How I Semi-Gently Sleep Trained My Toddler In 4 Days - The Koch Family
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How I Semi-Gently Sleep Trained My Toddler In 4 Days

Why semi-gently? Well, its because my son did cry in this process. But I did not leave him and let him cry and soothe on his own. Rather, I was with him throughout. I soothed him and did everything I could to console him. Hence, I used the term ‘semi-gently’. So, here I go…
Well, this is something that I have been looking forward to write since a really long time. Now, my son is 22 months old and since last week he has been sleeping through night. The main reason why my son hadn’t been sleeping through night till now was because he breastfeeds pretty frequently at night. He had strongly associated sleep with breastfeeding. So, for me, sleep training actually meant weaning off breast milk.
Everyone says that weaning a toddler is really hard. I have heard numerous advices to either wean before the baby turns one or think about it only after they turn 3. But from my experience, I think when your child is ready; weaning doesn’t turn out to be a crying battle.
So, let me start off by telling a little about my hardcore breast milk-loving son, then, how I understood that my son was ready to be weaned and finally how I weaned my son.

My Son

Though usually a jovial baby, my son can be very bull-headed (blame it on the genes from both the sides) at times. He is not a person who budges easily. That could be the reason why I never expected weaning to be easy.
He loves to breastfeed. I think in all his life of 22 months, he would have spent majority of his time at my breasts. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that he is an addict to breast milk.  In fact, his immense fondness for breast milk is the inspiration for most of my posts on breastfeeding.
Up till 6 months, he used to feed every two hours irrespective of whether it’s day or night. By the time he was one year old, so strong was the association of sleep with breastfeeding that even if he fell deep asleep in my hands, the minute I lay him to bed, he would start rooting for milk and would start whining and crying if he did not find boobies in the mouth. Even when he was 18 months, he used to wake up every 2 hours for feeding.
Many say that the reason for this deep association was because I lied down and fed him. It could be true. But I honestly had no choice. Once or twice I had tried sitting and feeding at night only to find myself drowsy and moody the whole next day. So, we happily resorted to lying down and feeding.
By the time my son turned around 15 months, he was breastfeeding only when he wanted to sleep. It was just comfort feeding and not feeding for nutrition. That is why I made my first attempt at weaning him when he turned around 18 months. It was a disaster to say the least. My son screamed bloody murder and did not stop till he got what he wanted. As none of us could bear to see him cry for long, we easily budged. We gave up the thought of weaning and decided not to try again till he turns at least 3 years.
But somewhere after he turned 20 months old, he slept on his own for the first time. It was around his naptime and I took him to our bedroom. Our bedroom is absolutely child safe. We have put two mattresses on the floor and do not have any furniture other than a built in wardrobe.
So, at his naptime he sought breast milk. I fed him. After feeding for 10 minutes, he stopped and started wandering around.  I lied down on the bed closing my eyes and pretending to be asleep. He played with his toys and bed sheet for a while and then came near me, lied down and slept on his own for the first time. He slept for 90 minutes and woke up for boobies, and again slept again for around an hour. Though he woke up in between, I was elated that he slept on his own for the first time ever.
This went on for a few days. However, there were certain days when he refused to sleep on his own too. But overall, I felt that he was getting developmentally ready to sleep on his own and weaned off breast milk.


Though my son is 22 months, he doesn’t speak beyond ‘mom’, ‘dad’, ‘no’, ‘Dora’ and a few such words. But he pretty much understands everything that we tell him. I had come to my parent’s home for a month. I thought this would be the best time to wean him. My mom and I and decided to start. Our strategy was to go cold turkey, but console him if he cries for more than 3-5 minutes and give him cow milk in a glass when he seeks breast milk.
As he understands what we tell him, we decided to keep him informed of the change that is going to happen. We did not want him to get bewildered at the sudden change. I think that approach made the whole difference.

Day 1-

I pointed at my breasts and told him, ” Mom doesn’t have milk anymore. Mom’s milk is all finished.” I repeated it 4-5 times during the day, well before his naptime. Though he looked at me amused, I felt like he understood what I said.
My mother made his favourite delicacies and ensured that he ate his breakfast and lunch well so that he wouldn’t go hungry at his afternoon naptime. I took him to the bed. He protested and wanted to be breastfed. So, we went to the kitchen and gave him a glass of milk, which he happily drank. Then my mom took him and he slept on her lap. When she put him to bed, he whined and protested for a few seconds and slept. We were surprised. This wasn’t supposed to be easy! He slept for 2 hours at a stretch and woke up happily.
Nighttime was a tad difficult. He obviously wanted to breastfeed. We gave him milk in a glass instead. He wasn’t happy, but fell asleep after a little while. It was almost 10 pm. Then at around 3 am, he woke up crying and wanted breast milk. We took him to kitchen and gave him a glass of milk. He refused milk and was angry at being deprived of his favourite drink. We distracted and soothed him with some gibberish tales. Finally he drank some milk from the glass and slept at 3.45am and woke up for the day at 6.45 am.

Next day…

The next day was a tad worse compared to the first day. We had gone to my brother’s home to see his kids. My son did not eat much of anything as he was very immersed in playing. We returned from their home around 2 pm and my son slept for around 15-20 minutes on his way back. He was not interested in going to sleep even after we reached home. He was still in a mood to play.
At last at around 5.30pm, he slept in my mother’s lap. When we tried to put him in the bed, all the hell broke lose. He cried his eyes out and there was no way we could stop him. We even thought we would have to budge and give him breast milk. No gibberish tales distracted him. Then, finally, my mom took a purse and gave it to him. That distracted him somehow and he stopped crying. He had some food and milk and was back to his normal self. I think it was the combination of hunger and sleepiness that infuriated him
Lesson learnt: Never keep a weaning baby hungry. Give anything to fill his stomach. Doesn’t matter even if it’s junk.
At night my son slept by 10 pm. He woke up sometime around 2 am cried and had a glass of milk and slept around 2.15 am till around 7am.

Day 3

Yet another eventful day…
By day 3, I was totally filled with guilt for depriving him of the one thing he loved the most. Yes, if you are planning to wean your baby, get ready to go on a long guilt trip.
I felt bad because I had last breastfed my son while I was half asleep. I did not really know that it was going to be the last time. I never really even got to caress my son and stroke his hair during that last time.
I was filled with so much guilt that I decided to express milk and feed it in a glass. I did not have my breast pump with me. So, I hand expressed and after around 30 minutes of hard work, filled quarter of a glass with breast milk.
My son was in the living room playing with his grandma. I was eager to see his excitement at getting back his favourite drink. In fact I even doubted if it would sabotage the weaning attempt. But the guilt was too heavy. I handed over the glass to him. He took a sip and spit it out. His face looked like he just had some bitter medicine. I tried to make him take a sip again. But he refused.
A mixture of emotions ran through my mind. I was sad that he turned down my breast milk. I was amused that he refused something that he happily relished till a few days back. At the same time, I was happy that I was not depriving him of something he loved. In the end, I was laughing at the paradox.
That day was comparatively easy. Naptime was a breeze. At night he woke up once after a stretch of 8-hour sleep. He then had milk and dozed off in 10 minutes.
Finally, from the fifth day on, he slept for 10 hours at a stretch without waking up for milk. In the past one week, he would have woke up just once at night. That was because he did not have his dinner properly and got really hungry at midnight.
Looking back it honestly wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. I did not have high expectations. In fact, I was ready to give in and breastfeed him if he fussed too much. But that was not necessary. I think the transition was smooth because my son was ready. After weaning, my son’s appetite has become better. He eats his food well (though there are occasional ups and downs). I am in a much better mood and able to concentrate on my work better as I get good rest at night.
If you too plan to wean your toddler, here are a few suggestions that I would like to give from my failed and then successful attempt at weaning and sleep training my son. Of course, it goes without saying that each child is different. As the mom, only you know best. I am just hoping that this suggestion may throw light at something that you did not think of earlier.
  • Wean you toddler when you think that he is developmentally ready. How do you know if he is ready? Give him an opportunity to sleep on his own. Be with your child, but don’t try to soothe him to sleep. If he refuses and whines, persist. But if he cries, give in. He might not be ready yet.
  • Most parents don’t give enough credit for their toddlers. Reasoning works wonders when it comes to handling babies and toddlers. Always reason with your child- keep him informed about a change that is about to happen- not only with weaning, but also with disciplining and everything else in their daily life.
  • Get help. It could be your partner, your parents, your sibling or anyone else. Attempting to wean your child single-handedly might drain you.
  • Set the ground rules clear with your weaning partner about how you are going to proceed. Decide how long you are going to let the child cry, what you will do when the child cries and when to give up the attempt. Of course, stick to it. Its hard, so set practical rules.
  • Before you start, get as much information as you can. Read, ask your friends, relatives and colleagues and form a strategy considering your child’s nature. But once you start, shut yourself away from advices- they could only confuse you. You as the mother know the child best. There is no advice above your instinct.
  • Feed your child with his favourite food during the weaning process. A hungry baby is pretty difficult to handle especially when you are trying to wean.
  • Don’t attempt weaning when your child is sick or if you recently changed home or if you are in a completely new environment.
  • Use a good quality diaper so that you will not have to disturb your child at night to change the diapers.
Note- Don’t consider this article and advices as expert opinions. These are suggestions from my personal experience. Consult you’re your pediatrician before you decide to wean your child or if you see anything abnormal while weaning your child.


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