Parenting in Action: Night Weaning

A week after our boy was born, my husband and I took him for his first appointment with his pediatrician.  The doc walked into the room, took one look at our faces and even before he said “Hello,” he said, “Four months.  He’ll be sleeping through the night in four months.”  At the time, it was all I could do to keep from weeping with gratitude (and, let’s face it, total annihilating exhaustion.) He knew exactly what we needed to hear and he wasted no time reassuring us.  He was our hero.

He was also a liar-liar-pants-on-fire.

Boyo is fast approaching seven months old and he is nowhere near sleeping through the night.  He’s like a Swiss train:  always exactly on time.  Every three hours, on the nose, he wakes for a feeding.   After his bottle, he settles immediately back to sleep, which is very thoughtful of him, but, frankly, I’m over it.   I’m ready to get a good night’s sleep.  Or at least to have a crack at one.  I had read a little about night weaning, but I wanted to consult with a doctor first.  It took some time to find a new doc after our cross country move and then we had to wait for new insurance benefits to begin, so I had resolved to wait it out and hope that in the meantime, nature took a quick course.  (It didn’t.)

When the day of our first appointment finally arrived, the doctor, a lovely woman, asked if Boyo was sleeping through the night.  When I told her about our little Swiss train making all local stops all night long, she not only suggested that it was time to try night weaning, but she also gave me some definitive advice.

This is why I love doctors.  By reading books and researching online, you can find a hundred thousand suggestions for every minute parenting decision.  For every single one of those suggestions, however, there will be an argument against it.  It can be paralyzing.  So when a trained medical professional who has examined my particular baby suggests something, I am thrilled to have a place to start.

So, my husband and I set a goal and made a Night Weaning Plan of Action.  (Parenting decisions obviously differ from family to family.  All of our parenting plans of action are based on a combination of three things:  the advice of our pediatrician, our own parental instincts, and what works for our family as a whole.)

The Goal:

Make it from 10:00pm to 7:00am without a feeding.

The Plan:

-Acknowledge that we are in for some sleepless nights, but that we are committing to a challenging present in order to bring about a better, more restful future for all of us.

-Remember that we are changing a fundamental part of the baby’s routine and therefore to be extra patient with him if he’s a little assholian.

-Three meals of solid food a day.  Bottles in between.

-Last solid food meal at 6:45pm.

-Then bath time followed by naked time (he spent his first three weeks with diaper rash so severe, it scarred his bum. So on the recommendation of the doc, Boyo gets a period of “airing out” every day)

-Strict 7:30 bed time.

-One last bottle when he wakes around 10:00pm.

-All other wakings get a three-pronged approach:

1) A binky and a bump. (Boyo weirdly finds a series of solid thumps on the back or bum quite soothing.  He always has.)

2) If that doesn’t work, 2 ounces of water in a bottle. (In case the suckling is the soothing he wants.)

3) If neither of those will do the trick, 2 ounces of formula.  (This is the last ditch “Hail Mary” as it rather negates the point.  Plus, with the advent of teeth, we’re trying to establish good preventative oral care and that means no milk in bed.)

How It Worked

Night 1:  He Swiss-trained all night.  He woke at 1:00 (binky and a bump), 3:30 (2 ounces of water) 5:00 (2 ounces of formula.)  Slept til 7:30am.  Decided to make 5:00am the goal and give him a full bottle at that time.  A seven hour stretch seemed a more realistic goal than nine.

Night 2:   He woke every 30-45 minutes.  All.  Night. Long.  Great gobs of goose shit.  It’s like he just couldn’t settle.  Or that he was giving us the finger for messing with his routine.  Even after his 10:00pm bottle, which usually buys at least 3-4 hours, he was up just 1.5 hours later.  From 3:45-4:30am, I snuggle-slept with him on the couch when I just couldn’t get him down.  I put him down in his crib at 4:30.  He got a bottle at 5:00am and then slept until 7:30 when I heard his happy babble over the baby monitor, but was so soundly asleep, I dreamt I was listening to A Prairie Home Companion and that Garrison Keillor was having a stroke.

So, a decidedly rough night, but still, we hit the goal!!  Go us! Celebrating the small victories is part of what makes us feel successful, right?

I think I’ll celebrate with a little unconsciousness.  Wake me for his wedding.

We have a whiteboard on the fridge that helps us keep track of Boyo's feedings.  This is especially helpful in the mind numbing middle of night when my husband and I take turns.

We have a whiteboard on the fridge that helps us keep track of Boyo’s feedings. This helps my husband and me stay on the same page especially in the mind-numbing middle of night when we take turns tending to the babe.