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Thread: To night wean or not to wean

  1. #1

    Default To night wean or not to wean

    Hi; I'm mom to two wonderful little girls; a 14 mo old strong-willed younger one and a 2.5 year old easy going sister.
    The 14 mo old is breastfed and she and I cosleep in her room. However, since I work outside the home, she mostly just nurses at night. She wakes 4-7 times a night to nurse. If she could, she would probably sleep all night with the boob in her mouth, but since I can't sleep like that, she will settle for being nursed back to sleep. She is a fairly poor napper and sleeper, and the slightest thing (colds, teething, which seems constant) disturb her sleep. (meaning I don't get much sleep at all...)
    I'm exhausted, especially if she has a cold/sick or is teething, because then she wakes more like 7 times a night, and often takes a long time to fall back to sleep. As a result, I don't function well at work and have less patience than I would like for the 2.5 year old (or for DH).
    When she is well and "only" gets up 4 times I night, I can manage (i.e. have gotten used to that type of interrupted sleep).
    Whenever she does not sleep well I get so exhausted that I think about night weaning.
    My first concern is that she might wean completely - which I don't want.
    Plus, when I'm not on the brink of exhaustion, I just love the cuddling at night ... We started night weaning once or twice but sleeping in my own bed (dad was with her) I missed her so much I gave up after 1-2 nights.
    Third, given that she is quite tenacious, she will cry for at least 45 min if she does not get mom/the boob, even though dad is there to comfort her. Which is extremely hard for me to listen to, as I don't believe in CIO. And when I hear her cry, I can't sleep anyways, even in my own bed.

    Anywhere been there? What should I do? Part of me wants/needs the sleep and thinks she would be better off if she slept better. The other part of me would miss the night cuddles terribly. I don't think she would understand "when the sun comes up" just yet - her language skills are not there yet.

    Would it be easier to night wean if I wait for another few months? (say 18 mo old)? TIA

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
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    Default Re: To night wean or not to wean

    Hi pthgrl. I have three kids, all of whom nursed well into their preschool years. I have weaned 2 kids and am currently nursing a child who will turn 4 this summer. I attempted nightweaning my oldest child at 17-18 months of age but gave it up after a few months of worse sleep for everyone. He was a very, very frequent waker. I have experience nightweaning that same child at an older age and also transitioning two kids from the family bed to their own beds and rooms. I also used to run a nursing toddler support group where nightweaning and sleep issues was a common topic. So that is my experience in this area.

    Obviously every child is very different and it is not really possible to predict reactions to night weaning. In my experience, nightweaning can be done at any age, but it is not likely to be easier to night wean at 18 months than it is now. Kids usually start putting together much longer stretches of sleep and also may become more comfortable sleeping alone at an older age- think between age 3 and 4. If there is a time that night weaning becomes generally noticeably easier, my guess is that would be a more realistic age. This does not mean your child might not be easier to night wean before that, I am speaking very generally.

    I also have seen nightweaning or other partial weaning attempts turn into complete weaning or nursing strikes. While I would not say this is common, it does happen sometimes.

    Developmentally, the second year of life is one with many, many large milestones in development and a child gradually gaining a sense of being a separate entity from their mother. This actually tends to increase what some call "separation anxiety." Hand in hand with that comes increases in night nursing and/or other comfort/reassurance seeking behaviors.

    Since night weaning has so far not worked for you, and you are very interested in continuing to nurse, and even enjoy nursing at night when you can get enough overall sleep, I wonder if this is a problem that might be solved more easily by maximizing your overall sleep rather than attempting night weaning at this point. I also think that since you think your child might be unusually restless at night and not a "good" napper, it might make sense to look at the overall sleep set up and patterns to see if there might be something that can be adjusted there to help your child be more comfortable.

    I think letting dad help is a great idea. A baby who is crying while dad holds and comforts baby is not the same as leaving a baby to "Cry it out" alone. What I found helped was for my husband and I to discuss (during the day when we were both awake) how long he would try to comfort baby when baby woke before giving up and bringing baby back to me. For example, 45 minutes. We also established when and how often I might ask him to comfort baby, or some signal I would give so he knew I wanted him to take baby for a bit. We also talked about different things he could do so he was not having to make it up at 2 am. He would offer snacks, wrap baby in a blanket, rock baby, walk baby down, sit on couch and watch TV, etc. Key was for him to take baby into another part of the house so I could sleep even if baby was crying. Otherwise there was no point.

    On the flip side I found baby would usually be less unsettled if I nursed baby as soon as baby stirred. Sometimes it made more sense to nurse and then have dad take baby. Obviously there are multiple variations that could be tried.

    If or when your schedule allows, try having dad take baby after the wake up nursing session so you can get another bit of sleep. Going to bed earlier may help.

    What is going on with naps? I am a big believer that sleep begets sleep, and that frequent waking at night is often exacerbated by not enough sleep during the day. So maybe that is an area where improvements can be made. '

    Have you tried different "bedtimes"? My youngest slept much better after we moved her "bedtime" back later. Now she stays up later than her 12 year old brother, but she sleeps much better overall.

    What do you do when you come home from work? Any chance of a nap then? When I was a little girl my dad would come home very tired from work and take my baby sister and I up to my parent's room and lie down and close his eyes while we chattered and played around him so my mom could make dinner in peace. He basically 'nap sat' for us. I have found variations on this theme a great way to catch a couple winks.

    What about weekends? Does your 2 year old still nap, could you all nap together at least on the weekends?

    Any chance of adjusting work hours in a way that might help you get more sleep?

    Have you tried things like darkening the room more, white noise?

    Any possibility that discomfort from seasonal or food allergens are causing more frequent waking?

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