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Thread: wanting to reduce or eliminate toddler night nursing

  1. #1
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    Default wanting to reduce or eliminate toddler night nursing

    I am hoping some experienced mamas can help me find ways to gently and lovingly change our night nursing pattern. My baby is 15 mos old. We were in a really good routine for a while of nursing to sleep at bedtime, once overnight when she stirred and then upon waking. The last few weeks, she's been waking and nursing every 45 minutes between 2 and 6 am. It feels like neither of us sleep much or very well during that time. I am tired and I don't think she's getting the rest she needs.

    I would like to change this pattern of nursing so much in the week hours of the morning. My head is spinning with ideas... would a snack before bed help her not wake up hungry? Is it just a habit that can be broken? Does our sleeping arrangement have something to do with it (as a newborn she always seemed to sleep longer and more soundly when she was in her cosleeper instead of in bed with me).

    We used to cosleep all night every night but when she was about 13 mos old we introduced her to her own bed and room (a full sized futon a few feet from our bed in a connected room). It felt like the right time. We put her to sleep in there at her bedtime and go to bed in our own bed, and then when she wakes I go in and nurse her back to sleep and stay there sleeping with her. I guess this increase in night waking seemed to happen around the same time we introduced her to her own bed, but I'm not sure if there is a connection. In any case, even if she sleeps the whole night with us in the big bed or if I sleep the whole night with her in her bed, she still wakes up several times in the early morning hours.

    I thought it was teething or whatever but it's been going on for too long and is too consistent. I am really tired and I don't think she's getting the quality of sleep she needs either. We're not ready to wean but I don't think she needs to nurse so much over night. When I was still pumping at work, nursing once overnight was nice because it helped my supply and I loved the cuddles. Now I would welcome complete night weaning if that is possible or at all realistic. I would be OK with once, but this is too much.

    I would love any ideas/strategies you all could share.


    ETA: I have tried a few times patting her back or tummy and trying to gently soothe her back to sleep without nursing. I've been successful with this maybe 50% of the times I've tried. In the short term, this is a lot more trouble than just giving her the boob... but if I knew that doing this consistently could eventually break our frequent night nursing habit, I would do it. Same with getting dad involved. So I guess I am looking for other moms' experiences more than anything.
    Last edited by @llli*sprocket; August 30th, 2013 at 09:38 AM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: wanting to reduce or eliminate toddler night nursing

    Hi,

    I'm working on the same thing... but for what it's worth, a sleep consultant said to me recently that the peak of sleep disturbance and night time/ early AM shenanigans :-) is 15 months, and then it settles down a little. That's not a strategy but it's possible it's a phase.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: wanting to reduce or eliminate toddler night nursing

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*bostonbean View Post
    Hi,

    I'm working on the same thing... but for what it's worth, a sleep consultant said to me recently that the peak of sleep disturbance and night time/ early AM shenanigans :-) is 15 months, and then it settles down a little. That's not a strategy but it's possible it's a phase.
    Thanks... this is actually very reassuring I will try to ride it out.

    Since I posted I found a nice article on Kelleymom about night weaning. I also discovered the "Dr. Jay Gordon technique". I read his website on it. The gist seems to be that you go in and comfort back to sleep without nursing but I couldn't follow what he says on his site... there are like 3 stages to it with subtle differences and I can't figure out what you change in each stage. Has anyone here tried this and how did it go?

  4. #4
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    Default Re: wanting to reduce or eliminate toddler night nursing

    A lot of moms here have used the Gordon method with success. I used it, but I didn't follow his timeline. It took us about a month maybe a month and a half (I think I stayed on step two for most of that time, if I remember correctly). My daughter was a bit older and verbal enough that I could communicate with her about what was going on, expectations, when she could nurse again etc, so it's possible that helped in our situation. But it's definitely consistency that's important (as it is any time you are setting a limit for your toddler). If you sometimes say no and then give in they'll fight every time in the hopes that this is one of the times you give in. You definitely have to make the decision whether it's worth the short term battle to get the long term pay off and sometimes the answer is just no. If your kiddo is teething (this is a HUGE one- my daughter had all her molars by the time we night weaned, which definitely made it easier), hitting a milestone or major developmental leap, not accepting or understanding what's going on, it may be easier to wait a few months and try again when circumstances are better. Illness, major life changes, vacations, all of that can throw her off her game and cause her to regress. I was fortunately able to stay pretty consistent with my daughter, the only time I gave in and nursed her at night was a few nights when she was sick.

    I'll just add, and I'm sure you've probably read this elsewhere, weaning at night doesn't always mean your lo will start sleeping through the night. It certainly didn't in our case.
    “We are not put on earth for ourselves, but are placed here for each other. If you are there always for others, then in time of need, someone will be there for you.”
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  5. #5
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    Default Re: wanting to reduce or eliminate toddler night nursing

    I was just thinking about this last night-Now that my baby (third child) is 13 months old, I was remembering my oldest son at this age, and how he woke so often at night as a young toddler and how troubling it was for me. We co-slept, and I nursed him back to sleep, so at least I was not having to get up at night to nurse. But it did feel troubling that he was waking so much, and exhausting.

    I night weaned him at 17 months (meaning, encouraged a sleep stretch each night of 6 hours) but that was for different reasons. (I wanted to start trying to have another baby.) Once my cycle returned a month or so later, with some relief, we went right back to nursing at night as he wanted, as the night weaning experience was much more exhausting than simply nursing at night as needed.

    As I recall, in order to night wean, I tried the ideas in the No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley and found many of them helpful. However, in my personal experience, what helped me the most was the growing understanding (after talking about this issue over many months with A LOT of other nursing moms) that waking frequently and wanting, in fact, needing-to nurse at night during this developmental stage is entirely healthy and normal. Once I started worrying less about the possible ill effects of normal behavior, I was personally able to relax better and consequently, slept better. or at least, felt better about not sleeping better.

    BTW my oldest is now 10 years old and has been an excellent 'through the night' sleeper for many years despite his extreme frequent waking as a toddler. He does not even complain about bedtime!

    Now, with my baby daughter, (and as I did with my second child) I do not look at the clock, make a mental note, or do anything else of the kind when woken at night to nurse. I help baby get attached as needed, and go back to sleep. Which makes for a much more restful night. I think of my daughter and my middle son as 'better' sleepers as toddlers than their brother was. But are/were they really? I actually have not the slightest idea. My attitude about night waking and night nursing is what has completely changed.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: wanting to reduce or eliminate toddler night nursing

    Something to keep in mind is that due to teething, it may not be about night waking to nurse, but rather, about pain. I don't know that I believe in the whole sleep regression thing at this age. I do know that big teeth are coming in (mine all had their first molars on the move at that age). The pain of teething can be offset by nursing because it applies counter pressure.

    With that in mind, is it really time to concentrate on sleeping patterns and not pain management? Just a different way of thinking. If you find other ways to help them manage the pain, they may sleep more. So an amber necklace, Camilia or other holistic remedy, some sort of soft teething toy that they can keep in bed (hard or squeaky isn't really sleepy time material), tylenol if you really need it, etc.

    Up to you of course - but it's another approach/consideration that's worth taking into account.
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  7. #7
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    Default Re: wanting to reduce or eliminate toddler night nursing

    We didn't night wean until 27 mos and I was pregnant and nursing hurt too much for me to sleep through it. But we told her nummies had to go night night and for a few nights I slept in a different bed and she slept with DH only. Can you not sleep with her latched on?
    Nursed my sweet daughter 3 years, 3 mos.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: wanting to reduce or eliminate toddler night nursing

    Thanks for all of your replies. This is very helpful. Meg, your perspective is very helpful. I think a big part of my concern is about her sleep. I have been worried about how she can possibly be OK without sleeping soundly for such a big part of the night. But you're right, I am sure it is perfectly normal and OK. And it is not forever and we'll live though it! Since reading this I've made a conscious effort to just relax about it on some level and that's already gone a long way toward improving my outlook.

    Of course, that doesn't change the fact that I'm very tired. I have been thinking about it and it is absolutely true, it isn't that I want her to nurse less...what I want is her to wake less, and night weaning is not necessarily going to make her wake less. Although I guess I have this idea in my head that if she does not expect to nurse, she might go back to sleep without much if any assistance from me, although I understand that is probably wishful thinking at this point. However, even if we could get away with 5 minutes spent patting and shushing, that would be better than the routine we have now though.

    When she was smaller, I could easily nurse in my sleep. I would latch her on, be half awake for 30 seconds and go back to sleep. But she's gotten SO wiggly. She'll wake up and want to nurse, and I will latch her on still half asleep, hoping we can both just drift back to sleep while she nurses. But then for the next 1/2 hour I find myself laying there with her hands moving a mile a minute all over my breasts, her feet kicking, she wants to switch sides 3 or 4 times.... it is quite a lot of action, and I can't sleep through it. And by the time I fall asleep after that is all over, 30 minutes later she wants to nurse again. Is there any chance I can teach her better sleep nursing manners?

    I don't think this is all teething. We've had a few especially rough nights that I do attribute to teething. But day in and day out, I've been awake more than I've been asleep between the hours of 2 am and 6 am literally every night for the last 6 weeks or so, and it's getting OLD.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: wanting to reduce or eliminate toddler night nursing

    Definitely can teach better nursing manners and the sooner you start the easier. Teach her not to kick if she's actually kicking you. You might be able to teach her to lie more still, too but she might just be pretty active and not really being ill-mannered, you know? I guess I think of poor behaviors for working on during nursing manners but if it's something that's a nuisance to you, too, it is worth at least trying to work on it.
    Nursed my sweet daughter 3 years, 3 mos.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: wanting to reduce or eliminate toddler night nursing

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*sprocket View Post
    When she was smaller, I could easily nurse in my sleep. I would latch her on, be half awake for 30 seconds and go back to sleep. But she's gotten SO wiggly. She'll wake up and want to nurse, and I will latch her on still half asleep, hoping we can both just drift back to sleep while she nurses. But then for the next 1/2 hour I find myself laying there with her hands moving a mile a minute all over my breasts, her feet kicking, she wants to switch sides 3 or 4 times.... it is quite a lot of action, and I can't sleep through it. And by the time I fall asleep after that is all over, 30 minutes later she wants to nurse again. Is there any chance I can teach her better sleep nursing manners?
    For what it's worth, my 15 MO does the same thing with his hands/feet. He does this thing with his feet where he curls his toes into the crease between my inner thigh & groin and then pushes them back and forth like a kitten kneeding his paws on me ... for some reason this, more than any of the other wiggle worm antics, drives me bonkers! I usually reposition his feet between my thighs closer to my knees, and lock him down, LOL At the same time, I will hold his hand in one spot on my chest and keep my hand over it, or wrap my hand around his back with gentle pressure. Maybe that sounds harsh but it seems to calm him to feel more contained and cradled by me. Maybe you could experiment with ways to hold or secure her body a little and see if that reduces the squirming?

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*sprocket View Post
    I don't think this is all teething. We've had a few especially rough nights that I do attribute to teething. But day in and day out, I've been awake more than I've been asleep between the hours of 2 am and 6 am literally every night for the last 6 weeks or so, and it's getting OLD.
    Will she let you feel around in her mouth for new teeth or pressure spots on the gums? Molars for us took about 6 weeks to come through and were kind of stop-and-start (same for canines). They were a bear and made sleep pretty terrible.

    I wish I could offer something concrete about night weaning. All I can offer is empathy since mine has similar habits (with night waking/nursing frequency, and obviously the squirminess too). I waver week to week, month to month, between a reassuring "This is fine, this is manageable -- I can let him self-wean," and begging "please please please sleep three hours in a row, let tonight be the night" and weeping into my coffee "can't ... function ... must ... night wean ... NOW!" But obviously I'm all bark and no bite because I haven't changed our situation at all :/

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