Sleep Training Update: Night Weaning!

I am the Agent of Chaos. I eat breastmilk for dinner, a Thanksgiving dinner at midnight, and mommies for breakfast.

So we did things a bit ass-backwards (at least as far as the authors of The Sleepeasy Solution are concerned). We were supposed to wean her, and THEN work on the night sleep training, and then work on the naps. Instead, we did the night sleep, then started working on naps, and we’re just getting around to night weaning. It’s been a long three weeks.

Quick summary: over New Year’s we did the full-on controlled crying method of sleep training, and within three nights, she was falling asleep on her own. We still fed her through the night, answering when she called, and then, of course, the little bugger started getting a tooth. (How rude!) The Sleepeasy Solution says to suspend sleep training during tooth-cutting, but after two semi-sleepless nights and some analysis of her cries, we realized she wasn’t in any pain; she just wanted to say hello and maybe grab a snack. So we moved onto the night weaning and hopped back on the Sleep Train.

Basic idea behind night weaning is this: after thoroughly documenting your child’s wakeup schedule, you’ll see  a bit of a pattern emerging; usually it’s one or two big feeds, and several more small pacifying feeds during the night. Keep notes. Seriously, KEEP NOTES.

  1. Step One: do away with the pacifying feeds. She wants only an ounce, she gets nothin’. That was probably the only point in the book that was not clear to me, as the authors said “Don’t worry about those,” and I thought that meant “Keep doing it.” Turns out it means “She gets nothing.”
  2. Step Two: Schedule several “dream feeds” throughout the night, about an hour before she usually wakes up to eat her big feedings. If she eats 5 oz. at 3, schedule the dream feed for 2. Agent of Chaos’ current schedule is 5-6 oz at bedtime (7:30ish), 5-6 oz at 10:30 PM, 2 oz. at 3:30 AM, wakes up at 6:30 AM and lies in bed until I come get her at 7 AM.

    NOTE: If she wakes up before her scheduled feeding, don’t feed her. Giving a we’ll-feed-you-when-you-cry message is NOT the lesson she needs to learn. Do your scheduled check-ins until she falls back asleep. Even though we did this out of order–the authors recommend weaning first–doing the training first actually worked well, because she knows how to soothe herself back to sleep. Let her fall back asleep, then wake her up at her scheduled time (or ten minutes after she falls asleep).
  3. Step Three: Stick to the schedule religiously, reducing the amount of food (especially for the middle-of-the-night feeding) by an ounce–or a few minutes, if you’re breastfeeding–each night. Theoretically, after a few nights, she’ll be down to zero and won’t be eating anything in the middle of the night.

And presto! Your baby sleeps for twelve hours.

Except not.

We’re still weaning. We haven’t started reducing her intake at the 10:30 feeding. And tonight, she’s down to 1 oz. But I can tell you that the progress is steady: turns out that she won’t wake up starving in the morning just because we only fed her 2 oz at 3:30 AM. Because we did the controlled crying training, she only wakes up once or twice in the night, and she fusses herself back to sleep within fifteen minutes (or stays awake and talks to herself for an hour, depending on her mood).

A note before I go on: do not, do NOT, take my word on all of this. But here are my tips for success, both for night weaning and sleep training.

  1. If you feel like you want to sleep train, buy the book.
  2. Read it thoroughly.
  3. Have your partner read it thoroughly.
  4. Before embarking on a plan, discuss the whole system in minute detail so both of you understand it.
  5. Every evening–say, around 6 pm, before bedtime, discuss and write down exactly what your plan for the night is. Write down, in large letters, in a visible, lighted place, answers to these questions:
    • When are her night feedings?
    • If she’s bottle-fed, who will feed her at each feeding?
    • How much does she get at each feeding/how long does she eat?
    • Who will commence check-ins if she wakes up at a non-scheduled time?
    • What do we do if she seems to be in pain?
  6. Don’t have last-minute discussions at bedtime, or in the middle of the night, asking what the next step is (or doubting the plan). Just consult your written plan. Unless the baby is visibly bleeding or shrieking in pain, just stick to the plan and save your suggestions for the next night. Exhausted arguments are no way to solve problems. Not that, of course, we had any arguments at 11 PM or 2 AM or 3:30 AM. Just imagining that it could happen, and that it could ruin your night, and that it could result in some very unproductive pouting.
  7. Use overnight diapers. We use gDiapers during the day, and they’re great, but we just switched to Huggies Overnights, and lemme tell you—they’re worth it. We were changing diapers during night feedings, and all it did was wake her up and satisfy us that she wasn’t crying because she was wet. With the overnight diapers, I’m confident that if she’s wet, she doesn’t feel it, and it won’t leak. Some books also suggest slathering on the zinc oxide at bedtime to prevent diaper rash.
  8. Mickey the Monkey. Short for McFarland.

    Get the lovey. Everyone–EVERYONE!–who has asked about sleep training has asked if we have a lovey. I mentioned the Comfort Silkie in the last post, and since then, we’ve added a Wubbanub, the cutest damn animal ever. She loves that monkey more than either of us, I can tell you that. (Her name is Mickey, short for McFarland.) A word of advice from the RocketSister: when the baby bonds with something, buy five more of the same thing so when Mickey #1 falls apart, Mickey #2 can take her place.

  9. Help your partner. Prepare the bottle for the next feeding—or better yet, prepare the bottle in the exact amount to be fed. Say goodnight. Wait until they’ve had a cup of coffee to ask how the night went (not, say, at 7 AM when he’s still fuzzy with sleep. Not that I’ve done that.).
  10. Treasure your victories. Even when she wakes up at 2 AM and fusses for 45 minutes, keeping the household awake with intermittent crying and check-ins, think about the fact that at 7 PM, you put her down and she went to sleep within two minutes. That’s no small thing.

Most important, be consistent. Babies are like dogs. They like consistency, training, they like sleeping and eating and knowing when and how that’ll happen. They also like you. Love you, in fact. And they can smell fear.

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16 Responses to Sleep Training Update: Night Weaning!

  1. Valerie says:

    Thanks for sharing all the great information. More importantly, where did you get that adorable hat?! Did you make it? If so, share the pattern please!

  2. Pia says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I waited until my husband went out of town and then did full-on CIO at night. He said he couldn’t have handled the crying. I put her down at 7pm and don’t go in before 5am. If she wakes after that I nurse her and she sleeps a couple hours longer.
    It works fast but it’s brutal! Good luck and keep the updates coming…

  3. Haelim says:

    Thank you so much for posting on this!! i’ve been reading the book and had searched for anyone who had written about their experience when i came across your blog. My daughter is currently one week away from being 4 months old… we’ve started training her about a few days ago.. and so far it’s been going well, she goes down easily at night but wakes up frequently than before.. (she used to be able to sleep 4 hours in one go the first chunk of the night but not anymore) she wakes up every 2 hours and then after 2 am she wakes up every hour.. she cries a bit and settles down within half hour but she still wakes up each time.. did you have that experience with your daughter? also.. we haven’t night weaned her yet… how did you feed her while you were still feeding her throughout the night? I’m debating feeding her an hour earlier than her normal feeding times like the book suggests.. i tried dreamfeeding her one night.. at 10 pm but it went horribly.. she woke up when i picked her up from her crib and was crying after i put her down… she’s supposed to sleep-eat through that right? anyway… sorry this comment is so long but if you have any advice, i’d love to hear from you!!! thanks!!

    • rocketgirlsf says:

      We did the night weaning after we sleep-trained her, and for us it worked well because she wouldn’t fall asleep on her own at all. We followed the book’s advice and eliminated small feedings (<3 oz), and gradually reduced the other feedings by an oz each. We also did dream feeds an hour before her usual wakeups–the trick is, if she wakes up before the dream feed, do check-ins until she falls back asleep, and then wake her up ten minutes later. It sounds weird, but it gives her the signal that YOU decide when she eats. Any time she wakes up you risk having to do check-ins, but she'll fall asleep faster every time (at least ours did). It was tough but within a week she was sleeping through the night! When she's teething or not feeling well we usually have a feeding at around 11 PMish, but other than that, it's been down-at-7, up-at-7! Good luck!

  4. Laura says:

    First, let me say that I love the title of this post (the reference to Dr. Strangelove). I’m drowning in naptime and early wakeup hell here, so I was trying to find more information about doing checks during nap training. My boy is older than your LO at the time you wrote this (10 months) and the whole schedule is just thrown off.. anyway, thanks for being here :)

  5. Pingback: Taking Them Out to the Ballgame | Rocket City Digs

  6. Jenn says:

    I know this was posted a long time ago, but if you are still keeping up with these posts– did you find that the paci interfered with sleep training at all? Did the little monkey wubbanub thing help her be able to put it in herself? My son is about 5.5 months, we, like you, did ass backwards… bed time first, worked great, now night weaning, but using Ferber’s actual approach (pushing feedings up with check ins) rather than backwards. Anyways, Ferber says ditch the paci, but I am scared and want to keep it… how’d it work for you?

    Thanks!

    • Jody says:

      The Wubbanub worked WONDERS. We also have one for our younger daughter, and we just lay her on her belly, lay the Wubbanub on the crib, and pop it in her mouth.

      We just weaned Eliza off of the paci a few weeks ago, and it went better than we expected–after crying, “IT BROKE!” when she saw that we’d cut the paci off of the bear, she got over it quickly and now just carries around her two paci-less monkeys and bear as her lovies. We call them “the boys.” Or, in private, the castrati.

      • Jenn says:

        I am just worried about it derailing the sleep training if we have to go back in to pop it in his mouth a million times a night, he will need to figure out how to do it himself (which he is not nearly there yet) or learn to sleep without it. Did you have a “re-binking” problem with either of your girls?

        • Jody says:

          Not once we got the Wubbanub! It’s really easy to grab onto and they catch on putting it in the mouth quickly. Of course, we also had three of them in her crib at once, so that helps!

  7. Amy says:

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with sleep training & night weaning. We’re doing it in the same order, and we’re down to only one night feeding of about 3 ounces. Not bad in less than one week! One thing that doesn’t make sense to me: why wake the baby to feed her vs. waiting for her to wake on her own and, if she wakes after the target feed time, go ahead & feed. Could this approach also work?

    • Jody says:

      I think the idea behind waking the baby to feed her is that she gets adjusted to be on YOUR time, not hers–plus if you wake her, she’ll be sleepier and fall back asleep, as opposed to waking up hungry and expecting food right away. It worked great with #1, but our #2 would just adjust her feeding schedule to whatever we changed it too, and would wake up before us every time! So we just ended up feeding her less and less until she slept through. Try anything!

  8. Natalie says:

    This has been great to read!! I feel like I have someone to bounce off of for support. Peter is a few days away from being four months and I’m on day #2. I started with naps yesterday, thinking if he had even 3 practice runs before night it would be easier. It was. I was a wuss and went with 1min check in increments. So after 1 min I’d check in for 15-30sec, then 2 min check in for 15-30sec, then 3 min check in, etc. He cried for 40min his first nap , then slept for 15. Cried an hour at nap #2 then slept for 10. Cried 40min at nap #3 then slept for 30min. He had 2 chunks of 1hr sleep overnight, which I think is pretty good for putting himself back to sleep. Two questions though, do you feel the Wubbanub presents any danger of choking? I know your was 10mo when you did this, but for the younger “infant” babies who don’t yet have full control of their limbs or concept I guess of what end of the thing goes where? For naps I have a baby monitor (presence-amazing) on my iphone, but overnight when I fall asleep and not watching I would be worried he’s put the wrong thing in his mouth… Secondly, and mostly just out of curiosity to compare to my own since all new moms are worried there’s something better they could be doing, is your bedtime routine the same as it was when you first began?

    Thank you!

    • Jody says:

      Mine was five months when we did sleep training, and a little older when we weaned here. I didn’t see any issues at all with the Wubbanubs–they allow them in the NICU! If you’re uncomfortable, go with your gut, but I never felt uncomfortable with the wubbanub.

      Our bedtime routine evolved over time, and our second daughter was a whole different ballgame. These days, they’re 3 and 4 years old, but we still stick with a routine. They go through phases, so you adjust to each phase–but I do feel that the initial learning curve to comfort themselves is a skill they hold onto.

  9. Marika Lewis says:

    Hi! I know this post was written a long time ago but I’m a first time MOM attempting weissbluth full CIO extinction no checks & night weaning with my 15 week old and could use some help! He is pretty good at falling asleep on his own now at the beginning of the night but wakes 5-6 hours for his only night feed. Then when I put him down, he will fuss/cry for maybe 10-15 min before falling asleep. BUT THEN will have night wakings every 2-2 hours after. Am I supposed to let him CIO until morning ? I can’t seem to find any clear instructions anywhere!
    I plan to night wean the one feeding soon too. Do I redistribute the decreased night ounces to the daytime feeds?

    Thank you for your response in advance!!

    -a desperate sleep deprived first time MOM

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