Every moment my LO (Little One) latches onto my nipple to feed, I feel a sense of deeper connection with him. I hated the thought of severing that. Of lessening his dependence on me so I did the six months exclusive breastfeeding, and soldiered on breast feeding him on demand until he was 14 months old. I would spend sleepless nights to breastfeed on demand and the next day I would be bleary eyed and have an achy back from arching it all night long. I hated growth spurts because it meant I pulled double duty day and night and I wasn’t enjoying the fear that he would clamp down with his teeth when I made to pull away at night. I still love breastfeeding him. It is the easiest way to console an infant, to lull them to sleep and ensure their immunity is shored up. However, I knew it was time to start weaning him off the breast and sleep train him so I’m not up all night long breastfeeding and I needed the easiest way. He used to wake at 10:30 / 11:00 pm for a feed (10 minutes), then again at 1 or 2am and on a good night, it would be hourly from then. On a bad night, every 30minutes. The bad nights outweighed the good during growth spurts and while teething.
I’m Nigerian and Igbo, a real Nwa afor! So when I informed my parents of my dilemma, they advised I squeeze some bitterleaf juice on my nipples just before breastfeeding. The bitter taste was guaranteed to turn him off and he would stop breastfeeding after a week.
Bitter leaf as the name implies is a bitter leafy green or sometimes gray vegetable known in Nigeria as onugbu by the Igbos, ewuro by the Yorubas and chusa-doki shawaka by the Hausas. Scientifically, it is called vernonia amygdalina and sometimes referred to as ironweed. – Google.
Despite its bitter taste, bitter leaf is full of so many healthy benefits, it’s amazing pharmaceutical companies haven’t capitalised on this Wonder plant. Here are some of its benefits:
- provides Iron
- Cleanses the liver
- Is an antibiotic
- Detoxifies the body
- Protects the kidney
- Regulates sugar level
- Cleanses the pancreas
- Acts as an anti malarial
- Aids digestion
- Fights bad cholesterol
- Contains essential antioxidants
- Fights cardiovascular diseases by providing essential fatty acids.
- Reduces high blood pressure
- Fights nausea
- Cosmetic benefits for the skin.
What’s not to love about bitterleaf especially since chewing its stick stopped me from spitting endlessly in pregnancy (yucky side effect I suffered from. Sigh.)
Back to my narration, I jumped at this suggestion and did exactly as told. To our surprise though, Little Man fell in love with the taste of the bitterleaf. Instead of turning him off, he craved it even more. Lol. It dawned on me that I had to battle this out on my own. So I started surfing the internet for suggestions. Cold turkey wasn’t an option. I wasn’t ready for that. What I needed was weaning/sleep-training advice.
I found this article; http://drjaygordon.com/attachment/sleeppattern.html and I tweaked it to suit my situation.
My SLEEP TRAINING / WEANING METHOD:
Please note, I am in no hurry and this has spanned 3 months now, I can stop him whenever I want to because we are at the stage where it is just an early morning snack.
- Step 1: I still breastfed him to sleep. However, if he woke up at anytime from 11pm – 6am, he would only get water and my arms around him to comfort. The first night was tough. He screamed for an hour and then went back to sleep. And didn’t wake again until 5am when we repeated the process. The 2nd night, he tried to lull me into a false complacency by sleeping through until 5am. I stuck to my decision and didn’t feed him until 6am. The next 3 nights were a battle but by the 6th night, he got the message and slept until 6am. Victory!!!! We stayed in this stage for 2 months. We had a lot of changes going on and I was content with being able to sleep through the night. I didn’t want him getting sick because of all the changes we had coming up.
- Step 2: I stopped breastfeeding him in the day except for nap times. I started to enforce semi-flexible nap times in the mornings 11am. Naps are important for a child’s mental growth process. It gives the brain time to process information, gives the psyche time to develop a calmer and sunnier disposition.
- Step 3: Surprise surprise, Baby. No more breast milk at all in the day, not even to lull you to sleep. Ooh we battled. The neighbours must have thought I was mistreating him. Haha. Hubby was concerned because we had only just moved into the neighbourhood. But, I didn’t care. Children are children, everybody, deal with it! After day 3 of this exercise, he got the message and would fall asleep without the breast. Only catch was he wanted cuddles. I have a cuddler on my hands. Haha.
- Step 4: No more sleeping off on the breast at night. I would wait until he had started to drift off, then I would pull my nipple away. He would scream for 2 minutes and then fall asleep. We stayed in this stage for 3 days and then we progressed to the next logical step.
- Step 5: That’s it, no breastfeeding at night. Just cuddles. He protested this new development for 1 day and then got the message. Hooray!
- Now he sleeps through the night and only wakes up for a drink of water, a nappy change or a little cuddle when he has bad dreams. He still gets breastfed at 6am and I’m ready to move that 6am to 7am and then not at all.
Here’s his itinerary:
- Wake up at 6am for breastfeeding.
- Have breakfast at 7 or 8am.
- Have a bath at 8:30 or 9am. It depends on how fast I’m moving and what day it is.
- Have a nap at 10/11am
- Have lunch at 1/2pm
- Go out for a walk, play in the park or run errands.
- Have another nap at 4pm (sometimes we skip this)
- Have dinner with the family at 6/7pm.
- Have a bath at 8pm.
- Goodnight son.
And that’s it. Easy peasy not so easy. Lol. Has this post been informative enough for you? If you have questions please ask them in the comment section and I’ll respond as quickly as possible.