Hi all. This is a post about night weaning my toddler. I’m sharing this personal story in the hopes that it might help another exhausted or otherwise ready-to-night-wean-mama, because when I was preparing to night wean my son, I found it really helpful to read other mamas’ stories and tips. If you’re a mama contemplating night weaning your toddler, I sincerely hope this post is valuable to you. That said, it should go without saying that what worked for me and my family may obviously not work / be a good fit for you and yours. Cada loco con su tema! Here we go…
How I night weaned my toddler in 3 days (sort of)
The “sort of” is because really, it took over a month of preparing our son for night weaning before we actually started night weaning. (And then, when we finally actually night weaned, it really only took one day of misery). We started officially / actively night weaning when my son was about sixteen months old, but started preparing him for it (by talking and reading about it) about two months earlier. Read on for more details.
About a month before night weaning my toddler
Around when my son was fourteen (and a half-ish) months old, I ordered this amazing book called “Nursies When The Sun Shines,” which is literally a book for teaching your child that from now on, they can only nurse when the sun shines. (If you click through that link and then buy it, the site will get a small kickback for referring you to Amazon — thank you!).
So starting from when my son was about fourteen and a half months old, until we actually night weaned (which was just before sixteen months), we read “Nursies When The Sun Shines” every. single. day.
Also: We use the term “dudhu” for milk in our house, so I substituted that for the word “nursies” whenever we read the book.
I honestly think that our consistency in reading this book to him was a huge helping factor in why we were able to ultimately night wean in just three days (actually it was more like one miserable night). It helped us in coming up with language around not nursing at night, and only nursing during the day, and it also helped make it something he got used to thinking about. By the time the actual day(s) of starting night weaning came, it was easy to refer back to the language from the book, and feel like my son knew what I was talking about.
We also made it a point to talk a lot about the differences between night and day, and make a big deal about how at night it was dark and Mr. Sun was gone, and that in the morning, Mr. Sun would come up.
If you’re not into the idea of buying a book about night weaning, it may still be helpful to continually talk about the differences between night and day as you lead up to night weaning. But for what it’s worth, if you’re on the fence on buying a book specifically to prepare for night weaning: The book has beautiful illustrations, and I love that it’s unclear if the child in the book is a girl or a boy. Also, the last page of the book also includes great practical tips for night weaning, including emphasizing the difference between night and day. I’ll talk a bit about that in a moment. It even became my son’s favorite book for a while.
About a week before night weaning my toddler
For the week leading up to the big night, we made a huge deal about the whole Mr. Sun comes up in the morning thing, and also talked a lot about how soon, you’ll only have dudhu when the sun shines! – We phrased it a lot of different ways, and were really extra about how much we talked about it.
Night weaning my toddler: Night 1
Then, on the actual day we were going to start night weaning my toddler, (my son was just about sixteen months old), we talked non-stop about how at night, Mama will sleep, Dada will sleep, and dudhu will sleep at night! (I swear, I felt like I could see a glimmer of understanding on my son’s face.)
Then the actual night came. We did our usual night time routine, and talked about how there would be no milk at night.
(Also, that night I wore a crew-neck t-shirt to bed instead of my usual v-necks or loose button-downs that make night nursing so much easier. #ProTip.)
Then… I tried to get him to sleep. It took about an hour of hold him while he was crying for me to nurse him until he finally fell asleep. After that was done, it was like a big phew. But I was bracing myself, because I knew he’d wake up to nurse in a couple hours.
The first wake-up
The first wake-up was probably the toughest of the night, and of the whole process. He woke up at around midnight, and I tried to pat him back to sleep (HA! YEAH RIGHT!) and remind him that dudhu is sleeping, and he was not having any of that. He started signing for milk angrily and repeatedly. Then, when he realized I wasn’t going to nurse him back to sleep, he got angry. He cried a lot. (My husband got up too, but I had decided earlier on that since I’d always been the one to comfort our son at night, handing him off to Dada would likely only frustrate him more, or worse, make him feel abandoned. So instead, he was only up to provide me moral support. Thanks babe.)
The crying and sadness continued for at least an hour. Then… he started getting hysterical. So I offered him the only thing I could think of…
My son is obsessed with YouTube videos of little critters, and this seriously calmed him down. I put on a video of mice doing tricks, and he calmed down. Then, I offered him a sippy cup of water, and while distracted by the video, he drank from it. We cuddled in bed and watched mouse videos for maybe twenty minutes, and then he started to look drowsy. Then… I don’t know, he just… fell asleep! At this point it was probably around 1:30am. I went back to sleep too, bracing myself for round 2.
The second wake-up
The next time he woke up was around 4am. Once again, he asked to nurse, and I had to say no. But this time, I went straight to the mouse videos and sippy cup combo, and it worked. About twenty minutes later he was back asleep.
The next time he woke up it was about 6:30 in the morning, and the sun was up. So I made a huge deal about how Mr. Sun was up now, and that means dudhu is awake, and he can nurse now! He was less excited about it than I thought he’d be (toddlers act so entitled), but he nursed, and then fell back asleep for another hour.
Night weaning my toddler: Nights 2 and 3
Getting him to fall asleep on Nights 2 and 3 took a long time. I ended up showing him a mouse video and then hugging him and patting him to sleep both nights. Both nights, he woke up 3-4 times both nights, but for the wake ups, instead of mouse videos and water, I patted him, or rubbed his back to lull him back to sleep. It worked!
So, 3 days later, I guess he’s night weaned…?
I kept expecting another miserable night over the next few days and weeks, but it never came. I think continuing to talk a lot about how dudhu sleeps at night was helpful.
Tips for Night Weaning Your Toddler
Night weaning my toddler went more smoothly than I expected. But to be fair, I expected it to be a miserable and horrifying experience, so take my pleasant surprise with a grain of salt. 🙂
Night Weaning Tip 1: Talk about night weaning (a lot!)
My biggest tip for night weaning your toddler is to prepare them for it for weeks, at least. As I mentioned previously, the book “Nursies When The Sun Shines” was really helpful for us, and I really think it was why my son “got it” so quickly. Also, talking a lot about night vs. day is helpful; talk with your child a lot about the concepts of daytime and nighttime, or morning and night, so that they can start to understand the difference. Then, when you start talking about how you’ll only be nursing them during the day, they get what you mean.
Night Weaning Tip 2: Stay committed
I was lucky that weaning went smoothly. But that first night, there were moments that were a little heartbreaking. I think that once you’ve determined you and your baby are ready to night wean, and you’ve decided to put your plan into action, you have to stay the course and stay committed. And yes, there may be tears from you, too.
Night Weaning Tip 3: Make it clear to your partner how they can support you
I know some Mamas, when night weaning, have their partners take over night time comforting. This can be great for your baby, because it communicates clearly that now, the other parent (who doesn’t/can’t nurse me anyway) is my go-to-parent at night. But since I had decided this wasn’t the approach we were going to take in our family, I wanted to make sure my partner knew how he could best support me. So I let him know that having him available for moral and emotional support (I can’t overstate how supportive words of affirmation/admiration can be after you manage to get your toddler to sleep without nursing), or even logistical support. There was a point one night during night 1 when I had my partner take over with our awake-and-angry son so I could hand-express to relieve engorgement. And on that note…
Night Weaning Tip 4: Be careful with your breasts
Engorgement: It’s real. (This is just based on my own experience night weaning my toddler. Maybe you’ll be luckier.) It’s probably wise to be mindful of it, and to hand express a little, especially the first few nights. If you’re at the point in a nursing relationship that you’re night weaning a toddler, you’ve likely been nursing at night for a long time. That means your body has been used to producing a lot of milk at night for a long time. So be kind to your body!
Night Weaning Tip 5: Don’t night wean until you’re really ready
Just like nursing your toddler is something you yourself have to feel strongly about for the nursing relationship to work well, weaning your toddler is also something you have to feel ready for. (And, it will be so hard to stay committed if you’re not really ready.) Don’t wean until / unless you’re ready to do so. I’m glad I waited for night weaning my toddler until I was ready, and I’m definitely glad I waited to fully wean until I was ready.
Edit/Update November 2017 – We ended up fully weaning around early September. I’ll post something soon about how we went from being fully night weaned to being fully weaned.
Edit/Update January 2018 – I just had to share this update because it had me dying laughing. My dear friend who is in the process of weaning her sweet daughter from nursing just told me that she tried to read Nursies When The Sun Shines to her daughter, and it completely backfired: As soon as she heard “nursies” in the book, she wanted to be nursed, and took it upon herself to “help herself.” (I can’t stop laughing). That is to say, your mileage may vary.
Night weaning my toddler was not, overall, as bad as I thought it might be. But I know everyone has different experiences, so Mamas, if you’ve night weaned a toddler, what was your experience? And what are your best tips?
P.S. – I loved this video from Amanda Muse on how she night weaned her co-sleeping toddler. Not everything in her video worked for or applied to us, but I still found it helpful.