How I Night Weaned

Lucas is now 100% night weaned. I thought I would never say that! When he was sleeping horrible about a month ago I shared some sleeping through the night myths of mine. So many of you left great tips and suggestions is the comments section (thank you!) and it was clear that I’m not the only one dealing with a non sleeping child- even at 9 months old. Our sleep situation has improved dramatically in the last month, and even though he is night weaned, it doesn’t mean he’s sleeping through the night. He wakes up once or twice now and goes back to sleep fairly easily, but I’m crossing my fingers that by his first birthday and with more “training” (is there a better way to explain it?) he won’t wake up until morning!

I want to explain how I night weaned Lucas. This is what worked for me. Of course each child is different so what has worked for us may not work for you. However, I do think we can all learn from each other and personally, I think the best way is to take bits and pieces from every book, blog or article you read and make your own version of “sleep training.You know your child and your parenting style better than anyone else does.
If you’re a nursing mom, I think you know what I mean when I say that night weaning is hard. Really hard. You tell yourself that you are not going to feed your child tonight because you want to break him of night nursing, but then 3am falls. You’re exhausted, your breasts are full of milk and all you want is your crying baby to go back to sleep. You know that giving him what he wants takes less than 5 minutes, while soothing and crying can take much longer.
I believe night weaning should occur whenever you feel you and your baby are ready. For me- it was when Lucas was about 7 months old. ** edited to add this:  Looking back now, I actually think 7 months was right on the edge of being too young.  Doing it again right now at 10/11 months seems much better. Please don’t wean your babies too early! Nursing at night is normal, but at 10 months I don’t think its necessary as much. ** I knew he was waking up out of habit, not because he was hungry. It simply became a habit for him. I successfully night weaned him when he was, I believe, 7 (ish) months old. It only took about 3 nights of weaning and “training” for him to go from waking up 3-5x a night to waking up just once. When he did wake up, he feel back asleep very easily after giving him his pacifier.

Now, remember my situation is a little different. It went from normal to worse to awesome. He was night weaned at 7 months, but then we moved and he was sleeping with us and in his pack n’ play in our room for 1 1/2 months. This created a lot of bad sleeping habits and lots of waking up at night. As soon as we moved into our new house just a couple weeks ago, he was back in his crib in his room and sleeping much better. So he was night weaned. Then he was nursing every few hours. Now he’s night weaned again. Get it?

First I want to back up and explain how we night weaned him when he was around 7 months old. This process was hard as I remember it it, but also very short and most of all- it worked. Basically, my husband took over night duty for a couple days. Every night when Lucas started to cry, my husband would go in his bedroom, pick him up and rock him back to sleep. Lucas cried a few minutes even when my husband was holding him, because he wanted me. He wanted me and he wanted milk. It was so hard not to go in there and just give him what he wanted (and sometimes I did) because I knew it would be a quick fix. It would make him happy, he woud go back to sleep and my husband and I could go back to sleep ourselves. But, I tried very very hard to let my husband take care of it. As soon as I walked in and gave him what he wanted, we were back to square one.

So my husband would rock him, bounce up and down with him, walk him, soothe him and do whatever he could until he was asleep. Once he was asleep he put him back in his crib. I remember some nights this took a while, about 30 minutes was normal, but eventually Lucas learned that waking up did not mean he got milk.

This worked. If I remember correctly, it took less than four nights of this. And mamas, when you first start night weaning (if you’re used to nursing all night) your breast will probably become very uncomfortable and full of milk. Ah, I remember this so well. Waking up at 5am- I hope you’re hungry baby! They’ll simmer down eventually, don’t worry.
This entire process took less than a week.
For us, it really wasn’t about teaching him that night time isn’t for milk or nursing, it was about breaking a habit. Babies don’t necessarily wake up because something is wrong or because they’re hungry, they just wake up. They haven’t learned how to roll over and fall back asleep yet, so they cry out for us. It’s then our job to come in and teach them how to fall back asleep.
Having my husband take over a few nights really helped. When I had to do it again, after the weekend was over and he went back to work, I walked in his room, soothed him in bed, gave him his pacifier and walked out. Then I waited a bit and did it again. And again. And again. I was up for an hour some nights, going in and out of his room, waiting longer each time, soothing him but not picking him up or nursing him. It worked eventually!

So that was then. In between was the bad sleeping habits and now we fast forward a couple months later after weeks of horrible sleeping and here we are. Lucas is in his own room again and in his own bed. I had to night wean all over again. It was much easier and faster this time around. Even the first night of sleeping alone he only woke up twice! I think just being in his own space and in a more comfortable bed really helped. From the first night we were in our new place I kept track of his sleeping habits so I could see if what I was doing was working. There is definitely a pattern to things here.

Day 1

Bed at 7:00pm
11:00- Wake up. Cry for a few minutes, dad goes in and gives him pacifier- falls back asleep
1:30- wakes up. Cry’s for 5 ish minutes and falls back to sleep on his own.
8:00- wakes up for the day
Day 2
7:15- bed
12:00- wake up, cry and pacifier back to sleep
4:30 am- wakes up, I nurse him and back to sleep (opps! I was half asleep and not thinking!)
7:00- up and back to sleep
8:30- up for the day
He cried for a few minutes before I went in to his room each time. I didn’t jump up immediately when I heard him. I wanted to give him a chance to fall back asleep on his own if he could. Sometimes we inhibit this by going into their room too quickly!

Day 3
7:00- bed
12:00- cried for a few minutes feel back asleep on his own!
4:30- cried for a few minutes. Went in to soothe, gave him his binky and lovie. He feel asleep after I left the room.
8:00 up for the day
Day 4
7:00- bed
5:30 am- woke up. YES! This is a record, I can’t even believe this happened. Nurse and back to sleep
8:00- up for the day
Day 5
Bed at 7
not sure- forgot to look at clock but woke up twice.
Day 6
Bed at 7:30
1:30 Wake up- binky and back to bed.
5:30- wake up- binky and back to bed
8:30 – up for the day
This is how its been the last few days. He wakes up twice normally but goes back to bed pretty easily. Now that he is completely night weaned I’m still working on getting him to sleep the entire night. When he wakes up, I wait longer and longer before going in to give him his pacifier. Like last night, he woke up around his usual time (1:30) and he wasn’t really crying, it was more like a yell or whine. I don’t want to sleep! MOM! Come in here now! It’s hard to explain, but it was a mix between a cry of a baby and a yell of a toddler with an attitude. Eventually I did go in his room and give him his pacifier, but the point is, I didn’t go in there immediately.

Compared to his previous days,he is now a great sleeper. I consider waking up just once or twice amazing and it’s a heck of a lot better than the old days, so I’ll take it.

I think there are several factors that have played into this, resulting in him sleeping much better. First, his room is the warmest room in our house. This works out really nicely, and I’m glad it’s this way because our bedroom is the coldest! His room is warm and toasty and very comfortable. His room is also the darkest in the house. It’s in the back of our house, away from any street lights and we also have curtains up.

Lucas has a lovie (a little dog) that he has had since he was a baby. He often will hold it and cuddle with it while he sleeps and my goodness is it adorable. He has a pacifier at night which definitely helps and right now I’m not even thinking about when or how we’re going to wean him from that. Another thing that I think has been great for Lucas is a relaxing music CD. He has had the same CD playing in his room since he was a couple months old. This CD plays at every nap time and every time I put him to bed. It’s an hour long and consist of songs I pulled from itunes and a Fisher Price CD. Not only does this CD signal the start of sleep time, but it helps drown out other noises in the house. I highly recommend a CD or maybe another sound machine in your child’s room!

It’s hard to say of course if one factor or a change in something small can make much of a difference, but I can at least see the differences from his room now compared to our old house. Maybe these things helped, maybe it’s a simple coincidence, either way I hope it gives you a few new ideas to try.

I hope you’re able to pull a couple ideas from this and find something that works perfectly for your family! I hope a few things work for you, I know all too well what it’s like to not sleep at night and what it’s like to feel frustrated that you’re baby isn’t sleeping. One last thing I want to add is that sometimes we do too much and by leaving them be they might be able to go back to sleep faster. There are nights when me being in his room and trying to soothe him actually made it worse. He will be crying, I go in to soothe him, give him his pacifier, pat his belly/back, and try to get him to calm down. He is still crying and no matter what I do he won’t stop crying. I’m begging him, honey shhh go to sleep. come on baby, goodnight. He won’t stop crying. Then, I get frustrated and walk out and what do you know- he falls asleep 10 seconds after I leave! It’s funny (except not really) how that works sometimes.

I hope this post has helped some! One day we’ll all look back on this and smile. Our kids will be in high school and they’ll be waking us up at midnight when they come home for curfew! Then they’ll sleep in till 11 the next morning and we’ll wonder how we ever made it through the “easy” years of parenting a baby who can’t talk back or wear their pants too low.

And as many wise people always tell me, this too shall pass….. Just let them be little.

Published by Samantha Mellen

Certified personal trainer & health coach helping women transform their lives through fitness, abundant mindset coaching and internal peace. Mom of two boys, living life in Alaska.

32 thoughts on “How I Night Weaned

  1. Good, informative post Samantha! Gave me some things to think about for my own sleep struggles wtih Jordan!

    I wonder about something… A lot of the baby books I have been reading really stress the importance of naps and how they affect how well a baby sleeps at night. Is Lucas a good napper? Does he go down in his bed without a struggle? You'd think Jordan would nap like crazy since he doesn't sleep well at night, but he fights me HARD on naps. Lately I've been going for a drive just to get that precious nap out of him and sometimes that doesn't even work.

    So, anyway, just wondering about Lucas's naps… if he goes down easy, do you have a routine, how long does he sleep, etc.

  2. How about a baby that all the sudden at 15 months starts waking up in the middle of the night? Having slept through the night for 13 months in a row before that? We have loud neighbors who dont 'care that she needs to sleep (or nap) and if I dont go in and nurse her, she will scream for hours and hours. As it is, my husband goes to work at 4 am. Our neighbors keep ME awake until at least 11 pm even with earplugs in. so if I get 5 hours of sleep, I am really lucky. Her waking up and crying doesn't help matters any. Her womb teddy bear recently died. We are faced with either replacing it or weaning it. We chose to wean her and she took a couple of days but managed to go to sleep. If she gets her naps correctly, she will sleep til at least 5, want to nurse and go back down. Sometimes it is later than that. At 3 am, she wont be soothed by a binky. No amount of anything soothes her. There is a fine line between crying it out and having the police called on you. Yes, by the same people that are not considerate at all to us. We're at that line, I'm afraid. Any suggestions would help. Like I said this is a totally new thing.

  3. Thanks for this post! We have been struggling with Dylan's sleep the last few weeks. We've tried the same things you've done, however I give in too much and feed him! oops!!! Starting today, I vow to be stronger and more persistent with our sleep training! Thanks for showing me that there is a light at the end of this sleepless tunnel!

    oh, I and think he's teething could this pose an issue on our sleep training? He used to sleep really well (only waking once) up until the last few weeks?…
    Thanks,
    Lindsey

  4. Krystal,
    Yes, he's a good napper now. As soon as he's fussy or starts to whine to me I put him down and he falls asleep very fast. He used to be a horrible napper but he grew out of it. Thankfully!

    I worked really hard on naps. Same time, every day, routine, rock.. I did the same thing at night with letting him cry then going in there, and repeat. He needs to nap, he wants to nap, I just need to show him that he does!

  5. Oh and he naps anywhere from 2-3 times a day for about an hour each time, sometimes more. Usually every 3-4 hours. He isn't on a strict nap schedule because he wakes up different times each morning. He goes to nap whenever he starts whining to me- assuming he didnt just wake up or something. Usually when he fusses it means hes tired

  6. Lindsey,
    definitely could be teeth. Lucas was doing so good and then the other night he was up all night, crying and would not go back to bed easily with a pacifier like before. I could see three teeth in the top coming through so it was obvious he was in pain. His cry was different too- you could tell he was hurting. I nursed him because I wanted him to feel better and go back to sleep. I was afraid it would ruin all our training and put him back in bed habits but the next night and so on have been fine! He was just really in pain that night. 😦

    It seems like there was/is ALWAYS something that gets in the way. Hes teething, growing, he had a busy day, maybe he doesn't feel good, maybe he's scared…its hard.

    good luck!!

  7. Aaww, I remember those days.
    I was a working mother, so I always had pumped milk. We did a bottle before bed time so that their tummies would be nice and full before going to sleep. They both also slept in their own rooms pretty early on (abt 2-3 months old). Today, they both sleep from about 7:30 pm – 7 am, with no waking up (usually). We have always been on a schedule like Samantha said – same time every day, same routine every day. I REALLY think that helps.

    Right now my almost 2 year old is sick and I found myself wishing that I could nurse her yesterday. That always made her feel better when I was nursing her.

    Cherish all of these moments – they go by way too fast!

  8. Remember too that physical milestones can disrupt sleep. If your baby is close to learning something new (walking, talking, rolling over, pulling up etc.) it can definitely disrupt sleep for a couple of days. Weird, but true.

    Also, many times babies who never learned to self-soothe will start night waking once they are older because they are more aware of their surroundings. They haven't learned to transition from active sleep cycle to passive sleep cycle. Babies, just like adults, have sleep cycles with REM and non-REM sleep. It is important to train your baby to sleep and put themselves back to sleep on their own or they can continue to have sleep issues for many years to come much to parents' dismay.

    Check out http://babywisemom.blogspot.com/ for tons of great sleeping solutions and ideas. Make sure to read the comments as many times the moms are the ones who can solve your problem!

    Samantha, so glad to hear your sleeping issues are working out and Lucas is back to only waking once-twice a night!

  9. Lil Mouse – I would agree, maybe it teeth, ear infection, etc. What are the sleeping arrangements – is he/she in your room, own room, sharing a room with someone else? I think a baby sleeps best in their own space where they are not being interrupted by noise from you & your partner (getting ready for bed, showering, etc.). Also, maybe a night light?

  10. my daughter goes to bed at 10pm every night. How can I get her go go to bed earlier??? It seems like she is not tired until 10 but I want her to go to bed at 7!

  11. I don't understand a couple things….

    “bad sleep habits” How is nursing at night bad? Isn't it completely normal and natural?

    You said you knew, at 7 months, he was waking out of habit rather than hunger. How do you know? My DD is 9 months and still does a lot of eating at night (we co-sleep and she has always “slept through the night”), but I'm glad because that just means she is getting that much more breastmilk. I mean, don't they still digest breastmilk in 2 hours… maybe they truly need something in their tummy.

    I guess I'm just very anti- sleep training/CIO/whatever, so this just irks me when people say a 7 month old has bad sleep habits because they want to nurse at night (even though to most people that would be considered too old).

    And, sort of off topic (but you said you gave him a pacifier when he was crying), but why give a baby a pacifier when you have the ultimate, God- designed pacifier? Mothers say they don't want to be a “human pacifier” but, why not? I don't want my baby to be comforted by something artificial, when I have something natural that does a better job. nothing against anyone who uses a pacifier… just the whole “human pacifier” = bad thing (which you said nothing about, I know)

    I hope this doesn't come off as mean, it probably does, and its not like you were attacking people that don't sleep train. I don't know…. sorry, I just wanted to give another opinion.

  12. The Whites,

    I don't believe in CIO and we don't practice it. I guess it depends on what you consider CIO but I consider it leaving your child to cry all night long by themselves until they fall asleep. Lucas cried in few minute intervals and I went in. We started this when he was about 7-8 months old and when we felt it was fine to do not when he was an infant.

    I consider “bad sleeping habits” when an 8 month old is waking up every couple hours. 8 month old kids should be sleeping in longer stretches than that. when he is in an uncomfortable pack n' play, sleeping in a noisy house and waking up very often, I consider that bad sleeping habits.

    I was a human pacifier at night for a long time. I don't want to be a human pacifier at night anymore. I want to sleep. I'm sure my child is much happier getting a good night sleep every night rather than waking up every couple hours crying.

    I don't think you're being mean, I welcome your thoughts and different opinions and parenting styles! 🙂

  13. Now I really wish my daughter would take a pacifier! She insists on waking up to nurse every 3 hours at night, but since she won't take a paci or a comfort object, I kind of feel like I'd be sending my husband in weaponless!

  14. anonymous,
    regarding the late bedtime. I would just slowly work on making it earlier. If he goes to sleep at 10 right now, maybe make it shorter by 15 or 30 minute increments each night?

    I'm not too sure. We have always put Lucas to bed right around 7 since day 1.

  15. This is so hard for me! I want to night wean but the logistics of it all don't work out 😦 We have hardwood floors, 3 kids sleep in the room right next to ours where Sterling's crib is. If I let him cry it wakes the 3yo up for sure and most likely the 5yo. Such a pain. It's not always terrible but when he's teething he nurses like 5x a night!!

  16. sorry, I recently read babywise so, its all the same to me. I know its not really the same, but I jusst have a hot head from reading that book and its all I can think of when I hear sleep training. I know there are excellent “sleep training” books like the “no cry sleep solution”…. but all I have on my mind is gary ezoo 😦 so, i guess i'm really not anti sleep training, just very anti babywise 😉

  17. Ezzo also made a “don't be a human pacifier… they make pacifiers for that type of thing” comment, which is why I thought of it…. babywise on my mind. UGH! must stop reading things I know I will be mad at!

  18. Hi Samantha,

    Great post about night weaning. I am thinking of started to follow the Jay Gordon method which seams similar to what you have done.

    I am surprised you didn't put a side note or a word of advice about NOT night weaning a very small infant, like Calgarydaddy had mentioned night weaning a 3 week old baby. Personally I wouldn't night wean under a year, but definitely would never ever night wean under 6 months. What are your thoughts on what is too young.

  19. I've enjoyed your blog thus far, especially since our LOs are the same age! That said, I decided NOT to night wean prior to a year, and probably not the first 15 months at least. After fighting so hard to get breastfeeding to work for the first 3 months, I'm not at all ready to give it up yet! I also WOH, so nights are special snuggle time for me and my baby.

    I think the key here is to each their own, and whatever works! I would add, though, that not all babies who nurse at night do so out of habit. It's considered healthy and normal for babies to wake frequently even past the year mark, though of course different doctors and experts will disagree on this, as on almost all parenting issues!

  20. hot harmony,

    good point. Thanks for pointing that out to me- I think I'll go back and add that in! Actually, I think when we weaned Lucas at 7 months it was so early. Doing at again at 11 months seems much better.

    I think too young is definitely anything under 6 months, probably even more like 9-10 months or something.

  21. Great post! We had a very similar problem with our daughter who was consistently sleeping about 12-13 hours with NO wakings until we spent a month or so in transition with moving. Then we were back to 3 or 4 am wakings, and although I said I would never go in and just nurse her so she would go back to sleep, i did. My husband gets up at 4 am and is out the door by 4:15, so I am on my own after 4. We've tried the weekend habit breaking, but 2 mornings just doesn't cut it. Anyway, she is 12 months now, and I thought we were on our way with weaning (I am letting her lead the way with this… with a little encouragement here and there), esp. getting rid of that 5 am feeding, but now she has a cold… and has been signing for milk every time she wakes up again. But I digress, I struggled with this early AM feeding for a few months, but then I asked myself why I was trying to get rid of it. The answer was because “everyone” said I needed to… I said “screw that, I want to sleep.” happy mommy = happy baby 🙂

    To the Whites (& any one else who cares), night nursing is not bad persay… it is the fact that none of us (me, included!!) actually brush our babies little teeth (assuming they have some) after these nursings that is bad. BTW, I too am anti-babywise! The whole strict schedule thing just does not do it for me 🙂

  22. The Whites- thanks for the clarification! Everything I've read has told me otherwise… but now maybe I don't have to feel like I am rotting away my daughter's cute little teeth when i don't brush at 5 am. 🙂

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