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Thread: Night weaning my very sensitive 3 year old

  1. #1
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    Default Night weaning my very sensitive 3 year old

    Hi mommas. When I look for help on this topic I see many posts from moms of 16 month olds and 20 month olds....but my son is now 37 months. And still waking at least 3 times a night to nurse.

    Our son sleeps in our room, half the night in his toddler bed, the other half in our beds. I lie down with him when he goes to sleep and then leave the room after he is asleep.

    We tried slowly limiting about 5 months ago and I still have PTSD. We started by nursing before bed in the living room, then going to sleep without nursing. He didn't like it but not the worst. Then I would nurse him when he woke up the first time and bring him into our bed--but refused for subsequent wakings. He became hysterical and hit and kicked me, begged me and was not bright and cheery in the morning. He told his babysitter he was frustrated. He had aggressive temper tantrums--things he had never done before.

    He gradually DID start sleeping a little more. But then he got sick and it all went to pot. Now I feel like I am back at square one.

    We read "Nursies when the sun shines," we talk about how he is getting bigger every day and gets more nutrition from food (he's a great eater,) we are very close--the first two years of his life I went back to work and he had a babysitter at home--part of the reason I co-slept is to get back some of the closeness I missed during the day. I have now been home with him for 7 months. If I go out at night he begrudgingly will go to sleep with his daddy--and on the rare occasion his daddy and I go out together he will go to sleep with a beloved babysitter. He is very verbal and understands--he just doesn't want to make this change.

    Oh, and he will now only nap when with me, latched on through the whole nap. Also starting to get to be a lot--but I can handle that better. The night waking means we are ALL tired. He doesn't just roll over and nurse half asleep. He wakes up, yells "MILKY-MILK! MOMMA, I NEED YOU!"

    Will he eventually grow out of needing milk all night? Is there anything we can do to make this less upsetting for all of us?

    Thank you for reading this diatribe....

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Night weaning my very sensitive 3 year old

    Hi ggmomma.

    Aside from the extreme upset when he wakes up, is there any particular reason you want to no longer nurse over night, or stop nursing to sleep or stop nursing in the am at this point? I ask because sometimes moms are trying to get their children to not nurse at night or not nurse to sleep or no longer bedshare etc. not because that pattern is not overall working for them, but because there is some pressure on them to do so.

    Oh, and he will now only nap when with me, latched on through the whole nap. Also starting to get to be a lot--but I can handle that better.
    Could it be he is outgrowing the need to nap, not to the point he need never nap, but maybe no longer needing to nap every day?

    The night waking means we are ALL tired. He doesn't just roll over and nurse half asleep. He wakes up, yells "MILKY-MILK! MOMMA, I NEED YOU!"
    I have a few thoughts on this. One is that many weaned or indeed, never breastfed three year olds become frightened when they wake at night and cry or scream for help. In other words I am not sure nursing has anything to do with this.

    The other thought is I wonder is did this start happening after you started being more proactive about weaning, or after some upsetting experience, or does it seem to be more of a developmental thing?

    The other thought is, is there something in your son's sleep environment that is frightening to him, or possibly waking him more fully than normal? Sometimes some detective work needs to be done. While my oldest two children slept best in a very dark room, my younger daughter is awakened and upset by true darkness, so she sleeps with a light on during the part of the night she sleeps alone. When we sleep together, it is pretty dark (I need it dark) and even though we were together there was a time she woke and would want a light on. I have a small reading light on my night table I could easily put on temporarily when this happened.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Night weaning my very sensitive 3 year old

    Thanks so much. No pressure to stop nursing, but my son seems chronically tired. On the rare night where he sleeps enough he is markedly cheerier. And also, I'm exhausted. We occasionally do skip naps. Most days he is so obviously ready for a nap we can't skip. He only sleeps about 10 hours at night. I realize night weaning may not help his sleep. But maybe it will? And it will certainly help mine....

    He is definitely afraid at night. Our room isn't pitch black. Mostly he's just a sensitive child. He hates to be alone.

    I guess I keep thinking he'll eventually sleep better. But I'm also ready to slowly wind down the nursing. I don't want to quit immediately or completely but I really want to end the 330, 430 and 530 am wake ups for all of us.....

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Night weaning my very sensitive 3 year old

    10 hours sleep is within the normal range for a child this age. I mean it may not be enough for your individual child, I get it. But it is not terribly low speaking generally.

    I agree it is possible night weaning might help your child sleep with less complete waking. It certainly is possible. But in your case it sounds like you did try it and it did not help. Of course, if you try again when he is a little older things may well be different. Kids develop so rapidly.

    I have found it pretty normal for 3 year olds to not like being alone, night or day, even those with less sensitive personalities.

    In my experience, even when children nurse a lot at night at this age, even when night weaning is not encouraged, they certainly do eventually sleep longer stretches and eventually wean entirely. In the department of night nursing and sleep, there seems to be a world of difference between an early 3 year old and a late three or early 4 year old. For example with my own kids, (who all have very different personalities)- My oldest and by far most "sensitive" child was an all night nurser when he turned 3, but we were able to transition him with only a little difficulty to his own bed and room shortly after he turned 3 and a half. Middle child at about 3 and a half decided one day he wanted to sleep with his brother instead and that was that. My youngest transitioned with no problem at all to a bed in our room around the time she turned 4.

    Here are some different suggestions. They are not necessarily compatible with each other, (at least, cannot all be done at the same time.)
    - meet the need- Your child has had a strong reaction to you encouraging weaning. So maybe he is just not ready. This does not mean you cannot wean or night wean, it just means that if you do it now, it is probably going to be much harder than if you wait a bit. So my suggestion is that for now, let you child sleep with you all or part of the night (whatever works best for you) and nurse as much as he likes, while finding other ways to increase your own overall sleep. In my personal experience, this strategy required me to change my point of view about the normalcy of my child's needs as far as sleep and nursing- basically I got better sleep when I relaxed and accepted that this was the way it was going to be for a while. I was tired, for sure, I also had a young baby at the time. But I used other strategies for increasing my sleep so I could handle my older child's might wakings for a few more months.
    - try having child in their own bed but in your room
    -Make child's room and/or own bed a fun, safe place. No need for massive overhaul. A Thomas the Train pillowcase was all it took to make his bed more inviting for my oldest.
    -I had success with transitioning oldest to own bed for naps first, presumable because daytime was less scary.
    -Sounds? After some trial and error with trying soft music, we found that an inexpensive sound machine set on "rain" worked wonders for helping the kids sleep longer. A fan in the room can provide a similar, soothing "white noise."
    -Too much light? Again after trial and error with nightlights we found that too much light could be problematic for sleep. So even if we started the night with a nightlight, I would turn it off before I went to bed.

    When looking for info on normal sleep times, I found this article. It is not written from a breastfeeding or bed sharing perspective at all, (although it does not ignorantly condemn bedsharing thank goodness) but in other words it is fairly mainstream in that it presents child in own bed as the norm when in fact it is not the norm around the world. Yet I think it has some reassuring facts about the normalcy of night waking for this age, plus some ideas you may find helpful. http://www.cyh.com/HealthTopics/Heal...np=122&id=1899
    Last edited by @llli*maddieb; April 1st, 2017 at 01:26 PM.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Night weaning my very sensitive 3 year old

    Thanks maddieb. I so appreciate the thoughts. I am ready for us all to sleep better at night. I realize 10 hours sleep isn't the worst but he fully wakes up to nurse which is disruptive to him, and us. For the last 3 years I've gone to bed when he does many nights to catch up on sleep but it's burning me out. I need some time with my husband--and alone--once he's asleep. I'm not looking to get him out of our bed, he needs the company and nighttime support. I recognize we all wake up multiple times at night. I want to help him to learn that he can go back to sleep without nursing.

    I guess what I am also looking for are some suggestions of ways to gently wean an older child. I've heard to drop one feeding at a time. I'm not looking for this to happen overnight, rather over the next few months. This weekend we took walks around nap time and I put him in a stroller so he slept without nursing. This won't work daily but maybe it's a start. I don't want him to simply drop the nap so I don't want to push that one. Putting him to sleep at night without nursing to sleep (nursing in the living room with lights on, then one quick nurse in the bedroom) seems to somehow help him go back to sleep easier when he wakes up at night. Not sure why. But we've worked on that over the weekend.

    It's inspiring that your children all weaned on their own after 3. I've read that most children who are still nursing at 3 will not self-wean. Maybe that's not correct. Any other tips to help the child with regards to weaning?

    Thanks again for the thoughts.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Night weaning my very sensitive 3 year old

    There are two good books on the weaning process I would recommend. Either is fine. They are How Weaning Happens and The Nursing Mother's Guide to Weaning.

    Dropping one nursing session at a time sounds so simple- but as many moms have found, it isn't. It is not even always the best way to "do it." It helps to have several strategies to encourage weaning gently and these books both provide those suggestions.

    I've read that most children who are still nursing at 3 will not self-wean. Maybe that's not correct.
    Well no, that is not correct- at least not the way this is probably meant. In fact it is absurd! I would love to know who came up with that one. I have never met a mom who did not find that weaning went more smoothly the older her child was. Yes the challenges of encouraging weaning a 3 or 4 year old are different than when weaning a pre-verbal child, just as the challenges of weaning a tiny baby are different than those in weaning a toddler. But biologically weaning obviously will become easier for the child the older they are, because they are continuously growing and developing and will eventually outgrow the need and the desire to nurse, whether the eventual weaning is more mom led or child led. (Usually it is a combination I believe.)

    But just to be clear, what I was describing above is when nightweaning more or less happened, not complete weaning. For complete weaning, it was a mix of child led and momma led for one, child led for the other, and youngest still nurses at bedtime and morning, but she got to that point on her own.

    Of course in reality weaning - at least weaning past age one or two- is probably only very rarely entirely "child led." Most moms start imposing some limits of some kind during the toddler years if not earlier, even if we do it unconsciously. Any limits on nursing set by mom is encouraging eventual weaning. I am not sure there is a definition of child led vs. mom led that is adequate to explain the complexities of how moms and children might interact when it comes to nursing and weaning.
    Last edited by @llli*maddieb; April 3rd, 2017 at 12:19 PM. Reason: Added clarification

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Night weaning my very sensitive 3 year old

    Just ordered "How Weaning Happens," Thanks for the recommendation! I appreciate your thoughts.

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