No You’re Never Going To Get It


One hour is exactly how long I made it on my first attempt at night weaning before I gave up and nursed the baby. Although by that point he was so far gone into angry exhausted screaming mode that even a few minutes at the boob didn’t help and he kept whimpering long after he was sound asleep. It was sucky and awful. I certainly didn’t get any more sleep than I normally do and poor E got significantly less. But even so, I think it was a success.

Up until now I have never been interested in what the experts call “sleep training”. I believe forcing a baby to self-sooth and sleep through the night at a young age is a modern Western ideal and biologically unreasonable at only a few months old. But you know what else is unreasonable? Nine months of being exhausted. Nine months of being the only person doing the night feedings. NINE MONTHS of feeding on demand despite my nagging suspicion he’s not actually hungry at all. Even the anti-sleep trainers all end their advice with the little disclaimer that being a good parent is really more important than how you put a baby to bed. Nothing about spending all my night feedings resisting the overwhelming urge to just shake the baby off, leave the room and walk out of the house forever makes me a good parent. Being too tired during the day to play does not make me a good parent. Using up every ounce of patience in my body before 6 am and spending the rest of my day seconds away from yelling does not make me a good parent. It also makes me a lousy wife and partner, especially because my other nighttime routine is thinking over and over how much I resent being the only one who feeds the baby and therefor the only one who gets up with the baby. The little ball of resentment and anger is like a popcorn kernel in my tooth that I focus on and pick at and poke until it’s sore and red and all I can think about. Getting divorced simply because I’m breastfeeding definitely does not make me a good parent. And so, night weaning has begun.

Baby Evan has always been a pretty good sleeper. He transitioned easily from co-sleeping to the crib and from napping in the swing to napping in his room. Our established night time routine of bath, boob, book and bed is successful and usually all he needs to fall asleep is a few minutes of cuddling and rocking. He often wakes up, finds his blanky, rolls over and goes back to sleep on his own without needing to be soothed. But the night feedings are frequent and constant, every 2 or 3 hours all night long, mostly due to habit not hunger. My ultimate goal is to get down to ZERO feedings between 7 pm and 7 am but for the next few months I’d settle for one 2 am feeding and someone else to rock him back to sleep every few nights. Sunday was our first try and it went like this: Baby goes to bed, Baby wakes up wanting to eat, E tries to get him back to sleep with absolutely no luck, I try to get him back to sleep with no luck, consider letting him cry it out for a few minutes but can’t bring ourselves to do it, give up and let Baby nurse for less than 90 seconds, baby passes out, wakes up again, cries for two minutes, passes out again.

The whole thing took an hour and a half but then he slept from 1 am to almost 7 am without a sound. He woke up the same happy, smiley baby he does on the nights we don’t have an EPIC BATTLE and has been fine all day. No signs of permanent psycological or emotional damage. I think he might be nursing a little more than usual – or maybe I’m just offering more often because I’m afraid I starved him last night – but that just means he’ll be less hungry tonight.

I’m giving it a week. A week to get to a point where I can wake up rested and refreshed and feeling like a normal person instead of a grumpy monster. If he’s still not even close to a full night’s sleep by then I’ll take a break and go back to surviving on naps and caffeine for a while until I can work up the energy to try again. Or maybe I’ll just be exhausted for the next five years. That sounds like fun too.

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10 Responses to “No You’re Never Going To Get It”

  1. Audrey says:

    I have a successfully breastfeeding friend who said it took 10 days but she was able to break the nightfeeding nightmare with her daughter. And they share a family bed, so my friend had to go sleep on the couch those 10 days. She said it was really hard the first 6 days or so but it worked. Even though I was unsuccessful in the breastfeeding area I have recently gone through the breaking the nightfeeding thing too. I figured out that it wasn’t the fluid in the bottle my kid was just the sucking. So I took the liner out of the bottle and it became a giant pacifier. Easy peasy and he now sleeps through the night. It’s probably going to be the only time I’m thankful for not having a successful breastfeeding journey.

  2. Shannon says:

    I’m having the exact same issues and am really looking forward to hearing of your progress. I’m getting so resentful and I know that is not healthy. Good luck.

  3. Leah says:

    To this day I thank whatever supernatural forces inspired the creation of the pacifier. It helped immensely with Calder’s self-soothing and we were fortunate in that we were able to break him of the habit shortly after his first birthday.

  4. Kimberly says:

    I can relate to so much in this post! I have tried giving him the 10pm feeding, offering a pacifier at the 1am feeding, and then giving him the 4am feeding. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but I would give anything at this point for 8 hours of sleep! I’m going to keep checking back in on your progress! Thanks!

  5. Anna (londonmum) says:

    Hang in there. It can be done, trust me. I was the same as you and starting to totally resent being a human pacifier. I knew the baby wasn’t hungry because he would only feed for a few minutes before passing out and just sucking. I’d sit there for an hour seething at my husband still tucked up in bed. It got to the point where I was just angry all the time from being tired and jealous of my friends who bottle fed and whose husbands took turns to get up.
    So I bit the bullet and tried holding him and rocking him to sleep instead. That works if he is properly crying. I have also stopped going to him straight away if I hear him. Often he will grizzle for five minutes then go back to sleep. I think my going in there was actually fully waking him. What also helps if you do go in is not having any sort of light on. I find Aidan will go back to sleep faster if in the complete darkness. He is six months and sleeps 7.30 to 7.30 so it can be done. Stick with it and remember you are not doing him any harm and you need to be looke after too. Fingers crossed for you!

  6. Brigid Keely says:

    God, good luck with this.

  7. bebehblog says:

    Anna, you give me hope. I’ll try turning off the nightlight and giving him a few minutes to go back to sleep. It’s so ironic that after all the early breastfeeding advice (look for hunger cues! get him latched before he cries! feed on demand!) I’m trying to do the opposite. If Baby Evan would even consider a pacifier or a bottle or a sippy cup of water or ANYTHING else this would be much easier but even offering those things makes him even more angry.

  8. ryan says:

    i’m so glad you’re doing this and blogging about it. i was starting to get a wee bit terrified of breastfeeding on demand when your posts took a turn for the bitter. i obviously didn’t want to say anything, lest i be seen as judgey, but i was wondering where Baby’s *wants* ended and your *needs* began. i really look forward to watching and learning from your progress. thank you!!

  9. misspie says:

    i was in your same boat and the lack of sleep was killing me. 10 months of not getting more than three hours of uninterrupted sleep was making me a grumpy and stressed and resentful mom, wife, and employee.

    so two nights ago i shoved down all of my AP Dr Sears sensibilities and let W cry. She cried for 17 minutes then slept through the night for the first time (7:30pm – 6am). no waking except for a few spells of less than two minutes and no overnight feedings. last night, there was virtually no crying and she again slept all night (8:15pm – 7am) and didn’t need to nurse.

    i still feel guilty because i swore i would never do it, but she is just as happy as can be and i am trying to tell myself that the extra sleep she is getting is good for her growth and development.

    i hope you’re able to make the changes you need in a way that feels right for you and your family.

  10. Anna (londonmum) says:

    Hope you are getting on ok. Forgot to add that I also had 2 evenings where I let the baby cry. First time he cried for 32 (count them) minutes and I stood in the kitchen and cried too. Second night he cried for five minutes. Now he doesn’t cry at all and if he does wake up he puts himself back to sleep. He wouldn’t take a pacifier or anything but I’ve noticed when I go in in the morning he has his thumb in his mouth so must be self soothing with that. I always said I wouldn’t do controlled crying but you have to remember that they have been fed, they have a clean nappy, they’ve been burped, they are fine. Just keep remembering that you are doing him no harm. My baby woke up the next mornings full of smiles and delighted to see me.

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