I’m contemplating night weaning my toddler, as it’s getting harder the farther I get into my pregnancy. The aversion is tough. But I know she’s not ready, so it’s going to be so hard. Any tips you have would be great. No one understands how hard it is unless you’ve been through it.Michele
I know exactly how you feel.
I had hoped to follow Cubby’s lead when it came to weaning. But when he was around 18 months, I was newly pregnant with my second baby and suddenly breastfeeding hurt — inside and out.
I knew that neither one of us was ready to stop nursing altogether, so I decided to compromise by night-weaning him.
Ensure Your Toddler is Emotionally and Physically Ready to Stop Nursing Throughout the Night
Night weaning is a major event in your little one’s life, and it should not be taken lightly.
Toddlers who wake at night to nurse are typically incredibly attached to nursing; moreover, to the comfort and love that they get from mother while nursing at the breast.
Weaning before a child is ready can cause a great deal of fear, sadness and anxiety in a little person. Thus, night weaning — like any weaning from breastfeeding — needs to be done very gently, and gradually, and with the utmost compassion and love.Katherine Havener, Nursies When The Sun Shines
I spent a month or so grappling with the decision before I began the slow process.
I thought about the nursing aversion that I was experiencing for the first time.
Studies on Breastfeeding Aversion and Agitation (BAA) have found that while severity, duration, and form vary, this phenomenon is shared by women all over the world.
Mothers describe very similar feelings and thoughts, often using the exact same phrases.
It is characterised by feelings of anger or rage, a skin crawling sensation and an urge to remove the suckling infant, but can also be feelings of agitation and irritability whilst the infant is latched.
A number of mothers who experience aversion still continue to breastfeed, but have feelings of guilt and shame while also experiencing confusion around those feelings.Zainab M. Yate
Anytime Cubby was nursing and touched my other breast, I had a fierce urge to scream or rip him off. When he had done this previously, it was just annoying. But this was different.
I usually asked him to stop, over and over, but he lacked the proper impulse control at his age. One night, after I grabbed his hand and flung it backwards in furious desperation, I realized this was a much bigger problem than I had thought.
Luckily I didn’t hurt him. But I scared us both.
I didn’t want to spend our time together pleading with him, losing my patience, or — heaven forbid — accidentally hurting him. Guilt and shame consumed me.
And I wondered if the quality of nursing sessions was more important than quantity. If he were nursing fewer times, perhaps I would have the strength to hold the aversions at bay.
I thought about the nipple pain that I was experiencing each time we nursed.
Heightened breast and nipple sensitivity is common, as a mother’s body tries its best to fulfill both gestation and lactation.
I still had an unopened nipple shield in the cabinet, from his infancy, and I tried to get him to use it. He had used a shield for a few weeks as a newborn, and I hoped it would be like riding a bike.
You probably aren’t surprised to learn that he refused it.
I tried the usual remedies for sore nipples — cold compress, hot compress, gel pads, nipple butter, breastmilk, fresh air. Nothing helped. Each and every nursing session was painful from start to finish.
More guilt and shame.
Again, I thought about quality vs. quantity. If I nursed Cubby fewer times, I could give my sore nipples a break. Maybe then I would have the strength to make it through a nursing session without cringing.
Because my nursing aversion and physical pain seemed to feed off one another, I ultimately decided to night wean my toddler.
This way, I would be able to devote most of my nighttime resources to my newborn when that time came, and in the meantime I could provide a positive nursing experience for Cubby.
Through word of mouth, I heard about a picture book called Nursies When the Sun Shines. The story is simple, and the watercolor illustrations are gorgeous. Cubby reaches for it time and time again, and it always leaves my heart full.
The book has a simple message: daytime is for nursing and nighttime is for sleeping.
I feel like author Katherine Havener held my hand through the process. She left detailed instructions on the last page of the book, ensuring any apprehensive parent is able to do it gently and compassionately.
“There’s no question about it, nursing a toddler is wonderful. It creates a beautiful bond between a mother and child, and it helps ease oh-so-many of those little person woes.
For mothers whose toddlers wake up frequently at night to nurse, it can also be exhausting. At some point in the relationship, a mother may wish to night wean her child.
It is for this mother that this book was written. This book will help a mother teach her child — through beautiful words and illustrations — that s/he should nurse during the day and sleep at night.Katherine Havener, Nursies When The Sun Shines
As soon as the book arrived on our porch, I tore open the envelope and read it to Cubby. I substituted the word na-na for nursies, since that is what he calls breastmilk.
We read it each night before bed for four weeks. Each night, I would ask him questions about the simple story, to gauge his understanding of the concept that nursing is only for daytime.
By the end of the month, he could tell me the story in his own words as I turned the pages.
When I felt like we were both ready, I told him that tomorrow we would begin. Na-na would fall asleep with him at night and would be asleep until the sun came up.
That night, I wore a sweatshirt to bed instead of my usual nursing cami. When Cubby reached for me and realized he didn’t have easy access to breastfeeding, I reminded him that na-na was asleep.
I had been hopeful, optimistic. But I was still incredibly shocked at my son’s reaction. He nodded, assumed the little spoon position, and fell back asleep within a minute or two.
He didn’t cry, he didn’t beg, he didn’t ask more questions because we had talked about this scenario every single day for the last month.
I truly do not know how I could have made the process of night weaning slow, respectful, and nurturing without this book’s help. I am so thankful for it.
And even more, I love having it in our library because it is the only book we have that celebrates safe bedsharing.
The family at the heart of the story is made up of a mom, dad, toddler, and cat who sleep together in a big, cozy bed each night. It feels normal, and none of the book’s few words are spent trying to justify it.
I want this book to remain on our shelf for years to come.
I want my children to see that there are other babies out there who never touched a crib. I want any friends or family who scan my bookshelf to realize that in this house, we are not ashamed of bedsharing.
Here, in the middle of the night, in an often scary world — we huddle together. No matter what comes, no matter how old they are, we will tell our children that our bedroom door is always open and we will “hold you and love you while you drift back to sleep.”
I’m rooting for you!
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