Night weaning is often a daunting task, no matter how you’re feeding your child. There’s conflicting information about when to do this. I’ve been thinking we should for a few months now, since our baby’s first tooth cut and night feedings became a cavity risk, but it’s not easy to know how to do so. You don’t want to just stop feeding your baby when they’re hungry.
We’d fallen into the unfortunate habit of our baby always nursing to sleep. At 4 or so months, our baby caught a cold and would only sleep with a bottle- we figured it was no big deal while sick. Baby needed to eat and also needed the rest, and had no teeth to speak of at the time, no big deal, right? Hahahahaha…. wrong. So very, very wrong. We’ve spent the last few months trying desperately to break this habit. Bo potentially has a sleep disorder (we’re hoping to get to specialists), which makes this more difficult. Our baby wasn’t getting enough sleep even when falling asleep with the bottle, Bo won’t (can’t?) sleep despite being completely exhausted and sleep deprived until far too late, spending weeks sleep deprived before finally just passing out for a giant stretch, and that’s with nursing to sleep. It’s hard to deny our baby something that helps them get a little more of the sleep they so desperately need.
We tried encouraging our baby to eat more during the day, tried not immediately leaping to the bottle and using other methods in the middle of the night to get our baby to settle back to sleep, etc. Then we realized that over 90% of what our baby was eating was either while falling asleep or while asleep. Alright, there is officially a problem.
So, we desperately hoped we were doing the right thing, and made the night bottles weak, making them 25% water. We started doing that one night and just prayed we weren’t starving our child.
We weren’t. There wasn’t even a brief dip in how much our baby was eating over 24 hours- our baby suddenly became more willing to eat while not being put down or sleeping. We’ve had to give our baby water to help with constipation from 2 months and our baby has never taken fewer feeds due to the water, so I shouldn’t be surprised. They were still taking a good 50% of their feeds overnight, though, so we reduced to half water.
Appropriately, just like a cold got us into this mess, it seems like a cold may get us out of it. Today, our baby got a slight cold complete with upset tummy. Nursing to sleep while lying down, as we usually do, resulted in throwing up both times. They were able to keep food down the rest of the day, but the feeds were taken in a more upright position so that seemed to be the difference. We weren’t sure how to handle putting our baby to bed, obviously vomiting is something we’d rather avoid. We were hoping the watered down bottles would be easier on the tummy, but really weren’t sure.
Our baby refused to take a bottle tonight. All we can figure is that the earlier experiences were enough to make them not want to try. It took far longer to get them to sleep than usual, they actually fell asleep then woke up and we had to get them back to sleep, but they did fall asleep. Hopefully throughout the night, there’ll be a similar situation and the association of bottle=sleep will be completely severed from now on.
I don’t know if our night weaning journey is truly over or not. I’m hoping that it is, though. Mostly, I’m relieved that it was much less harrowing than I thought. I’m sure that some babies will replace feeds with water, making our method dangerous. I’m not advocating this as the One True Method because there is no such method in parenting. This is just what worked for us.