I’m a zombie.
Harlan’s gone for seven weeks (two weeks in? two and a half? I’m incapable of doing simple math at the moment) and I’m exhausted.
For months and months, ever since the last time Harlan was gone for lots of weeks when boo was 7 or 8 months old and I did sleep training with him and almost lost my mind and started going gray (seriously), boo’s been getting up pretty much once a night, usually late, 4:30 for example, although it’s not that predictable. That “pretty much” is key. Sometimes there’s a 2:00, sometimes a random 11:00, sometimes there’s teething, sometimes there’s gross motor development enthusiasm (so excited about walking I can’t sleep!), sometimes plain old unexplained middle-of-the-night meltdowns. When Harlan’s here, I’m usually the one to get up and deal. I usually nurse him, ’cause, let’s be honest, it’s the easiest way to get him back to sleep. And he loves it. And I love it. Middle-of-the-night nursing is a beautiful, intimate experience that is surely the closest I’ll ever be with my son.
The difference when Harlan’s gone is that I also have to be the one to get up with boo in the morning. Generally Harlan takes him and I go back to sleep…for one, two, sometimes three hours! And that makes all the difference to this eight-nine-hour-a-night girl. When he’s not here, I get up when boo gets up, which lately means an ungodly 5:45. Sometimes I can put him in his crib with a load of books and toys and he’ll let me have an extra hour, but sometimes it’s only ten minutes.
All this to say that I’m verging on nonfunctional. Yesterday I had a Red Bull. And I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about weaning.
I’m definitely not ready to wean 100%. Boo loves the boob and I love giving it. But night-weaning might make sense. The mythical sleeping through the night. I haven’t had a whole night of uninterrupted sleep in 15 months. Think about that. (I know, I know, one woman I said that to responded, “15 months? I haven’t had uninterrupted sleep in 7 years!” Moms don’t count. I’d just addressing normal people here.) Plus I have this fantasy that if I night-wean him, it will lead to him naturally weaning himself the rest of the way. Because it’s that night nursing that is so much about cuddling and comfort and I think nursing is 99% comfort for boo at this point.
Night weaning. The thought of it makes me swoon—and makes me want to weep.
With Harlan out of town, I get boo out of his crib when he cries and bring him into bed with me for the rest of the night. He nurses for a while, sleeps curled up next to me, nurses again a couple hours later and eventually sits up at 6ish and starts saying, “Da!” indicating the stuffed bunny and lotion bottle by my bed that he is currently enamored with. Up until the “Da!” part, it’s all pretty wonderful. Little boo snuggled by my side is probably my favorite thing in the world. I wake up and see him there—soft breath, an arm stretched out to touch me—wrap myself around him and go to sleep the happiest girl in the world.
Yesterday I told my friend Susan I was thinking about night weaning. “But it will make Aidan so sad,” I said. “It will make me so sad.” She goes, “You’re not ready.”
But I’m pretty ready to get my sleep back. Last night I consulted the experts.
Dr. Sears says, “If you resent it, stop.” I don’t resent night feeding. I love it. But the lack of sleep, on the other hand… Dr. Sears suggests having a little chat with your baby before bed. “Baby go night night, mommy go night night…” Here’s the important part: “Nummies go night night.” Which is a retarded way of saying, “The boob’s out of commission till morning, babe.” And then you have to start the hard work of going to him night after night and comforting—holding him, patting him, rocking him, telling him you love him—but holding out on the boob. Which is all he really wants. Fuck the rocking and reassurance. Just the thought of it makes me miserable.
Dr. Gordon, the progressive LA pediatrician, espouses a similar method that lasts about ten days. Three nights of nursing but putting him to bed still awake. Next three nights no nursing, just rocking, talking. Next three no picking up even, just patting and reassuring. He says “these will be hard nights,” but it works and it relatively kind. Tell that to my boob addicted kid!
The Sleepeasy Solution, the book I used when I first did the sleep training, suggests a method that is supposedly less humane (according to the Dr. Searses and Dr. Gordons of the world, I imagine because you’re sort of tricking the baby into stopping), but also sounds pretty effective. You set your alarm for an hour before he usually wakes up and nurse him, for two minutes less than you usually nurse him. And every night you do two minutes less until you’re no longer nursing him at that time. Seems reasonable, except when I bring him into bed, I’m nursing him for half an hour, 45 minutes, I don’t really know (I’m not counting, I’m sleeping). So, what? The first night I nurse him 28 minutes, the next 26, the next 24…he’ll be weaned by the time he’s three.
So, what do I do? And more importantly, when do I do it?
Part of me has been reluctant to do it before the move, because I want him to have as much continuity as possible. I also worry about doing it before Harlan gets home. When he’s here, he can do some of the night comforting, which tends to be effective since boo knows he can’t get boob from him. He’s also teething. There are these two lower molars that have been on the verge of breaking through for weeks now and I feel like it’s cruel to deprive him of myself when he’s in pain.
I’m concerned about boo, but I’m also concerned about myself. How much can a person take? My husband’s out of town, I’m single momming it for a month and a half, I’m about to leave my friends and home and family to move cross-country, I’m exhausted and broken out and brain-dead… Can I really handle breaking my nursing addiction???