Elliott sleeps beside me on his own cot. This allows us to reclaim our own bed space without the fear of rolling over him, yet allows me to reach him easily for the night feeds. For the longest time, he will wake in the middle of the night for feeds. On good nights, he’d wake 2-3 times. On bad ones, he can be up every other hour. This translates to me being completely exhausted from the broken sleep the night before. Having to think and speak coherently the following day at work becomes a challenging feat. I also noticed that during these night feeds, or nibbles, as I call them, he wouldn’t really drink. What he really does is to suckle for 2-3 minutes, then roll over and fall back to sleep with a contented sigh. Yes, he actually sighed a couple of times. It got me wondering if he was actually hungry or just nursing out of comfort and habit.
After a couple of particularly bad nights when I woke up with a throbbing headache with brain function at -10%, I told myself that this night nibbling business needs to be cut down. He’s already 10 month old and according to baby literature, he should not be hungry if he is given a full milk feed before bedtime.
The husband and I came up with a plan. Or rather, I came up with the plan and he was to assist in carrying it out.
Elliott goes to bed at about 9pm. Usually. Of course, there are nights when he is jumpy and bouncy till midnight and his parents fall asleep before him but never mind that. So yes, usual bedtime is 8.30-9pm-ish. He is usually nursed to sleep and he remains asleep till close to midnight/1am. The husband will then give him a dream feed via milk bottle of about 30ml. He used to give more (60-90ml) but Elliott would take forever to drink it and usually would fall back asleep before he even reaches the 30ml mark. So yes, so as not to waste milk, we now only give him 30ml.
This is where the night weaning attempt starts.
Usually, he would wake at about 2am+, clamouring for boob. For the first time, I did not move. He climbed into our bed and all over me, searching for boob. He cried. Loudly. Cried, yelled, screamed, stood up in his cot. Full waterworks. My heart broke a little but I remained very very still. I did so because I know that the moment I moved, he would know that I’m awake and would cry harder and louder until the boob was given. I tried to hug him and pat his butt lightly, rhythmically because books say that a child needs comfort, right? And one should not refuse comfort.
Unfortunately, the hugging/patting made him realise that MUMMY IS AWAKE BUT IS NOT GIVING ME BOOB!!! Which inevitably led to even more crying harder and louder screams. It was always a tussle between wanting to comfort your child (patting, hugging) or ignoring him altogether (staying very still).
Let me say it outright: The first few nights were so damn hard. To hear your child cry out for you and not do anything. It was f***ing hard and painful.
I have to admit that I was close to giving
the boob in on many occassions. It was definitely easier to just shove boob into mouth to quieten him, than to let him cry and yell which basically wakes us up. Although I’m not a fan of the CIO (cry it out) method, I had to keep telling myself that the first few days are hard but we need to think LONG TERM! LONG TERM, PEOPLE!! SLEEP! WE NEED MORE SLEEP!
Amazingly, after a few nights, Elliott wised up. These little ones are clever, I tell you. He would still wake at 2am+ and cry but for the next few nights, the duration of the cries got shorter and less angry. He’d crawl into our bed and flop himself onto me but he’d end up falling asleep (usually on me) when he realised that I wasn’t stirring. I was awake, of course. And gritting my teeth and hoping with all my heart that he’d go back to sleep.
As the nights went by and I continued to not give him boob, he’d end up falling back to sleep when he realised that oh, Mummy is right there but no boob. Ok then, I shall go back to sleep. (I made this up but I can imagine that’s what he was thinking).
Cue silent HIP HIP HOORAYS (in my head).
It has been about 2 weeks since I stopped giving him boob at 2am (that sounds wrong but I’m sure mothers out there know what I mean). I only give in at about 5am+ when he wakes again. I have noticed that when he nurses at 5am+, he definitely drinks a lot more as compared to previously where he’d wake every few hours just to nibble. Ultimately, I hope to also stop the 5am+ feeds. How? I have no idea but we will get there. One day. Somehow.
I have another reason for cutting down on night feeds. I’d be away on a business trip in February where I’d be away from him for a whole 6 days. After my return, I am hoping to stop breastfeeding completely. I’ve crossed the 6 month mark and anything more is a bonus. Elliott also takes well to formula milk and drinking from a bottle so that makes it a little easier.
There, I’ve said it. Will it work out? I’m not sure.
Post-script, 2 Feb 2015: Well. As with all things baby-related, this night weaning thing got thrown out the window because Elliott fell ill. He’s down with a runny nose and I did not have the heart to refuse him the boob at 2am. It’s back to the drawing board again and I’m really hoping that our distance away from each other when I’m overseas would do the trick. WISH US LUCK!!