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Thread: Help -- 20-months-old and still sleeping on the breast

  1. #1

    Unhappy Help -- 20-months-old and still sleeping on the breast

    Hello lovely mums, hope you can give me some advice, as I really need to hear from your experience. My daughter is almost 21-months-old and has been exclusively breastfed all this time. My approach as a mum is the baby-led and attachment parenting -- I expected her to loose interest on breastfeeding when she turned 1, but no! And for a number of reasons, I have ended up letting her sleep on the breast and then I put her to bed, since she was small :-(

    From 9 weeks-old until she turned 1, she has slept through the night (8pm-5am), and suddenly, things changed. For the past 6 months she has been waking up every 3 hours (probably at the end of her sleeping cycles) and starting calling me, so before she starts to get too upset and cry, I give her the breast and put her back to sleep. I am feeling really knackered with my own sleep disruption and do not have energy during the day; I am feeling really frustrated and the worst is that breastfeeding has became more like a heavy burden than an enjoyment for me now. I really feel that for my health and in order to feel good to take care of her, it might be the time to stop. During the day she still asks for the breast... as she has been teething and with nasty colds in the last 3 months, I give her the breast when she asks, to alleviate her discomfort. I have been trying to be gentle to wean her but the time goes by and she does not show any interest that she will give up on the breast.
    ----- What can I do to gently wean her at this stage?
    ----- And have you got any ideas that I could do to help her sleeping through the night (again!)?

    Thanks so much in advance

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2006
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    24,794

    Default Re: Help -- 20-months-old and still sleeping on the breast

    Welcome to the forum!

    I'm not too surprised your baby didn't lose interest at a year of age. That would actually be quite early for self-weaning to occur. Babies do start losing interest as solids are introduced, but it's a long way from starting to lose interest to actually losing it. The process of giving up the breast tends to be verrrry gradual. Most babies won't self-wean until they are 2-3 years old, at least.

    It's absolutely fine to wean at this point, and it is possible to do so gently. You will need to replace nursing sessions with lots and lots of cuddles, snacks, and extra attention, and it's a good idea to keep your toddler out of the house and away from your customary nursing locations as usual. Distraction is your friend! If you can have a helper step in- like dad or grandma- you can shift some of the childcare to them. It's often good to have a helper take over times of day when the pressure to nurse is highest, like bedtime and in the middle of the night.

    Even the gentlest mother-initiated weaning will not be free of crying. So if your child cries when you are trying to avoid nursing, it's not because you're doing it wrong. Just bring on the extra attention, and communicate as clearly and gently as you can that nursing is not going to happen right now.

    All that being said, I think it's a very good idea to think about whether or not you actually want or need to wean. Weaning will not change your toddler's demanding nature. It just takes away a tool for dealing with it. You'll need to find a way to console her, distract her, get her to sleep, soothe her hurts, feed her when she is sick and won't eat or drink anything- all without nursing!

    If it were me, I would definitely focus on night-weaning. Sometimes getting a break makes it easier to go on during the day. Here are some things you can do to move that process forward:
    1. Communicate. Before bed, let your child know that nursing is over when the sun goes down, and will come back when the sun comes up. In the morning, reinforce the lesson ("You slept all night long without nursing! Now that the sun is up, let's nurse again!").
    2. Keep a bottle or sippy cup of water available for nighttime wake-ups. Night-waking toddlers are often genuinely thirsty.
    3. Make sure she eats a good dinner of solids before bed. A snack before bedtime may also help.
    4. Enlist your helpers. Maybe dad or grandma can handle the night wakings for a while.
    5. Wear restrictive clothing. Easy-access pajamas make it harder to divert your child from the breast.
    6. Be patient. Night-weaning isn't the same as getting your child to sleep through the night. You may be up even more than usual as night-weaning proceeds, and you may expect a lot of upset, crying, or even tantrums from your child who doesn't get why her favorite sleep aid is suddenly unavailable.
    7. Be consistent. If you decide to night-wean, just do it. Giving in one night but not the next can make the process take a lot longer.
    8. Try to get her into bed drowsy but still awake instead of nursing her all the way to sleep. Babies often form powerful sleep associations with the breast, so if you can separate nursing and sleep at the beginning of the night, the pattern may hold all night long. You might try something like nursing her, putting her in bed, and then having dad come in and tell her the world's longest, most boring story.

  3. #3

    Default Re: Help -- 20-months-old and still sleeping on the breast

    Dear 'mommal',

    Thank you very much for your support -- your words and advice have really helped me to reflect better on weaning her and brought motivation for me to take action on the night nursing weaning. I have been a big advocate of breastfeeding, but the all the time/night-nursing has been hitting me so hard physically lately that I was almost regretting the fact that I have been breastfeeding my daughter for so long.
    I will try to work on a plan to stop the nursing in the middle of the night and get my energy back, so I will be able to continue the day nursing until she is ready to stop. This way, we will be both happy!

    Thanks again -- It is great to be part of this forum!

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