I learned the hard way that night weaning does not ensure sleeping through the night

I’ve given up on night weaning.

This may come as a shock to any of you who have been following my night nursing travails. From what I’ve written I’m sure that it seems as if night weaning was a relative success and we were now sleeping through the night.

This was true on some level, but I’ve come to realize that many children simply do not sleep through the night for the first few years of life, no matter WHAT the parents do. My daughter is one of those children.

We had gotten to a point where she stopped crying and asking to nurse. This happened in a relatively short time. I thought that was all it would take. All it should take. Every mom I talked to told me that their kids started sleeping through the night once they night weaned. And if they woke up, they went back to sleep easily with cuddles and/or a drink of water.

Apparently I was talking to all the wrong moms. Or, maybe I was just hearing what I wanted to hear.

But I’m here to tell you, if you think that night weaning solves all your sleep woes, it ain’t so.

Say it isn’t so!

Let me say it again.

Some of us simply have to accept the hard truth that it takes longer for our wee ones to sleep through the night without any major intervention from us.

A brief synopsis of our night weaning:

In December I broke down and decided to night wean. It went well. The first night was pretty bad. The second night wasn’t quite as bad. And the third night she slept for most of the night. This continued, with brief night wakings for about a week until Annika got a cold.

Then she awoke begging to nurse and because of her dry mouth and stuffy nose, along with a spotty fever, I didn’t have the heart to tell her no when she asked to nurse in the middle of the night.

We continued night nursing until some time in February when I decided that the worst of sick season was over so we needed to get back on track.

This time didn’t go so well.

I don’t remember how long it took, but it was several weeks of off and on crying and asking to nurse.

Then she stopped asking to nurse. But in March I realized after a few weeks of continuous waking that Annika was not going to just magically sleep through the night.

She’d wake up and then lie there, tossing and turning and whispering, “nuse,” for about an hour. Then eventually drift off.

But I stayed awake.

I realized that if I wasn’t getting any better sleep, there was really no reason to force her to lie there for an hour trying to fall back asleep when I could just nurse her and she’d fall right back to sleep.

The good part in all of this is: A couple of weeks ago is when I started night nursing again. Since then her language has had what I consider to be a second explosion.

The first one happened around 16 months when she started saying her words really clearly.

Now, at 23 months she’s saying tons of phrases. She was saying random phrases before, but these new phrases are in the proper context.

She tells me, in reference to an object, to “Set it down, Mommy.” “Call Daddy.” “Go for a walk.”

She’s also started screaming “Stop!” when I comb her hair.

So, yeah. Night weaning has not solved my sleep problems. Annika clearly needs nursing to help her as she struggles through her developmental phases. Maybe she’s needs it more than other kids. That’s okay with me. I like knowing that she leans on me. I hope that she always does. I want her to know that I’ll always be there for her.

And the cool thing is, I am learning how to deal. These first two years of being a parent have made me tougher than I ever imagined I could be or ever would be.

I thought I had done a lot of hard things in my life. I got married and moved across the world to another country.

I got divorced.

I lived in Detroit. Alone. For several years.

I’ve done numerous other things here that were hard and scary that I’m not going to mention.

But let me tell you, none of that stuff has anything on being a parent. It’s toughest, scariest, rockiest road I’ve ever traveled. And night nursing was just the beginning.

3 Comments

  1. Ronda says:

    April 21, 2010 at 7:38 am

    It's ok to go back to night nursing. It's a two way relationship, and if it's working for you to go back to nursing, then do it. I completely agree with what you are saying about how hard it is to be a parent. Everyday I am reminded of how hard it is! But it's so worth it to look at Emma and see how wonderful she is.

  2. says:

    April 22, 2010 at 3:34 am

    Why, why, why does every book, magazine, chat group emphasize "sleeping through the night?" I'm 43 years old. I don't sleep through the night. I get up sometimes at midnight, or at 2:00a.m. to pee, or get a glass of water. Jack has always been a VERY sound sleeper, but he's never "slept through the night." What the heck does that even mean? 8:00p.m. to 6:00a.m.? 10:00p.m. to 4:00a.m.? Who knows? He wakes up, snuggles, puts his arms around me, and goes back to sleep. That's the beauty of co-sleeping. Kids aren't supposed to sleep through the night (much to the chagrin of tired parents). They bond with us in the night, as well. They're supposed to wake several times, check in, feel us close, even nurse if need be, and doze back off. For years!!

    You're such a great mama. You just keep doing what you're doing. Jack and Annika are only 4 days apart, and he had gotten down to mostly one nursing a day – in the morning after he wakes first thing. But in just the last two weeks, he wants to nurse ALL THE TIME, suddenly. He asks me for "mommo milk," four times a day, or more. And even though this is a sudden change, I'm nursing him as much as he wants. He's going through some transition that he needs me for, and I'm happy to be there 🙂 He and Annika are right on the same time line. I would even night nurse him if he asked me and seemed panicky, and he's been night weaned for months. But I'm all about flexibility, and letting him know I'm there when he needs me.

    That whole sleeping through the night thing, it's just silliness. A good night's sleep, closeness, snuggles, and bonding during the night, that's the ticket.

  3. Tareeshia says:

    April 22, 2010 at 4:01 am

    It sounds to me like the back and forth was a little confusing for her 🙁 In my experience, shaping desirable/undesirable behaviors in children requires absolute consistency. As parents, it is so hard to know when we are doing the right thing and when to stick to our guns. I think the best thing is that Annika knows you are consistently putting her best interests first. One way or the other, she will eventually sleep through the night…right?

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