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Thread: Nursing a preschooler and about to lose my mind

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
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    44

    Default Nursing a preschooler and about to lose my mind

    Hello, I am nursing a preschooler, 4yrs old. We co-sleep out of necessity, due to lack of bedroom space for the time being. (Hopefully this will change in the next month or so.) Anyways, he STILL nurses in the middle of the night! The other night he woke several times. We've been co-sleeping since he was a baby, so I have not had a consecutive 8 hours of sleep in the last 5 years, counting the pregnancy. I feel like I'm about to lose my mind! Is this normal to still wake to nurse at this age? I'm a single parent and for all intents and purposes I'm really his only reliable parent and so I have tended to indulge him, as if to make up for the fact that he doesn't have a dad to speak of. Usually I'm able to deal with the night nursing just fine as I'm sort of used to it, but the other night was maddening. If it's still within the normal range, I'll ride it out, but if this is no longer normal, what do I do? Hopefully we will be moving and he will have his own room soon, but then a move brings about issues as he doesn't like change. So even if he does have his own room, I'll probably still have him sleeping with me for a bit until he gets used to the new house.

    Does anyone have any experience with this? Is this normal?

    Thank you for reading and any feedback.
    D 1995
    C 1996
    A 1998
    B 2012

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
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    10,754

    Default Re: Nursing a preschooler and about to lose my mind

    It's normal. I also would not call sleeping with your child or nursing overnight or any other time "indulging." To me one "indulges" in things that are not entirely healthy, and there is nothing unhealthy about nursing or bedsharing. Oddly we live in a world where giving children too much of things that have been proven to be unhealthy- a great deal of screen time, too much junk food, etc... is generally accepted, but nursing a child and giving them parental closeness and comfort day and night is not.

    Of course if YOU are wanting to set limits in this area, that is fine. After all nursing may be entirely healthy but it does require a partnership, and the wishes of both members of that partnership can be respected, and sometimes that means setting limits.

    As another alternative- Any way to try giving him his own bed or sleeping spot in the same room? It is possible that if he sleeps on a separate surface he will not wake as much.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
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    204

    Default Re: Nursing a preschooler and about to lose my mind

    This is not advice, just my story and commiseration My daughter would definitely have kept nursing at night at 4 if I hadn't limited it before that, I'm sure. I was a bit like you in that some of the time it didn't really bother me, so I didn't really make an effort to change things. But sometimes I'd work myself into a frenzy thinking about how unfair it was that I STILL got woken up at night and hadn't had a full nights sleep in xx years etc. Or when she'd wake up early (to nurse!!! Noooo! Go back to sleep!!!!! Stop waking me up!!!! [yes, I really said those things]). I eventually used Jay Gordon's method - I think she was 3 at the time (???). I had tried subtler ideas like a storybook about how the sun goes to sleep and mummy goes to sleep etc, she loved the story but really, she was not interested at all in putting it into practice

    Basically to keep my sanity I put my foot down and said no more nursing at night. She continued to sleep with me, I've never tried putting her in her own bed as she states very clearly that she wants to sleep with me.

    Now, my daughter is now 5.5, and I have kind of a vague and hazy memory about the past, but I'm trying to remember how 4-year olds see things....At the moment she is ok with the idea that some things we do sometimes and not other times. So I'm kind of wondering if you can say to your son, before bed, "tonight I am really tired so I need to sleep the whole night and we can't nurse tonight". Of course he will still wake up, and maybe this is a totally crazy idea because you'll both be half asleep, but I was just thinking that he might be at an age where he can understand your needs and some inconsistencies about how you're feeling at different times? Sometimes my daughter can be quite reasonable about that sort of thing (probably much more now than she was a year ago though). I think I even explained to her that nursing during my period really bothers me [that might be your problem too?], so we made those sessions really short and I think she was reasonable about that. Maybe you can insist on limiting night nursing to weekends????

    I've been the one pulling toward less nursing for a long time now, like first teaching her to fall asleep without nursing (4 stories but no nursing; this involved some crying), then I'd basically just put it off "we'll nurse on Saturday". She nursed until past 5 and I guess she is weaned now as she hasn't nursed for a few months; for me the only way to keep going this long was to set limits. When I gritted my teeth and tolerated too much, I ended up dreading nursing, and feeling very resentful and angry, which was not a resourceful state for parenting. I preferred to limit nursing to a frequency that I was still enjoying. The idea of not nursing any more at all was really frightening to her at 4 (and wasn't really what I wanted either at that point), but it has been so gradual that she really has just grown out of needing it. I also feel like nursing is still there if I truly need it - there's no milk, but I have used nursing to comfort and connect a few months back when we were both very angry with each other and could not communicate our love in any other way.
    Last edited by @llli*pteroglossus; May 9th, 2017 at 09:35 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
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    44

    Default Re: Nursing a preschooler and about to lose my mind

    Thank you so much for the replies. If it's normal, then I will continue to meet his needs and ride this wave out. I just was wondering if it was normal?? Thank you for sharing your story. I may try to set limits after we move, after he's had some time to adjust. I think just him having his own room will be a huge help. Hopefully I can move him into his own bed after we've settled in the new house and that will naturally decrease the night nursing...or at least that's my hope. I was just really at my wits end the other night, but last night was better. It's just most 4yr olds are no longer nursing, so it's hard to know what's normal. I didn't nurse the older kiddos this long, so this is new territory for me.
    Thanks again!
    D 1995
    C 1996
    A 1998
    B 2012

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
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    10,754

    Default Re: Nursing a preschooler and about to lose my mind

    All my children nursed past their 4th birthday. Oldest I encouraged to wean shortly after his 5th birthday because I was tired of tandem nursing. Middle stopped on his own at 4.5, and my daughter turns 5 this summer and she still nurses- but mostly only at bedtime, overnight, and wake up. So in our house, still nursing at this age is the norm. Oldest two are 13 and (almost) 11 now. Are my kids normal? Hmmmm.....depends on when you ask me. Seriously they are great kids with the normal ups and downs of any kid. I have never had reason to be worried that nursing as long as they did was in any way not normal or a cause of any problems.

    The most complete study in this area that I am aware of looked at "natural" weaning ages for different human communities (both present day and historically) and also looked at natural weaning ages compared to gestational age in humans and other mammals. (One thing we know is that because humans are bi-pedal (so, narrow-hipped) and the human brain so large, human infants are born "younger"- less developed- than most other mammals,- so theoretically, a longer nursing relationship compared to gestational age is natural. The researcher concluded that a natural age for weaning was between 2 and 7 years.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
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    44

    Default Re: Nursing a preschooler and about to lose my mind

    It's challenging sometimes because the older kiddos give me a hard time about still nursing Ben. They think he's getting too old. The rest of my family would probably have a stroke if they knew we were still nursing. So not a lot of support or people cheering us on. So in my world, this is all new. I just have to ignore everyone and meet Ben where he is.
    D 1995
    C 1996
    A 1998
    B 2012

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