Somehow, over the years, the question of how I’ve night weaned my kids has come up. Usually some extremely sleep-deprived mom says, “I think I need to night wean. How did you do it?” while sounding like she’s on the edge of tears.
So! Here is what I did for all four of my kids, and it worked every time. I’ve night weaned as late as 18 months (Henry) and as early as 11 months (Ramona).
Kids understand a lot, and they also think very visually (which is why you should be reading them lots of books). So I draw a picture. On one side is a picture of the baby sleeping, with a moon, and some words (for me, to remember to say out loud) about how we sleep at night, and we don’t nurse.
Then, next to that, is a picture of me nursing the baby, and a sun, and words to the effect of how it’s daytime, and HALLELUJAH, we can nurse now that the sun is up.
I hang it on the wall, and before bed we read it aloud and talk about it a bit. The first night will be rough. Be prepared. Your baby will be pissed. But be strong, because, magically, Night Two will be much, much better, and then (with all four of my kids at least) your baby will be sleeping through the night on Night Three.
I think one reason it works is that you’re blaming the sun. “Hey Baby, it’s not my fault. Blame Mr. Sun. I’d really love to nurse you, honestly I would, but the sun says no can do.”
You can see (maybe) that this particular drawing is a little smudged. That’s because Ramona would put her wet little finger to the picture every night, pointing out the key elements. She so totally understood it all.
This picture will also, forever, completely crack me up, because of this conversation that happened while I was drawing it:
Henry: What are you doing?
Julie: I’m drawing a picture to help night wean Ramona. [I explain concept of what I’m drawing] I’m having some trouble, though. It’s hard to draw a baby. It doesn’t look like Ramona sleeping. It looks like a 12-year-old boy.
[Henry starts laughing hysterically.]
Julie: What’s so funny?
Henry: I’m laughing because I’m imagining the next picture, where it will look like you’re nursing a 12-year-old boy.
Now: how to completely wean? I have no idea. I’ve always weaned because I’m pregnant, and there’s nothing left in there. And since that’s not going to happen this time (REALLY, I’M SURE), how do I wean her for good? Right now I’m down to twice a day only, but it might be nice to wear a dress again. I haven’t worn a dress since 2003 (because, you know, if I’m wearing a dress I have to pull it up almost over my head to nurse her).
Ramona is so sweet and lovely and adorable, but I’ve been nursing or pregnant for nine years now, and maybe it’s time to, I don’t know, get drunk on bourbon or something.