I once thought that my children would sleep through the night at three months old. I don’t mean like, “Oh, five-hour stretch? That counts.” I mean 10-12 solid unbroken nights of glorious child-free time.
I have nothing to back this up, but I honestly feel like bottle-fed children (formula or expressed milk) sleep through the night at an earlier age. There is no “comfort nursing,” and you can see that they intake enough ounces during the day to fulfill their daily requirements. With exclusive breastfeeding, baby wakes up and (at least in my house) mom gives baby boob as quickly as possible to hush that darling little mouth up and promote continued sleep. This also means sopping diapers in the morning, potential nighttime leaks, and a mom that just doesn’t sleep that well. I know that babies will night wean when they are ready, and I absolutely do not support night weaning before six months unless it is child led. I also know that some babies will continue to nurse all night well into toddlerhood and that is something that not all moms really want (raises hand).
We have bed shared, part time, since the first week we were home. Jed and I used to each sleep with a baby in separate rooms, and each one of us would be responsible for caring for that child at night. Then we all moved into the master bedroom, where the babies would start out the night in their crib, but eventually migrate into the king-sized bed with Jed and me. Eventually, Cormac started sleeping longer stretches, so we moved him into his own crib in the nursery, but Clara stayed in our room, eating every two to three hours. Some nights, it felt like constant nursing. I suppose some nights it was.
Jed has now gone away for two months and so I am on my own, 24 hours a day. It’s sort of intimidating, but I am confident that we will be just fine. We have spent the last two weeks working on night weaning Clara. I am not trying to night wean Cormac at all, since he is still small (about 14 lbs) and he generally only wakes one or two times per night anyway. Clara ate once last night for about 20 seconds. Let me tell you how we got there.
The first night was sort of accidental. We had been talking about night weaning before Jed left, but nothing had happened. Then, one night, I was feeding Clara at about midnight and she didn’t want to go back to sleep. Cormac woke up, so Jed took Clara into our spare bedroom and I took care of Cormac. He nursed and fell asleep. So did I. Jed and Clara did not come back into the room until 7:00 a.m. My boob was crazy engorged on the side she was eating on, and she proceeded to guzzle most of that milk down. After that night, Jed was working for the next few nights, so I was on my own again. I would feed Clara when she woke, just until my letdown slowed a little, then unlatch her and pat her to sleep. She woke up a lot. It felt like it was backfiring, but I didn’t give up. I fed her four times a night, then three, then one. It was going sooooo well.
And then I got my first period in a year and a half and my supply tanked. The babies were sooooo hungry. Cormac woke to eat four times a night and, even though I was soothing Clara to sleep and only fed her twice, my boob wasn’t engorged in the morning. So I put night weaning on hold, fed them all night long for a few days until my supply came back to normal, and started the night weaning thing again. Clara woke up three times–I fed her twice for about 45 seconds each time–and soothed her back to sleep. Then last night, she didn’t wake up until 3:00 a.m. I fed her for 20 seconds, unlatched her, and snuggled her back to sleep. Cormac also woke to eat at about 3:30 a.m. and that was it. Both babies were up for the day at 6:30 a.m. (last nighttime feed happened around 7:30 p.m.) and I fed them as much as they could eat then.
Unbroken sleep for that long makes me feel like I could run a marathon. It’s unbelievable. I had forgotten how great sleep was.
No crying it out, minimal tears, gentle methods, and everyone surviving. I fully expect to have rough nights from time to time. I think Cormac will night wean on his own–I was just terrified of those all night nursing sessions with two babies. That is so hard when I have backup; I can’t imagine without backup. With this change, we have also moved to crib all night long for both babies. They both sleep in the nursery now. I really believe that they sleep better when they aren’t in a bed with me, the milk lady. That was a hard transition, too, but I just took my time and knew that losing sleep for a few nights would pay off in the end. And so far it absolutely has.
So we aren’t fully night weaned yet, but it is absolutely working. I’ll keep you posted about how it goes in the next few weeks.