When Butterfly was a newborn, she slept 2 -4 hours at a stretch before needed milk. I was told how good this was. "Good?" I thought! "YOU try getting up every 2-4 hours to give a breastfeed and nappy change! I am SO tired!"
Well! At 6 months I got a rude shock. Someone flicked Butterfly's switch to "wakeful"... she would only sleep for an hour at a time, before crying for milk. Seriously, an hour! HALF an hour if she was sick or teethy. There were nights where I hadn't yet had a chance to get to sleep between feeds, and the sun was coming up! I don't know how I did it for so long, but I did. Well, cosleeping had a lot to do with it!
I think part of me stuck with it because I was only new to attachment parenting, and wanted to embrace it, so was reluctant to take any steps to get her to sleep longer that would result in crying. I am a reformed "baby trainer" and still had majuh guilt for letting her cry to sleep for so long! So crying was out of the question. When she cried, she got boob. I was happy with the situation, as tired as I was, because she was happy.
I don't regret the 18 months I spent suffering through the nightfeeds. At all. I think we needed this time, as healing for both of us. From the age of 2 months to 6 months we followed a sleep schedule set by the "Save Our Sleep" book, which meant crying to sleep, no talking or eye contact at night time, and I was pretty depressed and detached. So the closeness we shared at night helped both of us. I still have trouble forgiving myself for reading that book, but I have reconnected with my daughter on a deep level and I hope she forgives me. (NOTE: Butterfly began chronic nightwaking when on the routines. I switched to AP when her night time cry escalated to full blown hysteria and sobbing. As brainwashed as I had become my motherly instincts told it wasn't right!)
Readers of my blog would have read about my attempts at nightweaning before. They worked for a short time then failed. The first attempt went well, but I started feeding Butterfly just before dawn, and she began waking earlier and earlier till we were back where we started. Other attempts have been thwarted by illness (who can deny a sick child boob?). The past few months I have been restricting night feeds... she goes to bed at 6pm, would get boob at 11pm but would then wake pretty regularly after that until morning.
My plan this attempt was COLD TURKEY. No more milk at night. Not until the sun comes up! I gave her about 4 days notice that this was going to happen, and made sure she understood.
So at night now we go to bed, have milk, then she goes to sleep awake. Sometimes she rolls over and goes to sleep immediately, sometimes she wants to sing and talk and kick her legs for ages first! When we first stopped feeding to sleep she would cry for milk before she went to sleep. Understandable, it must be such a lovely, dozy way to fall asleep!
Then... no milk until sunrise. NO MILK AT ALL. The first night was TERRIBLE. She cried for hours. Yes, hours. It has taken me a long time to allow her to cry at night. Like I said, I still have guilt issues, and I am VERY against the "Cry It Out" method. I realised, however, that this is NOT CIO. Not once was Butterfly left to cry alone, in the dark. I was by her side the whole time, offering cuddles, water and even a "fake booboo" (YES! I am a dork but I did buy Joss her very first dummy at 2 years old! She rightly rejected it, but I wanted to have one in case things got bad). I allowed her to be sad, to get mad, to grieve, to let it all out. And boy did she!
In the morning we talked about it. She said, "Dossie very sad. Booboos go sleep. Dossie very crying. Booboos wake now?" I let her feed as much as she wanted during the day, I didn't deny her once. I knew she would be insecure and wanted her to know she wasn't being weaned completely.
Night 2 was much better! She woke and cried probably 2 or 3 times, but no where near the intensity of the night before. Night 3 was about the same, night 4 maybe one short crying episode. Last night she went to bed later than usual (10pm) due to an out of character day nap, and didn't wake until right on dawn! WOW! She feeds at dawn and goes back to sleep, waking sometimes for more milk. I don't mind, I can deal with that! She gets up around 8am usually.
Tonight she went down at 6pm, its 9pm now and she just woke. She didn't cry, just asked for me, and allowed me to cuddle her back to sleep. She didn't even ask for milk! AMAZING!
I have learnt a few things from this journey. One is that you should always ask for help and be honest! I thought I would get criticised by my AP friends for mentioning night weaning, or for not feeding to sleep. When I finally got the guts to ask, I was surprised how many have been through the same thing! I also learnt that you don't have to FEED your child to sleep to be an attached parent. I think Butterfly is the type of kid who, if fed to sleep, needs it between sleep cycles. Some kids don't, I have many friends who feed to sleep without any issues!
Everyone has their breaking point. I reached mine and had to resort to drastic nightweaning measures. I don't recommend it to everyone, I think as long as you and your baby are happy then continue along your path. If you simply can't keep it up, its OK to make changes. Its OK to stop breastfeeding to sleep. Its OK to make tough decisions that may upset your child temporarily. Having said that I don't think there is ever a time where your baby has to cry ALONE. Be there for them, comfort them, love them. I don't think I would try nightweaning a child before they turn 1. 2 if you can handle it! Babies need their mothers, day and night, and time spent meeting their needs really pays off in the long run.
If you are the parent of a wakeful child, I feel for you! I hope you get some decent sleep soon. I also hope this nightweaning effort will be the end of my sleepless nights. I hope to get pregnant again soon and start the ride all over again! *YAWN*