Q&A: Weaning a 1-year-old

Megan writes:

"My daughter is 1 year old now and I'm ready to wean her from breastfeeding. She only nurses at night. I've managed to wean her from day time nursing by just laying her down in her crib and letting her cry herself to sleep. Problem is, I've recently moved into an apartment and I don't feel that I can let her cry herself to sleep at night for fear of disturbing the neighbors. It's not that big of a deal when she first goes down for the night, I let her cry part of the time then, but when she wakes up during the night she won't put herself back to sleep, she wants me to nurse her back to sleep. She's to the point where she's waking up almost every 1-2 hours and my boobs can't take much more of this, she digs her little teeth in. The other thing that compounds the problem is that we now share a bedroom so she knows I'm right there and will scream and cry until I come nurse her. I've thought of trying to make my breasts unpleasant to her, but I'm not sure what I could use. I joked about tobasco sauce. Help! My boobs are killing me! Oh and I think she's waking up so much partially due to teething. I give her Advil and Orajel before bed, but that doesn't seem to cut it anymore."

Problems I vaguely remember but am so so glad I don't have anymore for $1000, Alex.

First, let me say that there's a sleep regression at 13 months, so it's possible that your daughter is in the middle of that, and if she is you'll have better success if you wait a few weeks until the sleep regression passes. Or it could be teething, too, and there's not much to do about that until the teeth come in.

It seems to me that you have two problems:

1. Your daughter wants to nurse in the middle of the night and you're ready to stop.

2. She cries when she can't nurse in the middle of the night and you don't want her to cry.

To attack the first problem, instead of putting Tabasco sauce on your breasts (which made me cringe and laugh at the same time), why not try drying up your milk? All kinds of things will dry up your milk when you don't want them to (like red wine, mint, stress, etc.), but if you're trying to specifically, I'd go with sage tea and/or old-school Sudafed containing pseudoephidrine. Beware, though, that if you go with the Sudafed, it dries you up all over, so you may feel like a desert and you'll need to drink extra water while you're taking them. So maybe you want to try sage tea first. Buy sage (fresh or dried) at the store and then just brew it with boiling water. Yes, it tastes like the dressing you eat with turkey at Thanksgiving, but whatever if it works to dry up your milk.

Now, for the second problem, can you give her something else that will comfort her when she wakes up? A bottle of water? A pacifier? Anything that will comfort her back to sleep while keeping your boobs out of the loop is fair game.

I would also, in support of the other plans, talk to her during the day about how your breasts don't have milk anymore, but if she wakes up she can have [whatever substitute you give her]. A lot of talking about it and rehearsing verbally during the day will help her have the right tapes playing in her head to stay calm and accept the substitute in the middle of the night.

Who's night-weaned recently and has some tips or words of support for Megan?


(I was going to link to Dr. Jay Gordon's nightweaning method, but his whole site seems to be down. Not sure what's up with that. So this message board has summarized his method. It sounds like Megan is already doing basically this whole thing without success, though.)