Tiny has always been an avid breast feeder. Most older nurslings will naturally decrease the number of breastfeeding sessions as they mature. A three year old is typically not breastfeeding as often as a one year old might.
And then there is Tiny.
Tiny turned four in March and at that time, was still breastfeeding 8 times per 24 hour period. For real.
She did this for a wide variety of reasons. Some of it was ritual, some was comfort, some was boredom, and some was truly to satiate hunger. I had tried to cut out certain sessions before but the chaos that ensued made it perfectly clear that Tiny was NOT ready to modify our breastfeeding relationship.
Breastfeeding was never an easy road for the two of us and the fact that I overcame and persevered through so much really makes me proud. I would never have thought that I would have made it 4 years! And yet, there we were.
But I was ready, REALLY ready, to at least night wean Tiny. She had never slept more than a two hour stretch without waking up. Yeah – for 4 years, that’s over 1,460 days, I did not get much sleep!
It had definitely played a role in how I healed from colitis. But even when my health depended on better sleep, I knew Tiny was not ready to night wean. So I found ways to function on little sleep and got through the day.
By the time Tiny turned four, I was noticing that I was a really grumpy mama. Sleep deprivation was taking its toll and quickly. Every day I seemed to be more grumbly, short tempered, and stressed. While it was not ALL related to sleep deprivation, I knew that it played a big role.
And so – I knew what I had to do.
I’ll admit it. I was scared. If you witnessed Tiny’s volatile and heartbreaking reaction to my previous attempts at night weaning, you would understand why. Think crying and screaming so hard that she throws up and pops blood vessels in her eyes. It was really not worth my sanity or hers.
But this time, I needed to make it happen. And so, I did.
I wrote a book for Tiny. It was nothing fancy but it told the tale of our upcoming night weaning adventure. Every night for a few weeks, I told her the story. She seemed to respond quite well to the idea of it.
During the day, I would matter-of-factly explain how we both needed more sleep and why. She definitely seemed interested in the idea of me not being as grumpy.
Then the time came to actually follow through with night weaning. Every day before the main event, I reminded Tiny that on Monday, we were going to wait until morning to have milk and that I would be there for her to cuddle and snuggle with when she woke up at night. I would also have my skin readily available for her to stroke. (Tiny has ALWAYS stroked the skin on my hip when she breastfeeds or needs comfort).
We went to sleep, she woke up as per the usual, I reminded her that we would have milkies in the morning, and just like that – she was night weaned.
I about crapped my pants the next morning when I realized that Tiny had actually accepted that we would wait to have milk until the morning. No tears, no screaming, minimum fussing.
Tiny was truly ready to night wean. I don’t know if it was my preparation and gentle reminders about it. I don’t know if it was my book. I don’t know if she was just developmentally ready. All I know is that is one night, Tiny was weaned!
The natural progression of weaning continued as well. Tiny would only breastfeed when she woke up in the morning, before nap, and before bed. Otherwise, she no longer asked for it!
And then, this month, Tiny weaned. Just like that. One morning she had milk when she woke up and unbeknownst to me, that was it. She did try here and there before bedtime but for the past two weeks, Tiny hasn’t tried. She says she doesn’t want to because the milk isn’t there and it makes her too sad.
Tiny made the transition better than I did. I was heartbroken and cried daily over it. But you know what – we are both ok, moving forward in our changing relationship, and I will admit…I kind of like not having another human attached to my breasts three times per day. I think I was more ready physically than mentally.
I am still grieving a bit. 4 years and 5 months is a long breastfeeding relationship and my hormones are a bit all over the place because of it. But I have a lot of fond memories of breastfeeding Tiny and am so very proud that we made it as long as we did. My breastfeeding journey was a difficult one fraught with so much pain and physical challenges but we both made it and Tiny is healthier and happier for it.
What was your experience with night weaning? Did you let it happen organically or did you have to jump start the process? Share your tips and tricks!
And yes, I am in the process of finalizing the illustrations for the story I wrote and will actually publish what I think is a beautiful, gentle story about night weaning! Keep your eye out for that this fall!