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Thread: night weaning backfired

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
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    Default night weaning backfired

    I posted about our sleep troubles a little while ago on the sleep board but after more reflection I have reframed the whole situation in my head and I think it has to do with our night weaning so I wanted to repost here!

    My daughter just turned 2. A couple of months ago I gently "night weaned" her, i.e. I ended the 3 am nursing session. It went very smoothly and now she still wakes at 2:30 or 3 and gets into bed with us but goes right back to sleep. Coincident with that, however, she started waking to nurse at 5 am or, often, earlier. At first I was so happy she had virtually slept through until then that I have been nursing her wen she wakes very early in the morning.

    The problem is that she wants to nurse from 4:30 or 5 until about 6:30 and then will often fall back asleep until 8, which doesn't work for us because my husband gets up and leaves the house at 6 and I need to be up with her by 6:30 or 7 to get us out the door to my job and daycare. So in practice the result is that we're both awake for the day before 5 am--not enough sleep for either of us but particularly her. Her bedtime has been 8 pm, but since the night weaning that has also shifted back to closer to 8:30 or 9. So she's getting roughly 8 hours of sleep at night and a 1.5-2 hour nap at daycare and she's clearly not well rested.

    We've tried endlessly to get back to an earlier bedtime and she's just not going for it.

    I have tried refusing to nurse her when she wakes at 5 am but she is not letting go of this one. When we dropped the 3 am nursing she accepted my explanation that my breasts were tired and it was time to sleep. But she's not having it and every morning this week has resulted in crying for about an hour from 5-6 am (with me there comforting her but not nursing) at which point I give in, which I know is sending a terrible message to her.

    I'm not sure what to do next. Ideas? Thanks

  2. #2

    Default Re: night weaning backfired

    This is what I call a scheduling problem, not a sleep or breastfeeding problem. A two year old will sleep when they need to sleep, unless prevented from doing so. So their sleep schedule is normally going to be somewhat erratic or at least, not convenient or one that is not necessarily going to align with a parent's work schedule or a day care schedule.

    Can the day care allow her another nap time or longer nap time (or both?)
    for earlier bedtime I would suggest letting her nurse to sleep or nurse at bedtime as she prefers (I cannot tell if you have stopped doing that?)
    Starting bedtime activities that are soothing and quiet and non-stimulating as early as possible

    If you cannot get her to sleep earlier, is there time for a catnap in the evening when you are finished work? my toddler's typical bedtime is about 8 or 8:30 and on days she gets only a short or really early nap she takes a cat nap before dinner.
    I don't think refusing the morning nursing session is the answer. In my experience, this is the most important nursing session and last to 'go' in the majority of children. I don't think meeting your child's needs is sending a terrible message.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: night weaning backfired

    Thanks for your reply. It's totally fair to frame this as a scheduling problem, but I have to make a living and it's just not an option for her to get part of her night's sleep at the time when we have to be leaving the house for the day. From about 4:30 onward despite being still exhausted she won't stay in bed unless I am there nursing her, so I can't even myself get up and get ready to leave and take her out of bed at the last minute before we have to head out.

    When this first began, daycare reported to me that she was taking an extra long afternoon nap of 3+ hours. I asked them to please shorten it to no more than 2 hours in the hopes that she would sleep longer at night. When it didn't help her to sleep longer at night, I went back and said, nevermind, she just needs as much sleep as possible, just let her sleep as long as she will, but they have found that now she's waking up after 1.5 to 2 hours on her own. They are totally happy to try to get her to take an extra nap during the day if she seems tired, but she is so busy and so attached to the routine at daycare, I don't think that getting her to settle down for a nap outside of the normal napping time is a realistic scenario. Even on weekends when we can vary the routine as much as we like, she is pretty attached to the routine of a single nap after lunch.

    I always nurse her to sleep at night. We have dinner at 5:30, bath around 6 and are reading in a quiet, softly lit room by 6:30...and then we are reading, and reading and singing and nursing and cuddling and reading some more and sleep might happen by 8:30 if we're lucky.

    I have no intention of refusing a morning nursing session upon waking for the day, sorry if that was unclear. I just want the "wakeup time" to be AFTER she's finished sleeping for the night--closer to 6:30. At 4:45 am she's definitely not gotten all the rest she needs and it's still very much the middle of the night for all of us. If she were nursing for 20 minutes and then falling back to sleep at that hour, that would be one thing, but this nursing session often goes on for 2 hours and begins long before dawn. Short of letting her sleep until 8 or 9 every morning, which I can't do, it's this before 5 am nursing session and/or the late bedtime that is interfering with a full night's rest for her. My daughter is 2 years old. What she NEEDS at that hour is sleep and I'm trying to meet that need. I am sorry but I don't agree that placing some limits on a hours long nursing session that starts before 5 am should be construed as not meeting the needs of a two year old!

  4. #4
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    Default Re: night weaning backfired

    If her morning waking time was tenable when she nursed at 2am, and she was getting enough total sleep then, I'd just revert to that schedule and try again in a few months.

    Also, if she's like my 2.5yo son, she might need heavy exercise a few hours before bed, like an hour of running and climbing on a playground. Then follow up with dinner and settling. Some children have high energy expenditure needs, and the 3 hours of recommended light to moderate activity by the pediatric societies just doesn't cut it for them.
    Last edited by @llli*alphawoman; May 29th, 2014 at 01:36 PM.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: night weaning backfired

    I have no idea whether this will work for you or not, but lately my two-year old has had more early morning awakenings (maybe because of it getting light earlier?). So I tell her she can nurse but it's still nighttime and she has to go back to sleep, which she does. Again, no idea whether this will work in your situation but doesn't hurt to try! If not, alphawoman's suggestion makes sense to me - maybe she is waking up thirsty or hungry at 4:30 or 5 (which also seems to be a factor with my LO, now that it's getting warmer, she seems to be really thirsty by the time she wakes up) - and if she's nursed at 2:30 or 3 that need will be satisfied, and maybe she won't wake up at 4:30? Whereas otherwise by 4:30 she's waking up thirsty and by that time she's had enough sleep so that once she wakes up thirsty or hungry, she's ready to be up for a couple hours? Alternatively, what about having dad take care of her in the early morning? I'm guessing if he's left for work by 6 he must be up pretty early anyway? For example, maybe you could nurse her and then go sleep somewhere else until you need to get up, and if she's still awake, she hangs out with daddy while he's getting ready for work?

  6. #6

    Default Re: night weaning backfired

    Well I think I offended you and I am truly sorry, it was not my intent. Of course it is fine to set limits as needed if it helps. I also will stop my daughter from nursing a long time in the mornings as needed because I have to get up and get my older two ready for school and take them to school. But that means we are up, sometimes much earlier than I would prefer, I don't expect to get any more sleep. That's it!

    IN my experience, Sleep gets much more regular as child ages so this is almost surely a temporary issue (although many kids do tend to wake up really early for years.)
    so I was trying to offer the only solution I personally know, which is that there IS no solution except to encourage early, regular bedtime and frequent/long naps which you are clearly already doing. And that is not going to stop the early wake time, it is just to make sure the child is getting enough sleep overall. My three kids at this~ age all woke up at 4:30-5 am, nursed for a long time, and either 1) fell back asleep or 2) did not fall back asleep (which in my situation was wayyyy worse) I think this is entirely normal. It sounds as if your child will not nap or fall asleep earlier even when given the opportunity, so my guess is she does not actually need more sleep or she would sleep more.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: night weaning backfired

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*bfwmomof3 View Post
    I have no idea whether this will work for you or not, but lately my two-year old has had more early morning awakenings (maybe because of it getting light earlier?). So I tell her she can nurse but it's still nighttime and she has to go back to sleep, which she does. Again, no idea whether this will work in your situation but doesn't hurt to try!
    This has been my general approach with my 18 month old on the mornings she has popped awake really early with the sunrise, and it has worked really well for us, as well. Though, even if she doesn't wake all the way up, I will say that the hours from about 5 am onward involve a pretty constant latch-a-thon for us in general! Was your daughter not sleeping at all while engaging in that morning nursing session?

    Some time around the 16 month mark, the morning nurse marathon got really, really, really important for my daughter, too. Prior to this point, it was sort of hit or miss if she wanted to even nurse when she woke up for the day. I also work outside of the home, and my daughter also prefers to keep a somewhat later sleeping/waking schedule like yours. If left to her own devices, my daughter nearly always would want to sleep from 8:30 pm or so until 7:30 am. Up until the last couple of months, it was generally pretty easy for me to get up and get going for the work day, because even if she did wake up when I had to get up (which happens about 75% of the time), she wasn't previously interested in laying around in bed and nursing for a while. But now? Now she really needs to do that, or she is a bear for quite some time! So I sort of have factored that in to my schedule as best as I can. I ask my husband to get as much as possible packed and ready for me to go for the day in the morning before he comes to wake me up. I take my showers at night before bed, I lay out all of my work clothing the night before, and basically I've just opted to do everything in my power to make it so that I need the bare minimum amount of out-of-bed time to get ready to get out the door in the morning. But, again, all of this is with a child who will sleep through her morning nursing marathon, so she is generally still well-rested even when I do have to get us going 30-40 minutes before she would "naturally" wake up.
    Apologies for the short responses! I'm usually responding one-handed on my smartphone!

  8. #8
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    Default Re: night weaning backfired

    Thank you all so much for all of the helpful thoughts and advice. Meg I was slightly offended at what I perceived as a suggestion on your part that I was not catering to her needs but on second thought I am sure that has a lot to do with my own hangups and I know you were trying to help. I know that nursing is a critical need for her but it's also clear to me that she's running on a significant sleep deficit and I am genuinely concerned about sleep as it relates to her health and wellbeing as well.

    Last night I decided that I would see what would happen if I nursed her the first time she woke up. Doing that hadn't occurred to me just because when we stopped the 3 am nursing it felt very natural--it seemed like she was ready for it and like it was a great development for both of us. It also hadn't occurred to me that she it was hunger or thirst that was driving this because when she wakes up for the day she often refuses anything to drink or eat for quite a while. But I thought it was worth a try based on the suggestions here. She woke a little later than usual last night, I think around 3:30 am. I nursed her and she fell back asleep after just a few minutes and then slept until almost 6! Then we nursed for half an hour but she was so well-rested for once that soon she was ready to get on with the day. That meant a good hour and a half more sleep for her last night and it was very apparent this morning in her demeanor. I think we'll keep trying to get bedtime a little earlier too but this is a great start.

    It's so helpful to hear your experiences and ideas!!

  9. #9
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    Default Re: night weaning backfired

    And no she doesn't sleep while nursing any more. She will kind of snooze a little but one of the things that has changed in our nursing relationship as she's gotten older has been that neither of us sleep while nursing any longer. She does nurse to sleep still but unlike when she was smaller and would stay latched in her sleep, now she actually unlatches herself and sometimes rolls over as she's drifting off.

  10. #10

    Default Re: night weaning backfired

    Glad last night (or this morning) was better for you and your daughter!

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