We’re starting a new weekly feature here at Pluck, titled “What’s working right now,” with an emphasis on the “right now.” So much parenting stuff I read promises answers to my most frustrating kiddo problems with an air of elegant confidence that of course these amazing solutions that will PRESTO! get your kid to stop waking up/eating dozens of bananas/drawing on your face with permanent marker while you sleep.
As a parent, I have to say, it almost never works as described. My kid is not a vending machine. You can pop a quarter in today and get a can of soda, but tomorrow, you might get a can full of angry bees. It’s hard not to approach parenting as some sort of video game where you can just figure out what needs to be done, do it and bask in your own glory. Instead, kids are people – you know, wily, ever-changing and prone to good and bad days. So, what’s working right now. We won’t make any promises about tomorrow.
Onto today’s tale of night weaning.
For awhile now, I’ve been wanting some more sleep. For a year, I did co-sleeping and night nursing, with Teddy waking up anywhere from every hour or two to just once a night, with the former happening a lot more often than the latter. On the days where I stay home with him, I can take a nap, but the days where I work, I am falling asleep at 3 p.m. in front of my computer. And since the child is starting to transition to taking one nap, rather than two, I had to do something. I needed that second nap, man. If we weren’t going to have two naps, night time was going to have to change.
So, we decided to do the Dr. Jay Gordon method of night weaning, which allows people to night wean while still co-sleeping. You can read all the particulars if you want to do it, but here’s a summary. Three stages, three or four nights each. The first stage, you just shorten nursing times. Second stage, you pick them up and cuddle them, but no nursing. Third stage, you lie there next to them and pat or talk to them to soothe them, but you don’t pick them up. Much crying ensues, but Dr. Jay Gordon say it’s okay, and I’m prone to believe him because I’m really sleep-deprived and will believe most anything that buys me a few consecutive hours of sleep. No, but really, here’s his logic:
“Now, he will tell you that he is angry and intensely dislikes this new routine. I believe him. He will also try to tell you that he’s scared. I believe he’s angry, but a baby who’s had hundreds of nights in a row of cuddling is not scared of falling asleep with your hand on his back and your voice in his ear. Angry, yes. Scared, no, not really.”
I repeated that part to myself when the crying got tough. It was tough, and it was hard to feel like I was causing my little Teddy to be sad. He would sit up in the middle of the night and cry, hold out his little fist doing the sign for nursing, and when I said, “It’s sleepytime. We’re not going to nurse now,” he would collapse against me in a little ball of sad goo.
However, it worked. And since then, we have come up with this system. The Jay Gordon method says pick a 7 hour window of sleep that you want, and no nursing during that time. Ours is 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. So, if he wakes up before 11 p.m. after he’s been put down to sleep, he nurses. If not, I go get him out of bed at like 10:55, bring him to our bed for a “dream feed” where I don’t wake him, but just nurse him, and then lay him down with us.
Let me tell you, it’s been awesome. I can already feel my brain function returning. He still has hard nights, like when he had a bit of a cold or during teething. But I am getting many hours of sleep in a row. It feels like a revelation.
I got all bent out of shape about it the other day, though. I started thinking, “What if I am teaching him to wake up at 11, when he really would just sleep through the whole night and I’ll never know and I’ll rue the day I ever started doing this because… because… because…”
Whoa, negative Nellie. You know what I decided? It’s working for now. Maybe one day it won’t work, just like nursing at night stopped working for us. Maybe we will need to change it up. And when that happens, I will figure out what I want to do, just like I did all those times before.
It’s what’s working right now, and instead of wobbling in fear that someone, somewhere might disagree with what I’m doing, I’m going to keep working it until it’s worked out.