Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Night Weaning Adventures!

The time to wean a child from the breast is an intimate and personal decision between mother and baby. Especially after the baby is a year old, a mother will discover that her baby will continue nursing, not just for the nutritional need, but for the emotional comfort, security, and love that he feels, as well. For me, nursing my children is such a special part of being their mama, that I am not ready to give it up, either, and allow them to nurse as long as we both agree.
Our little Odin is 21 months old, and eating a variety of healthy solids and liquids. Yet, he comes to me to nurse everyday when he needs to snuggle, is sleepy, gets an owie, or just in need of a super milkie boost! It sure makes parenting easier sometimes! The look in his eyes while he is nursing is pure bliss; like the world is a peaceful haven, and he is the center of it all. I love it!

This past week, however, we decided it was time to wean Odin from nursing during sleeping hours. Usually I can sleep right through his night time nursings, but being pregnant, I am especially tender, and the night nursings were starting to disturb my sleep. And p.s., disturbing my sleep whilst pregnant equals non-functional daytime mother.
Since Odin sleeps with Micah and I, I feel like he often nurses through the night purely out of habit. Well, I concluded, he is a happy, well-adjusted toddler, and it's not going to hurt him to stop the night nursings!

Now everyone probably weans their babies differently, because each child is different in temperament, maturity, and ability to understand the world around him. Zadok, at 23 months, just lost interest a month before Odin was born. I hear stories of Mamas who introduce bottles, and slowly the baby makes the transition from breast to bottle. I also hear stories of Mothers who cut off the nursing, cold-turkey, leaving the baby alone and confused.. I hear stories of babies who wean because the milk tastes different during pregnancy. Etc...

Well, this is how we do it over here. For us weaning toddlers, we choose to wean by substituting nursing with other measures of comfort--a favorite story, a special game, a yummy snack, a cuddle and a song. I feel it is very important to make sure the weaning process is slow, gradual, and filled with lots of comfort and love. After all, you are subtracting something of much value; it should be replaced with distractions or substitutes that feel good, too.

So, this past week, has been a nighttime weaning adventure for Odin and I! The first night was the hardest. Before bed we talked about how "Milkies" needs to sleep, how when the sun goes down and we go to bed, that Milkies goes to bed, too.
The first time he woke up to nurse he was very upset. I went over it again. "The sun has gone down, Milkies are sleeping. Mama can cuddle you , but Milkies are asleep."
He didn't like this at all. He cried and cried, and my little heart almost gave in--but my instincts told me not to give up--that this was going to be good for all of us. So, I started singing all his favorite songs, and making up stories about things he loved...balloons, ducks, frogs, glittery bouncy balls, the pet store...anything I could think of. It was starting to work.
He slowly went back to sleep. But, woke up 5 more times.....crying for Milkies. And again..I cuddled him, and I went over all the favorite songs, made up stories about balloons and ducks, etc...til he slowly drifted to sleep.

When we woke up in the morning, I made sure he knew that the sun was up and it was Milkie time! Boy did he love this! He smiled so big and went straight to it! I let him know throughout the day that he can nurse as much as he likes.

The next 4 nights were very similar, but waking up less and less times. One night he was really, really upset, crying for his beloved Milkies. So me, half asleep, I started naming all the things that were asleep, too, such as Milkies, the sun, the trees, the cows, the mailman, the dogs, the fish, Grandma and Grandpa, the animals in the zoo, and on and on. I think by the time I got to President Obama and the custodian at church, he was totally asleep. What a relief! Another night I had to get up and dance him to sleep, at 3am. Another night I found myself singing the entire tune of Sinead O'Conner's "Nothing Compares to You." When I finally got to the end there was silence.....then "MILKIIIIIIIIIIIIIIES." So I started all over with another song. It's been a long, exhausting week, but now he is only waking up once or twice. Pretty soon he will sleep peacefully through the night.

This morning we woke up, with the sun drifting through the windows. He turned to me and said, "Sun. Awake! Milkies!" With a big smile on both our faces, I knew we had reached an understanding.

I am so proud of my big boy for taking this big step in his life. He is growing up so fast, and it's often hard to let go of my baby. He is learning and growing every day. I am proud of him for learning to do something hard, so his Mama could enjoy more comfort and peace through the night.

Thank you sweet Odin for doing this for your Mama. :) I hope he knows how loved he truly is.


chelsea mckell said...

Loved reading this!

Laura Hopper, Midwife said...

How sweet! I am glad it went well for you. I have always night weaned with a new pregnancy as well - I just couldn't have continued if I didn't.

redrockmama said...

Love it! Ashlyn is down to once at night, which is do-able for now. If I were pregnant however, I would night wean in the same way that you are. Way to go Odin! You are doing great! And YAY for nursing toddlers :)

Zen Mama said...

That's pretty similar to the way I night-weaned both of my toddlers. I did it before cutting off the daytime, and explained that they were big boys now who needed to sleep through the night while the milkies slept. The first few nights they woke up more often than normal, but after only a couple of nights they had it all figured out and were so much happier in the day now that they (and their mother) was sleeping at night! Both of my children, in the end, self-weaned to one degree or another.

Melodie said...

I loved reading this and I'm inspired to strat this myself with my 2 1/2 year old. Being pregnant somehow makes things like night weaning more imperative. It did when I got pregnant with #2 too, but I'm getting to the point that I could really use a full night's sleep. And since I won't be getting pregnant again I guess I just need to drive right in. Reading this I feel like I can do it too. I'll let you know how it goes.

Sally Jackson said...

Oh I hope it goes well Melodie. Today at LLL we had 3 different Moms who are currently trying to night wean the same way--and so far seeing results after a couple hard weeks!

I hope things run smoothly. However, I hear your milk is better than chocolate!!

And thanks to everyone else. It's nice to know I am not alone in this little adventure. :)

Sarah said...

You lucky woman! I should have had you night wean my Haven. LOL! He was a little terror for 9-ish months straight. Finally got tired of being kicked, punched and screamed at 8 times a night and finally, at 24 months, weaned him altogether. It was sad for me to let it go, but I was so exhausted and I had given it my all. Funny thing, is he still has the same stubborn attitude. Super focused from the get-go. :) I'm so glad things are going well for you!!!

Da Denninghoff's said...

What a tender read:) You're a talented writer Sally