Night weaning with the father/partner method
When your baby is over one year old, and you consider weaning during the night, one often suggested option you can try is the partner method. Sometimes it is also referred to as the father method. This mostly means that your partner cares for the baby during the night feeds. And you might think that that’s all there is to it. But there’s a lot more to say about it and many things you both should know to prepare for it and do it right.
Things you should know before you start:
- If your child has bonded less with your partner, it may not be the best option to start with this method overnight. Try to strengthen the bond between the two before you follow through. This means that they spend more time together, even if it’s on weekends. For example, your partner can try to put the baby down for naps on the weekend. The goal of this will not be so much to put the baby to sleep for the nap, but it will be more about spending time together, distracting the baby, and when the baby relaxes, your partner sleeps with the baby. Breastfed babies are usually very clear about it; if breastfeeding is available to fall asleep, they want it, so you have to proceed in a very subtle way.
- Everyone’s feelings can be upside down: in the weaning process, all three participants can have their emotions on edge. Usually, this process will close one stage and give way to another, a period in which nervousness and sadness may arise in many situations.
- Resources: just as when you go on a trip, you need to prepare your suitcase; in the weaning process, you should also prepare resources that will help calm your baby down at night when they want to breastfeed but can’t have it.
- Plan ahead for what can happen: think of different scenarios; what will happen if your baby cries (even though they are with your partner) and you get nervous? What will your partner do if the situation gets worse and they don’t know what to do anymore? So you will know (more or less) and prepare what to do in each case.
Staying or leaving, which is better?
Many mothers don’t want to use the partner method and want to do the weaning process by themselves. This is not impossible; it is achievable. However, several things can be difficult for your child to understand. Having their mummy in front of them and not being able to breastfeed is tricky to understand. The baby is also likely to behave just as it would with your partner: kicking, refusing to be held, biting, scratching, or pulling your hair. Frustration, anger, and misunderstanding of what is happening will cause them to behave this way. Go over the actions your partner should take in this situation (next point), and remember that the first few nights will be stressful for everyone.
If you are not in the same room, you are not going to sleep well either, you are going to be listening to what is going on, and it is not easy to hear your baby unhappy and calling out for you. You will likely feel like going into the room and putting an end to it all (read about this in the next point), breastfeeding the baby, and stopping it. If you decide to intervene or your partner asks for you to do so, you can do two things: not offer the breast, cuddle, rock, sing your baby to sleep, and so on, and put the child back down and leave. Or breastfeed your baby shortly to calm them down and get them to sleep. There is nothing wrong or right about either way; just know that if you intervene by giving the breast, the night weaning process may take a little longer.
Things your partner should know before you start
Knowing a little bit about what will happen during these first nights is critical so you can plan what you can do to help your baby to fall asleep and you know how your child will behave.
– Make sure you prepare resources for those nights. Anything that can help both of you in this situation:
- Water, milk (depending on the baby’s age), food
- Nightlight that projects images
- Pacifier. If the baby already uses one before starting the night weaning process. If they have never used one, they probably don’t want to know about it now, either.
– Understand how the child will behave in the process:
This point is very important because the behavior of the little one can be surprising. Your child will cry or ask for the breast and scream, bite, or kick when you try to calm them down. When you want to calm down a crying baby or toddler, you will first think of cuddling or lying down in bed with them to put them to sleep. But this is exactly the wrong thing to do in this process. That’s the reason why many intentions of weaning did not work. The adult who stays with the child must be present and help them to stop crying without trying the above.
When this happens, it is more helpful to talk to the child, to tell them in a slow, paused, and boring tone anything; for example, a story on what you have done during the day. And during this storytelling, it is key to include information that has nothing to do with the story but forces the child to listen. Here is an example to make this easier to understand: “This morning I went to work, I went down the stairs and opened the door to the street, and you know what was there, an elephant walking with his little dog. Then I went to look for the bus and the driver, do you know who it was? The grandma”. When you want to calm down your child, talk and introduce absurd or impossible situations in the narrative that will make your child’s brain stop to imagine what is being told.
The first three nights are the most difficult, your baby may not let you touch them, and you will have to tell them these nightly stories to calm their crying. Then, slowly they will look again for contact and let you stroke their hair or back. You have to be very patient and steady because nothing can upset you more than a crying baby, so keep calm and let your partner know if you feel you are losing it.
To do this, you and your partner can agree on a code word, which will help you to be calmer and know that if you get overwhelmed, your partner will take action. When you look for this code word, avoid using your name or any other word that could be used to describe you.
What to avoid:
- That the process falls together with other events in the child’s life, like the start of daycare or nursery, while trying to get out of diapers, moving house, vacations (being away from home), and so on.
- The child is sick: when a child is sick, they are usually much more dependent on the breast, which is why it is usually a bad time to wean.
- During a growth spurt: during developmental leaps and growth spurts, the baby is usually very demanding, and this increased demand can make you, as a mother, want to stop breastfeeding. And although it’s not impossible, you should know that achieving it can be more difficult.
- Avoid them leaving their room: many children, when they wake up and there is no breastfeeding, want to leave the room and play or watch TV, and so on. But they mustn’t leave the room if you are weaning so you can sleep; spending half of your night in the living room isn’t the intention of anyone.
- Try not to enter the room and breastfeed: maybe while your baby is with your partner trying to put them to sleep, you feel like going in and just breastfeed again. There is nothing wrong with doing so, but know that it may take a little longer to get them to wean.
Do you have any other questions?
You can find more information about all things breastfeeding in our free app, LactApp, for iPhone or Android. In the contact section of the app, you can find an in-app consultation channel where our experts will answer your questions.