Most of us have heard the terms “sleep training” and “self-settling” however far less parents have heard the term, “gentle night-weaning”. For those of you who would like an alternative to sleep training though, this is something you might want to hear about! ♥
Gentle night-weaning: Cutting out breastfeeds over-night when your child is developmentally ready to understand what you are saying and have an ability to communicate themselves. Gentle night-weaning includes cuddling your child, explaining what is happening and bed-sharing or room-sharing with them in the process. Read my article on night weaning here.
Or you can view my video on this topic here:
Sleep training: Cutting out breastfeeds over-night before your child is developmentally ready to understand what you are saying or have the ability to communicate themselves. Leaving them to cry without continual cuddles or human contact, repeatedly putting them back down by themselves into a cot or bed. Making them sleep in their own room before they are ready to do so. Click here for a discussion on how the language and methods of sleep trainers can be extremely confusing!
If you try to cut out night-time breastfeeds too early then it will be sleep training or “responsive settling”. Why? Because the difference between gentle night-weaning and sleep training is all about how old your child is and what they can understand. For most children, 18 months is an age where an understanding of what you are saying and their own communication grows to a point where you feel as though you can both communicate with each other! This ability for your child to understand what you’re saying, and for them to have a level of communication themselves, is crucial when approaching night-weaning in a gentle and respectful way.
HOWEVER it’s very important to note that 18 months is my general recommendation and is not black and white! At 14 months old your child might be showing signs of understanding so much of what you’re saying, that you feel comfortable trying gentle night-weaning prior to my recommended age. And it goes the other way too! With my three boys I didn’t feel comfortable night-weaning them until they were over the age of two and my youngest wasn’t ready until he was over 2 1/2 years old. It is a general recommendation and is about looking at your own, individual child.
While your child might not LOVE the idea of stopping the over-night breastfeed and they might continue to wake, they will UNDERSTAND what’s going on. This is what being respectful of your child is all about. This is what attachment parenting is all about! Respecting where your child is at WHILE ALSO respecting where you are at. Attachment parenting does not mean giving 110% of yourself and only thinking about the needs of your child.
“How do I know when they’re ready?” Night weaning is not just about when they are ready but when you are ready too. Was my youngest boy at 2 1/2 years old “ready” to stop breastfeeding overnight? No. He would have happily kept breastfeeding overnight! He was very upset when I tried to stop feeding him overnight but he totally got it. He understood what I was saying, he just didn’t like it. That is a very different thing to a 12 month old who doesn’t understand what you’re saying and has no concept of day and night and “boobie is asleep”. So it’s not only about when you’re child is ready but when you’re ready too! Breastfeeding is a relationship. You can be respectful of both your child and yourself during this breastfeeding relationship.