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Thread: Teaching 2 1/2 yr old to fall asleep without nursing

  1. #1
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    Question Teaching 2 1/2 yr old to fall asleep without nursing

    Hello again! I wrote a while back for advice when my daughter wasn't eating much solid foods and the advice I got was very helpful, so I thought I'd come back to y'all for my most recent challenge. My daughter will be 2 1/2 in a month, and she only knows how to fall asleep by nursing (or driving in the car when she's exhausted). I'm not ready to wean, and neither is she, but I want to night wean her. I'm so worn out from interrupted sleep, I even went to the doctor to get tested for anemia or a thyroid issue, but I'm completely healthy - just tired! On good nights she'll wake up 2-3 times, on bad nights it can be 5+. We bedshare and plan to continue for the near future. I read Dr. Jay Gorden's suggestion on his website, and I think the slow process might confuse my daughter. I'm thinking that at her age she'd understand more reasoning rather than a progression? Anyone have an experience similar to this, or any words of wisdom? Thanks for reading!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Teaching 2 1/2 yr old to fall asleep without nursing

    I understand how tired you are. My DS sounds really similar: at that age, good nights were 2-3 wake-ups, bad nights were much, much worse. I night-weaned my DS when he was 26 months old, I think, because I was so tired all the time. We actually still nursed to sleep at the start of the night, but not if he woke up in the middle of the night. We talked about it for a couple days before, and I got him the book "Nursies when the Sun Shines" http://www.amazon.com/Nursies-When-S.../dp/0615756425. He really liked the book (still does!). We read it when it arrived, and apparently DS "decided" that he was ready for night-weaning. When DS woke up that night, he wouldn't nurse! He cried for a long time, and I even offered to nurse, but he just wouldn't. So, I figured I would just go with it and see what happened. We had ups and downs, but he overall, he did really well. I don't think a slow progression would have worked for us. DS understood the idea of only nursing when the sun is shining (or after the alarm goes off, or whatever), since he refused to nurse when the sun was not shining.

    DS is 33 months now. We just recently started working on nursing a lot less before going to sleep, because I'm 11 weeks pregnant and really sick, especially at night. DS gets to nurse for two verses of "Baa Baa Black Sheep", and then we snuggle and go to sleep. If you want to initially cut out the nursing to sleep, you might think about initially just changing when you nurse in the nighttime routine: nurse before stories, or rocking, or whatever you want to do to help her fall asleep, rather than nursing to sleep, and see how she does.

    Good luck, mama, and I hope you get more sleep soon!
    Mom to a spirited DS1, born 2/21/2011, and DS2, born 7/3/2014.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Teaching 2 1/2 yr old to fall asleep without nursing

    Thanks so much for the advice! I just looked up that book on amazon and I'm definitely going to order it, I didn't know a book like that existed! Perfect for our circumstance, and my daughter loves reading so I have a feeling that will help a lot. Thats amazing that your son just decided he wouldn't nurse at night anymore - I know I might not be as lucky but its encouraging to hear it worked for you. Thanks

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Teaching 2 1/2 yr old to fall asleep without nursing

    In my experience, the only way that has worked for us is "cold turkey." I finally just got tired of nursing all night (and, more to the point, changing all those wet diapers), and for the last week when my 20-mo has awaken in the night, I just go and lie down with him in his bed (because getting him out of our bed was our other goal), and stay with him until he goes back to sleep. Yes, he asks to nurse; and yes, he cries; but after doing this for several days it's getting easier for everyone. Sometimes, even DH takes a turn (which he could never do before because DS was expecting to nurse). I don't like CIO methods that encourage parents to leave young babies alone in the dark...but with a toddler, I will do it, as long as DH or I are with him so he knows he's not alone (he's just not getting what he wants).
    ~Sylvia~

    Wife to Nick, m. May 2005

    Mommy to Gabriel (b. January 2007, 8lbs. 15oz.), nursed 18 months.

    Isaac (b. August 2009, 9lbs. 1oz- naturally), nursed 22 months, through PPD/PPA and emergency gallbladder surgery.

    and Corban (b. March 2012, 11lbs. 6Oz.- naturally in the water), my NICU baby, still nursing strong at age 2!


    Daughter of God

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Teaching 2 1/2 yr old to fall asleep without nursing

    This may not work for you since my DS is in a crib, and I'm not sure how it would work with bed-sharing. But as DS has gotten older (turned 2 in October) nursing him to sleep takes a lot longer and doesn't "work" as well as it used to. This means sometimes I put him in the crib, sleepy but slightly awake, and he'll open his eyes for a minute and turn over and go to sleep. Sometimes he'll stand back up in the crib and I'll get him to lie back down and then stand there with my hand on his back until I'm sure he's fully asleep. He likes this a lot and will sometimes reach up to put my hand on his back himself. I think I started being able to put him down not fully asleep with the hand-on-back method when he was around 21 months. We still nurse to sleep sometimes, and usually nurse if he gets up in the middle of the night, but if nursing to sleep isn't working I have another trick in my arsenal. I'm not sure how you'd adapt this to a co-sleeping baby but maybe something to think about. Like you could nurse her until she's quite sleepy, maybe has her eyes closed, then lie next to her and pat her back or rub her back until she falls asleep. Or something.
    First-time mama to Joshua, 10/29/11. 29 months and going strong! for 14 months; now finished with pump weaning!

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Teaching 2 1/2 yr old to fall asleep without nursing

    Thanks for the advice ladies! I finally got the Nursies When the Sun Shines book, and am about to head home from our vacation, so then we'll start the process. I am so ready. Over vacation my sister was able to put DD to sleep by reading to her for a long time (DD was exhausted) which gives me hope that this is possible! I'll let y'all know how it goes.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Teaching 2 1/2 yr old to fall asleep without nursing

    If you can, I'd wait until a night when you don't have to get up early for anything the next day. It's probably going to be a rough night or couple of nights. Also, in the back of the "Nursies When the Sun Shines," there are tips for night-weaning. If you can, you might want to take a look at them. Good luck, and keep us updated for sure!
    Mom to a spirited DS1, born 2/21/2011, and DS2, born 7/3/2014.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Teaching 2 1/2 yr old to fall asleep without nursing

    THANK YOU for this post!! I am in the same boat. We co-sleep and she night nurses and I am practically a zombie! My daughter is 2 1/2 as well and I tell my husband all the time, I have no idea who I am going to stop the middle of the night nursing.. So I appreciate this.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Teaching 2 1/2 yr old to fall asleep without nursing

    Mrsames77 - I'm glad that I posted so that you can get advice too! Things are going fairly well for us and I hope that you get some much needed sleep soon, too!

    Update on our sleep training journey: We read the book a lot and I changed the ending to say that we only nurse on the sofa (to separate the bed from nursing time). We don't nurse in bed at all anymore. She really accepted that idea and didn't beg for "momma milk" or attack me trying to nurse as she had in previous attempts, she did ask to go out to the sofa though haha. We now do a bedtime routine of bath, lotion, PJs, breastfeed on the sofa, and then read books in bed til she falls asleep. Eventually I'd like to set a limit on the number of books (maybe 3 and then just snuggles), but we aren't there yet. The first few nights were rough - she woke up twice the first night and was up for over an hour each time. We read, cuddled, gave her snacks and a sippy cup and even let her watch a show on my phone. Anything other than nursing. She was unhappy for sure, but I was ok with her crying since I knew she was mad, not scared. Finally she was so exhausted she snuggled next to me and fell asleep. The second night she only woke once and took over an hour to fall back asleep, again we did anything and everything to help her fall back asleep without nursing, but ultimately she fell asleep cuddling. Since then she's woken usually once a night, and usually asks if its morning, I say not yet, and she snuggles back to sleep. The difficult times are when she wakes at 4:30-5:30am and won't go back to sleep. She's getting less sleep total now that she did before because of late bedtime and early wake up, so we have more work to do, but I'm hopeful. And the awesome thing is that I'm getting big chunks of sleep now! There's even been one night she slept ALL NIGHT LONG. It was amazing.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Teaching 2 1/2 yr old to fall asleep without nursing

    Thanks for sharing Yeah, it's tough at first, but it will get better. And she will start sleeping longer and better at night eventually, too-- going down sooner and/or sleeping in later. We haven't nursed DS to sleep at bedtime for a few months now, but he will sometimes still nurse to sleep at naptime and he seems to be okay with that-- not confusing the two. Maybe it's something that would work for your lo to take better naps during this transition period when she's not sleeping as well at night
    ~Sylvia~

    Wife to Nick, m. May 2005

    Mommy to Gabriel (b. January 2007, 8lbs. 15oz.), nursed 18 months.

    Isaac (b. August 2009, 9lbs. 1oz- naturally), nursed 22 months, through PPD/PPA and emergency gallbladder surgery.

    and Corban (b. March 2012, 11lbs. 6Oz.- naturally in the water), my NICU baby, still nursing strong at age 2!


    Daughter of God

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