 5am I let him feed if he asks as it's border line being awake for the day if I say no and that will buy me 1-2 more hours of sleep from him and I know that I feel okay with that 100% after not feeding since bedtime! 
  • Based on where we are at now (essentially waking once and accepting hugs and cuddles instead) I am going to push the limit to zero feeds before 3am, if we he wakes after 3am, I will try other associations first but open to feeds based on what my instincts tell me! 

Update #4 - April 19, 2022

  • Hank seems to be adjusting quite well! Sometimes there is a bit of emotion surrounding the limit, but often he is waking and accepting a quick cuddle for a minute or less, or not even waking! 
  • We had a few nights he slept right till 4am-ish and I fed him then, two nights he slept right till 5am which for us is the time where I am just going to feed regardless 
  • We did have one night he woke at 12, 3 and 5 and I honestly forgot I was weaning and just nursed - oops! My theory here is that it isn't something I am anxious or concerned about anymore because the limits were set and he was supported through them and now we are feeding much less at night so now it feels like less of a daunting thing for me and I honestly just must have had a busier day or wasn't thinking about it 
  • We did have one hard night that he did cry a lot and it felt really hard. In this case I fed him for a minute to regulate us both and then I continued with the limit. Some may see this as giving in, I see it as trusting my instincts and doing what I needed to regulate myself, and therefore him in the moment. I still continued with the limit, still supported the emotion and still made progress... but all while keeping connection the priority and doing what I needed to be a calm confident leader! 
  • I want to add - if Hank's journey has seemed easy to you, it honestly has been on the easier side (but certainly not without testing moments). What I want you to know is he is my 3rd and all 3 journeys have been entirely different. My first self-weaned but my second was HARD to wean. Once this journey feels officially done I plan to put something together on this! 
  • Also want to note he is still nursing after 5am, fully nursing to sleep for nap and nursed at bedtime (sometimes falls asleep, sometimes snuggles after). Moral of the story: you do not need to stop nursing to sleep to night wean or make other changes. 

Update #5 - May 4, 2022 -Final Update

  • I took a bit of a break from updating for a few reasons, which I will get into below but I am considering ourselves completely night weaned (in a sense - which I will also touch on). To be honest I hit a point I was feeling a bit vulnerable about sharing but we are back on track! 
  • We were holding steady at 4/5am limit but then we regressed a bit
  • Dad put Hank to bed one night while I had the older boys at an activity. I had not nursed him since nap and typically he still nurses at bedtime. That night he woke 4 times before 11pm and finally at 11 I just nursed as it seemed that is what he was truly looking for, my instincts were saying go ahead and I went into it already having a bit of guilt forgetting to nurse him before I left. He nursed once more at 4am that night.
  • We had a few days where I didn't set limits following this. I think it was a bit of an emotional thing for me and a bit of the guilt. Hank is very likely our last baby and coming towards the end of the nursing journey is causing all the feelings for me. 
  • Part of the reason questioning my journey was happening was because I felt much different about nursing after we had made so much progress and I wasn't feeling as touched out about it. 
  • It got too emotional for me and I needed to regroup and reassess the journey. I was questioning if it was too soon, if we really needed to. I just needed some time.
  • It is okay to have emotions about weaning even if it feels like the right choice and it is okay if the process is not linear. 
  • After about 4-5 days I started with the limits again and we were back to 4am with no feeds and then moved to 5am again.
  • Right now we are at 5am consistently and this is where I will stop. But at this point I consider our night weaning over. He is responding well to limits if he wakes, I feel emotionally confident about where we are. 
  • What I wanted to touch on was that Night Weaning does not have to be "all or nothing". What is important is that you get to the point that you feel confident and feel like it works for your family - both you and baby. 

Stay Tuned

  • I will be doing a video soon chatting more about this journey as well as comparing the difference in the three different night weaning journeys with my boys
  • I have walked your through my journey here, On Thursday May 12 we are walking you through all 4 of our approaches, including this one, in more detail and covering supporting emotion in detail which is a HUGE part of night weaning. Join us here: https://www.myconnectedmotherhood.com/courses/nightweaningwebinar