Before Lilah was born, I knew that I wanted to breastfeed for at least 18 months. My mom breastfed me until I was 18 months and it was something that I always admired and respected about her. So, when Lilah came I was determined to make breastfeeding work and despite a really challenging beginning (due to an undiagnosed tongue tie) we made it to 18 months! Once the 18 month mark hit I was nursing about every 2-4 hours throughout the night and I was still nursing on demand throughout the day. Some days that meant nursing 6+ times a day, and other days that meant 3-4 times a day. This felt sustainable and good for me at this age. I had reached my goal, but once I got there I was happy to continue on, so then my plan changed to letting Lilah self-wean. I had become more confident in doing what felt right for ME in my motherhood journey and was confident in this decision. Nursing a toddler can come with a lot of outside judgement from society, but I honestly could have cared less. I was doing what worked for us and that was all that mattered!
So, we continued on with how things were going and it all felt good. Anddddd then her dad and I split up when she was about 27 months. I went from having the support of a live in partner to being a single mom. I was suddenly doing most of the parenting by myself (he would visit her during the week but wasn’t doing sleepovers at this point). I started to feel overwhelmed and worn out. After going all day being a solo parent I just wanted some personal space at night. I didn’t want to nurse what felt like allll night. I was waking up feeling bitter, worn out and quite honestly angry. This was then bleeding into our days. I was impatient with Lilah and my general outlook on motherhood was not positive at all. It became very clear to me that I needed to make changes because I wasn’t showing up as the best version of myself as a mother. I’ve helped hundreds of families on their night weaning journey but I was nervous to start my own journey. I was also feeling guilty and little bit like I was failing because my goal had been to let Lilah self-wean. The idea of night weaning was bringing up a lot of feelings that I needed to sort through. But after a lot of soul searching, I came to the realization that nursing until Lilah self-weaned was not the best option for either of us if it was going to continue to take a toll on my mental and physical health. So, I made the decision to start the process of slowly night weaning.
I have a very spirited AND boob obsessed child so I knew that our night weaning journey was going to be a lonnnnnng and tiring journey. But I also knew that the end would be worth the difficult nights. Lilah was fully night weaned by about the 32 month mark (I took our time and it took us about 5 months) and nighttime felt much more sustainable at this point. She is fully night weaned and day weaned at 3.5 years old with only one nursing session a day at bedtime. As I write this I am actually in the process of weaning the bedtime feed as it is no longer feeling sustainable for me. Our nursing journey has been an incredible ride and I get so emotional thinking about it ending, but this season is just about over and I’m so thankful for it.
If I could give any breastfeeding mom advice about night weaning/weaning it would be to follow your own unique journey. Do what feels best for YOU. Tune into yourself and see where your head and your heart are at. If you are at a place where breastfeeding at night no longer feels sustainable you may choose to fully night wean or you might choose to wean a few night fees. You truly get to do what works for you. Weaning feeds can bring a lot of emotions, because as all breastfeeding moms know, breastfeeding is so much more than just calories. It is comfort, connection, regulation, and so much more. But when we start to have negative feelings about breastfeeding this is where we need to check-in. We aren’t serving ourselves or our babies if we struggle to handle those feeds.
There are a few things I want you to know about night weaning:
- There is no “right age” however I don’t recommend night weaning until at least 12 months. This is because babies still get nutrition during those night feeds and if they are waking up to eat they need those calories! Also, night weaning before 12 months can derail a breastfeeding journey as it can impact milk supply.
- Night weaning is a marathon not a race. Night weaning is a very non-linear process. Some nights will be very easy and other nights will be extremely difficult.
- Your night weaning journey is your own. You have to do what feels right for you.
- Night weaning won’t guarantee that your baby will sleep through the night (although some will).
If you’re interested in starting your night weaning journey but feel like you need some support, check out my Night Weaning Workshop!
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