In case you have just landed here, please be sure to check out the first part of this post “How To Night Wean So You and Your Toddler Can Sleep Better!”
The following are my daily journal entries as I recorded our night weaning experience. These are unedited and written as raw as my feelings were after each night. This was quite the experience but now that its been over a month since we started, I can say that this was a great boost to our relationship (and my sleep!)
For starters, on the first night (as I was preparing my toddler), she and I had the following conversation…
Me – “Tonight, when you go to sleep, milk is going to go to sleep too. Ok? And when milk goes to sleep, that means that if you wake up, milk will be sleeping and we will just cuddle and you can go back to sleep, ok? So if you wake up and its still dark outside, then that means that milk is still sleeping. And we will just snuggle and you can go back to sleep. You can snuggle with mommy or with Daddy, whichever you want.”
Her – “Dark. Sidey (outside). Milk. Sleeps.”
Me – “That’s right! When its dark outside then milk is sleeping and we cant have milk when it’s sleeping. But once its bright outside and the sun is shining, then you can have alllll the milk you want.”
Her – “Yay!”
The rest of this page will be all my journal entries and thoughts. Its a long read, but it can definitely give you some insight into the process!
Note: My daughter usually goes to bed between 8pm and 9pm. She has almost always slept until 8am or 9am but for now we still sometimes have these 5/6am wakeups. It’s getting better, though!
(June 6) Night 1: She slept solid until 2:30am. At 2:30 she started stirring and whimpering so I started rubbing and patting her back. After about 15 minutes she dozed back off. She woke back up at 3:30 and wanted milk. I explained that milk was asleep and that we could snuggle. She cried a genuinely sad cry. I thought she would be more angry but she was mostly just sad. She seemed to understand and alternated between snuggling and laying down by herself to try and sleep. I was so proud of her. I gave her cup to her and drinking water from that definitely seemed to help. She fell asleep around 4am but only slept lightly and then woke up. She did these at least a dozen times before eventually falling into a deeper sleep at 5am. She was back up at 6. And this time she was more angry. She kept asking for milk and crying/yelling when she couldnt have it. She tossed and turned A LOT. She wanted nothing to do with her daddy and just kept coming back to me. It was hard. Unfortunately my room darkening curtains didnt darken as much as I thought so by 6am I could see it was getting light outside, even thought it wasnt lighting the room up much. I knew she would figure it out soon and would want to know milk wasnt awake. My only hope was to get her to fall asleep, at least for a little bit, because I didnt want to give her milk after all this time of her yelling and being angry. Fortunately for me, she finally did fall into a halfway deep sleep about 6:30. Daddy gave up on us about 6:10. She was back up at 7. This time I didnt fight her. (My goal is for her to sleep until 8, since she goes to bed between 8 and 9, but I can live with 7. Its better than 4am!) I wanted to make the first move so when she woke up and asked for milk, I told her to go look and see if the sun was up and if the sun was up then milk was up! So she got up, opened the curtain a bit and told me the sun was indeed up! She came back and started nursing. She nursed like she hadnt had a drink in days! She fell asleep pretty quick, after about 10 minutes or so and slept hard until 9:30.
Night 2: She slept soundly until 4:40am. When she woke up, she asked for milk and I told her no, that milk was still sleeping. She asked “Whyyyyyyy?” (her new favorite phrase) and I explained again that when its dark outside, milk has to sleep. She fussed about it for maybe 2 minutes then she crawled over me, snuggled up to Daddy and fell asleep in seconds. We were both shocked! After a few minutes, Daddy needed to use the bathroom so he moved her, she woke up a little and he explained where he was going then she came back to me, curled back up and went back to sleep. She slept until 6am. When she woke at 6, she asked for milk again and I told her no, that milk was still sleeping. She promptly crawled out of bed, walked over the window and pulled back the curtain (you could see it was starting to get light outside), came back to bed and simply said “Sun. Bright.” now, how can I argue with that?? It wasn’t really light outside but the sun was definitely making its appearance. So I thanked her for checking and allowed her to nurse. She nursed for a bit then rolled over and we both went back to sleep until 9.
Night 3: She slept fine until about 12:30, then woke up. We are dealing with some sort of allergy in the grass in our yard and it was bothering her yesterday and I think thats what woke her up. She was pretty upset when I told her that milk was sleeping and she actually got out of bed and opened the curtains – just to check my story. When she saw it was indeed dark, she cried and cried. She snuggled with Daddy but kept crying. I got up and gave her some Benadryl because she kept scratching at her feet. I guess that made her happy, because she calmed down instantly. She still couldnt sleep and whined about it and kept asking for milk. Eventually we compromised and I let her sleep with her hand in my shirt (this kid and her boobies) and that seemed to do the trick. She slept solid until 6am when she woke again and I let her nurse because, well, it was light outside. Fortunately, she’s getting better at sleeping without milk so after just a few minutes, she rolled away from me. She didnt wake again until 7:30 when we got up.
Night 4: A relatively uneventful night. She woke at 1am and 4:30am and both times fussed a bit when I told her milk was sleeping. Not as distraught as before, more like when she asks to do something like watch TV and I tell her no. It only lasted a minute or two. Then she asked to “hold” again. I’m sure this will backfire one day but I figure this is at least a step in the right direction. She woke up again about 6:15 and was rooting around. I made her wake up and look towards the window and I asked her if the sun was up. She said “Sun, bright. Milk.” and I knew this was a better way to do this. She nursed for a bit and rolled over and woke back up at 8.
Night 5: It feels like this will never be over. She woke up at 12:30 when Daddy and I came to bed. I told her milk was sleeping and she, as usual, started fussing. I tried to calm her and get a drink of water, to no avail. After 5 minutes or so, I asked her if she wanted to snuggle with Daddy. She said yes, rolled over to him and went right to sleep. She woke again at 5:30. Apparently 5:30 is just the right time that she can wake up while its still dark (and milk is sleeping) and yet cant go back to sleep on her own. I tried to put her back to sleep for over an hour. Daddy tried for about 15 minutes. Then I just gave up and got out of bed because I was awake and she was obviously awake too. 5:30 was not the time I wanted to start my day.
Note: Before bed, she said, on her own. “Dark sidey (outside). Milk sleep. Nug (snuggle) Mommy, Nug Daddy.” I was very impressed that she initiated the conversation. She’s obviously spending some time processing and thinking about this.
Night 6: I think we have a break through! She woke up at 1:30am and she was pretty mad. Im not actually sure why, maybe a bad dream? But before her eyes were even open she was yell-whining. So, of course, it didnt help when I told her milk was sleeping. She flopped around for a good 5 minutes before coming back to me and asking to “hold”. I told her yes and within less than a minute, she fell asleep. But here’s where it gets good… she woke up again at 4 and about 45 minutes after that. Each time she woke up, she would just snuggle back into me and go back to sleep. She never once asked for milk. Sometimes she would “hold” again, sometimes not. She slept until 8 and it took her almost 10 minutes of being awake (it was Saturday, so we were taking our time getting up) before she even thought to ask for milk. She even asked for water first! Then all of a sudden she said “Sun up!! Milk please.”
Night 7: I spoke too soon. After being initially impressed that she didn’t wake up at 1 like she usually does, she woke up at 4:15 and fidgeted and tossed and turned and whined until I gave up at 6 and we got up. Once we got up, she played and read a book for 20 minutes and then cried to go back to bed. So we did. And all she did was play with my nipples for the next 20 minutes. I’ll give her credit, though, she didn’t request milk right away, even though the sun was up. She just wanted to “hold”. After 20 minutes, though, she started acting like she wanted something more. So I asked her if the sun was up and she giggled and said yes and asked for milk. It took another 20 minutes of nursing before she finally fell asleep, though. We slept for about 2 hours before getting back up.
Night 8: At this point, Im not sure I should even share my story. We are SO FAR from anything resembling success. I never would have dreamed it would be this tough. She woke up as usual about 1, fussed for a few minutes and finally went back to sleep. No major problems. But then she was up again at 5am and she whined and cried and flopped around for at least 20 minutes. She finally settled down and tried to go to sleep but seriously couldnt. At 5:40, she could see the light coming through the curtain a bit and declared “Sun! Up!!” so I let her nurse. Cant go back on the rules. She nursed for 20 minutes or so and I thought she fell asleep, I even dozed off myself, but she didnt. She starts twiddling and fidgeting and wanting to switch sides and at that point I could take it anymore. My patience is only so much and Id been battling her for an hour. So we just got up.This made her incredibly happy. Maybe she’s secretly a morning person? I have no idea. But she went out to the living room and played on her own – some of the most independent play Ive ever seen her do – for a solid 2 hours. Maybe we’re just coming at this the wrong way. Who knows. All I know is Im so tired.
Night 9: We had a little pep talk before bed. She’s been real good about repeating every night that when its dark, milk is sleeping, so last night we chatted a bit and took it farther. I explained (in a playful way) that if she wakes up and its dark and I tell her that milk is sleeping, that she doesnt need to fuss or whine or kick her feet, instead she just needs to snuggle up and go back to sleep. I can tell this is incredibly hard for her. I can tell that she is struggling with losing this part of her infanthood. When we talk about it, she always agrees with me but she does so with a nervous, sad laugh – you know how if you’ve been crying and someone does something to make you laugh? Its like that. She puts on her brave face. For me its so simple. But for her, its the hardest thing she’s ever done and can ever imagine doing. She doesn’t understand why milk suddenly needs to sleep at night and why things cant continue on the way they have been. But she trusts me and she wants to what Im asking her to do, even if its hard. This may be the biggest moment in our entire relationship.
Our night went amazing. She slept solid until about midnight when she woke up, asked to nurse, fussed for maybe one minute then went back to sleep. She didn’t wake again until 6:30, which of course because it was light outside she was able to nurse. She slept until 9. We are all feeling much more rested!
Night 10: At the risk of jinxing everything, I have to say last night was a complete success! She went to bed about 9, as usual, and for the first time since we started this, she woke up before I came to bed. I think maybe she had a bad dream or something, but she woke up crying at 10:30. I was worried because Ive learned that if she wakes up fully enough at this time (only an hour or two after she went to sleep) it sometimes acts more like a nap and she’s up for hours. So I knew if there was too much of a fight over milk, we would be out of luck. Fortunately after some soft words and snuggling to calm her down, she fell right back asleep – without nursing. I was shocked!
She woke again about 2am and 5:30am. She went back down easily at both, which is good because I was worried about the 5:30 one from past nights. Both times she didn’t even ask for milk, just snuggled up to me and went back to sleep. As a matter of fact, the whole thing took so little time that I don’t actually remember much of it! She woke again about 6:30 (I think her little brain must be in overdrive!) and saw the sun was up and laughed and said “Sun! Up!!” and knew she would get her milk. She nursed back down and slept til 8:30!
Day 20: Its been a tough 10 days since my last entry. Night weaning has been mostly successful. She has definitely learned that milk sleeps when its dark at night. She actually has taken to telling me during the day when she wants milk “Mommy, see! Sun up! Milk please.” ha! Another funny thing is there have been 2 nights where she’s gone to bed late – after dark – and she’s worried that milk has already gone to sleep. The first night, she almost had a panic attack but was happy when I said there was “a little bit of milk left” for her to go to sleep with. The second night, she said “Dark sidey (outside). Milk sleeping…?” and I had to reassure her that there was, again, a little bit of milk left. She was much relieved!
Day 25: We are still doing well early in the night. She sleeps solidly from when she goes to bed until around 5am, then she just can’t seem to get back to sleep. We are still experiementing with things to help this. One super cute thing she did today though was she saw it was dark outside (she went to bed a little late) and said “Mommy, dark. (points outside)” “Yes, honey it is dark.” “Milk? Little bit (holds fingers up an inch apart) milk. Little bit sidey (pointed to one breast), little bit sidey (pointed to other side). Me sleeps. Milk sleeps. Dark sidey!” Ha! I was cracking up! I told her she could have a little bit to go to sleep, even though it was dark and that milk would go to sleep as soon as she did.