Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Night-weaning, or: Can I get a venti anything... with an extra shot?

You know, normally I sit down to blog, and I want to talk about cloth diapers. I'm happy to talk about them aaaaalllll day long; it's how I got this job in the first place. What's a better diversion from my First World Problems, like running out of half-and-half or dealing with Instagram lagging on a 3g connection, than talking to other parents about those little bits of colorful, fluffy, money-saving, landfill-sparing, baby skin-pampering cuteness?

Let me tell you, though--I haven't even gotten around to washing diapers since we started night-weaning. (And thank goodness for that pack of gRefills I previously kept in my hurricane kit at the top of the hall closet....)

Oh, night-weaning. Night-weaning was a breeze with my oldest--or, at least it was for me. My husband valiantly handled it all. He knew I'd spent 15 months handling every second of the nighttime parenting, so he devised his own night-weaning scheme and stuck to it, gradually and gently teaching our little co-sleeper to sleep in his own room all night, and to calmly tell us over the baby monitor if he needed anything, assuring him and proving to him that one of us would be there to help him immediately, just like it had always been when he slept in our room.

But that was when my husband was working at his old job, with his old hours. This time, it has to be up to me, admittedly the less patient parent. And this time, I've spent 20 months nursing all.night.long. Why? Well, she's always been such a good sleeper as long as she had access to her milk!

She loves her bed... for playing!
Now, I know some of you are thinking, "Twenty months old is way too old to be finally night-weaning." And some of you are thinking, "Twenty months old? That's so young! I would never night-wean before age 2." And some of you are thinking, quite pleased with yourselves, "Ah ha! That's why I never started the habit of nursing to sleep! You should start as you mean to go on!"

Although I recognize that there are advantages to each of the above approaches, suffice it to say I have my reasons for doing things the way I've done them. A one-size approach can be fab-u-lous for cloth diapers (boy, can't it?), but every family's needs and dynamics are different. If I could go back and change the way I approached nursing and sleep up to this point, I wouldn't see a need to. But what I do need now is a plan.

Faithful readers know I'm a researcher. (If this is the first post you've encountered, then, hi! I'm the eLeMeNO-Pee blogger... and I'm the daughter of a career librarian, a 21st-century American parent, a coffee fiend, a night-owl, and a product of liberal arts education: in short, a researcher.) I've read plenty of night-weaning articles and chapters in books. Any approach or method you could tell me about, I'm at least a little familiar with. Yep, I have read Pantley, Sears, and Gordon. But at 3 am, our only "method" has been to bicker with each-half-asleep-other about which room I should take the hysterical toddler into, then apologize to each other for the bickering in a sheepish morning text-message exchange.

Monday night's plan was for my husband to go to our daughter, the subject of this little experiment in less lactating, who would be awakening on her mattress in the kids' room, and change her diaper (because she has recently begun waking when she wets her diaper, no matter if it's stay-dry cloth or a disposable gRefill), help her fall back asleep quickly, and put her in her brother's bed. Our hope was that having the milk-free parent parenting her back to sleep would cause her to fight less, and that having a snuggle partner would keep her asleep.

Somehow, though, I ended up with a 3 am bed mate who is about three feet shorter--and a lot less hairy--than my husband. And who had a wet diaper, and who, after her diaper change awakened her fully, cried desperately for milk, pawing at my clothes, for two hours, dozing in between her pleas while I rocked, held, bounced, paced, and tried to lie down beside her. What it comes down to is that my husband is not going to be able to help this time around, and I need a zip-up-the-back body suit that comes up to my chin.

During their waking hours, toddlers are decidedly single-minded creatures. Mine have thus far seemed particularly impliable (I wonder where they got that?). So I think that the key to nighttime peace--or relative peace--is going to be helping her achieve a daytime understanding of what will befall her come Mr. Moon's ascent in the sky. I've got a few ideas in mind to accomplish this, but I'm very interested in what worked for you, friends.

Some of you will have nightweaned babies who are younger or older than mine. Some of them will have been developmentally capable of understanding what was happening, and some of them were more easily "deceived" or distracted. But tell me this:

1) How old was your baby or toddler when you night-weaned?
2) How long did it take?
3) What was your system?
4) Did you have to be flexible with your system?
5) Were you co-sleeping when you began night-weaning? Did you choose to continue co-sleeping or to move your child to his or her own bed or room?
and, most importantly,
6) How much should I budget for extra coffee and coffee accoutrements (sugar, half-and-half)?

Thank you for your answers! You'll help me formulate a plan... and also realistic expectations for this whole thing.