Adventures in Night Weaning (Part 1)

E at 16 months, nursing when the sun shines

I was talking with a friend today, who has a baby several months younger than E. I shared my story of night weaning with her. I’ve decided to share it with you here, in hopes that it might be helpful. As you may know, I am a breastfeeding, co-sleeping, attachment parenting kind of mama. You may or may not be these things. But if you are nursing your baby at night, and you are feeling like you may want or need to stop, I hope this story helps you in some way.¬†

E at 16 months, nursing when the sun shines
E at 16 months, nursing when the sun shines

It’s been about a month since we began night weaning. (Aside from our first, failed attempt in which I caved instantly).

I am happy to report (soooo happy to report) that Everett slept his first full night last night without nursing until the sun actually rose. So now that we are on the other side of this adventure, I feel that I have some perspective, a few insights, and the brain power with which to share them.

You see, it all started when…. I wrote this post. I was at my wits end with exhaustion. We have been breastfeeding, and cosleeping (in various forms, by which I mean rooms and beds) since E’s birth. At the time I decided I wanted to night wean, I was spending most of every night in E’s bed with him, nursing every 2-4 hours. My sleep was broken at best, but really with a little nursling at your breast for hours of the night, or crying because he can’t find your breast, or clawing at your face because he is upset he does not have your nipple secured in his mouth at all times, sleep is not just broken, it is shattered. So night weaning was needed, for sanity’s sake.

So we began. Not really knowing what we were doing. I had heard from other moms who’d done it that it took a few nights of letting daddy (or whomever is your parenting partner) do the wake-ups, letting baby cry in their loving arms, with you huddled in the other room trying not to burst into tears yourself. So that’s what we tried, at first. And that’s how I caved. E would scream his little head off so fiercely, until he was practically gagging, I would be wide awake and distraught, and daddy was the steadfast¬†gate between us. No one was getting any more sleep.

After a brief pause from our attempt, we began again. This time we entered into the arena with a few new (and key) ingredients.

1. A sippy cup of water

2. Books. This is our favorite:

Our night time routine always includes a story. Everett climbs up into our big green rocking chair, and I join him, for nursies. We read this story, and we nurse. I tell him the nursies are going to sleep. I give him to daddy, and daddy rocks, or bounces, sings, and eventually gets him to sleep. E sleeps in his own bed, but it’s big enough for mama or daddy to join him when he needs us. At first E needed someone pretty frequently, and each wake up without nursies was a struggle.

For 5 solid days daddy comforted E at each wake up, offering water, and bouncing, and soft singing. E would fight for 5 minutes or so, and eventually fall back to sleep. (I should also mention here that E takes a pacifier, and that has been helpful, I know not every baby does, so we are lucky on that one). After the 5 days we started to see some light at the end of the tunnel. E started to accept daddy’s comfort. Until 5 am. By 5 am E was done with daddy. So even though it was still dark, and technically still sleeping time, daddy would bring E back into our big bed, and we would nurse. So as we started to see the light, the true test came. Daddy had to go away for a trip, and my turn came to be strong and stick to the rule that nursies now sleep at night.

(stay tuned for part 2!)


I’ve been wanting to write this post for a long time. But I’m only now letting the words creep from my mind, to this page. Sometimes writing happens that way. Anyways, here goes…

We all have choices to make.

We have free will.

We have the ability to weigh a decision, weigh our circumstances, our intentions, our hopeful outcome, the risks that our hopes will not be actualized. We all make decisions based on where we are, and what we are dealing with, in the moment. This is good. But sometimes the choices we make need to change. Sometimes what works for awhile, and then doesn’t work anymore, needs to become the catalyst for a new choice.

As parents our choices seem to outnumber our thoughts. On a daily basis there are choices made that are too small for the eye to see. They way we answer a question, the face we make when something goes wrong, the tone we use when we address our partner after a long day, the soft touches, and kisses that let our people know they are loved. There are also the big ones, the decisions around what and how, we do what we do. The sleep arrangements, the food choices, the products consumed. The little choices are much like instinct, the bigger ones may be more thought out, but every choice made has the opportunity to be different, if we find that it no longer serves us. This is part of mindful, conscious, yogic parenting.

There are some choices that our little family has made that are under reflection right now. I don’t know what the outcome of this reflection will be, except that there may be some new choices made. Ultimately whatever we choose, we will remember that these decisions are not set in stone, they are not something we have to stick to, we will not be bad parents, or people, if we decide in a month, a week, a day, to make a different choice. We will be flexible. We will communicate. We will continue to reflect, and decide, choosing what we hope will keep our little family in balance.

That’s what is most important. Balance. And Trust. And Choice.

We are not perfect. We don’t strive to be. We do strive to be conscious, to be connected, to ourselves, and to each other. We do strive to create harmony, for all members of our small fold. We strive to create a life that is intentional, deliberate, chosen.

let your heart guide you