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Weaning from Night Feedings

The Parents Network > Advice > Advice about Breastfeeding > Weaning > Weaning from Night Feedings



Weaning 9-month-old from night feedings

May 2004

Help! My 9 month old son continues to nurse at night every 2 hours. I have tried to comfort him in a variety of ways, including his pacifier. I have even tried to let him ''cry it out'', but after an hour of non-stop crying, I let him nurse. When he nurses during the day, he just nibbles and then has to look around (very curious and active child). At night he just nurses very strongly for quite a long time. He sleeps in a crib in my room. We've also tried having my husband comfort him, but to no avail...he wants to nurse. He does eat 3 meals a day. I am wanting to continue breastfeeding for at l year, but I really need some sleep! very tired Mom


Hi, I'd suggest feeding him more than 3 times a day...smaller meals. It's a transition from breastfeeding to solids...but now i feed my baby all day long. Little snacks of fruit, pasta, sweet potatoes etc. Especially when you are getting into the evening hours, make sure they eat eat eat!

Then, at nite, just stick to it and sleep in another room and DON't give in. With our baby she was so sleepy she went back to sleep and got used to her daddy comforting her. It's torture for all of us... she'd get out of bed and pound on the door yelling ''mommy!'' so i didn't get much sleep - but daddy and i agreed that i couldn't come back into the room until she was sound asleep. babies will wait it out if they have to so giving in just tells them to cry longer next time till you come. Our baby was clearly used to mommy comforting her - but after only one nite, she went to daddy for comfort too - it was great! They will figure it out together. Good luck it's worth it!


I night weaned my daughter at about 10 months of age. Although she went from nursing every 2 hours to waking up about 4 to 5 hours later, it still was worth it for my sanity and need for sleep. She would wake up as usual, wanting to be nursed, and I would tell her ''no more nursing at sleepytime'' and I would hold her and rock her while she cried. I was persistent on this and eventually, it took about a week of crying before she understood that at night time, there was no more breastfeeding and soon did not expect it anymore. Since there was no more breastfeeding, she managed to sleep a bit better at night. Be firm on this and do whatever you have to do to calm him down and get him to sleep. It's the hardest during the first 3 days but it'll get easier. sleeping better
Hi. I have a 7 month old that we have recently cut back on the nighttime feeds so I thought I'd share my experience: I was getting absolutely psychotic from sleep deprivation (I get really depressed when I am exhausted) and so we had to do something with my breastfed baby. We never really got the hang of nightnursing, although we tried, so I was getting up and sitting up and feeding her every time. At first she was in bed with us but none of us were sleeping very well after 4 or 5 months and since nightnursing wasn't working anyway, we moved her to her crib in our room.

I was sure I didn't want her in her own room -- too far, didn't want to get up and go into another room, was afraid I wouldn't hear her, etc. Then she started waking more often at night and I heard everything... and I just couldn't take it anymore so my husband finally convinced me we should put her crib in her room. We all slept better... I didn't hear every little movement and think she needed to eat but I did hear her when she was really up, but long before she was hysterical.

NExt we decided we needed to cut out some of the feedings -- they were inconsistent and sometimes she almost just fell asleep in my arms before I nursed her, leading me to believe she didn't need to eat every time whe was up. My husband went in for a few nights in a row and put her back to sleep. At the same time, I made sure she was breastfeeding more during the day -- I fed her in a quiet place, no distractions and I fed her regularly every few hours, drank plenty of fluids and mother's milk tea. It didn't take more than a week and now we all sleep better and I am a better mommy because I do not resent the complete lack of sleep (still tired and pine for 5 or 6 hours in a row, though!).

I'm sure this will be a bit more of a challenge with a busy 9 month old, but I hope this helps. Good luck. kristin


We weaned our first baby from nighttime feedings when she was 9 months. We used Ferber's method, which does not involve letting the baby cry it out or making her quit cold turkey. This plan is based on his idea of gradually lengthening the time between feedings and at the same time gradually reducing the amount (either in ounces for bottle fed or minutes nursing). His plan was a little bit complicated and if I had to do it again here is how I would modify it:

The first night just get a baseline: how soon after you put her down does the baby wake to nurse? How many minutes does she nurse (or how much does she take from the bottle)? Let's say that the answer is 2 hours later she wakes and nurses for 10 min.

The second night, increase the interval by 1/2 hour and decrease the nursing by one minute. So if you put her down at 10 and she wakes at midnight, don't nurse until 12:30. You don't have to leave her to cry alone for that half hour but should pick her up, comfort her, give her pacifier, whatever might soothe your baby. (If nursing, it really helps if Daddy does this, and only gives the baby to mom when it is time to nurse.) Then at 12:30 nurse her, but only for 9 min. Hopefully she will go back to sleep, but if not do whatever you can besides nursing to get her back. (Here is where Ferber recommends keeping up the same interval stuff all night, but I found that really difficult to keep track of and instead I would just feed on demand after 1:30 or so.) The 3rd night, increase by another 1/2 hour and decrease by another minute. So assuming same bedtime of 10, hold off nursing til 1 (we called it ''stretching'' as in ''we need to stretch her til 1''), only nurse for 8 minutes. You can see where this is going: After a week your baby will be sleeping til 4 am and only nursing for a minute. At that point it should be relatively easy to go ''cold turkey''. You can also keep the nursing at 3 minutes or so and then just keep increasing the time to 6am or 7 or whatever works for you. The main point is that gradually increasing the time between feedings and gradually decreasing the amount will be easier than going cold turkey.

(BTW, Ferber himself recommends that you wean the baby from nursing before you do the ''sleep training'' that involves letting the baby cry for progressively longer intervals. I think he gets a bad rap, but he saw himself as more humane than the advocates of simply letting the baby cry. I think it is worth it to read his book ''Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems'' for yourself.) good luck! Hope this helps!


Night weaning: single mom of co-sleeping 2-y-o

Feb 2004

I am looking for night weaning advice from a very specific population: single moms who have co-slept and night nursed into toddlerhood.

I am a single mom who continues to co-sleep and night nurse with my now 2 year-old daughter. She has consistently woken up multiple times in the night for the last two years, and at times (many, unfortunately) we have fallen asleep with her still attached, only to wake to the same, which means she is sometimes attached to my breast for hours at a time. I just can't stay awake in the middle of the night long enough to get her off of me every time.

So . . . I am REALLY ready for this to stop and am looking for advice from women who have been in my shoes. I don't have a partner to help and most of the posting that are archived and other advice I've heard/read involve another parent as an integral part of the whole process.

I'm not into the ''cry it out'' thing, though I do know that she is going to have to deal with some amount of unhappiness during this process.

I would welcome any advice you may have. Thanks. Carrie


must start by saying I'm not a single mom, but I did most of the night weaning on my own. The one thing that worked the best was to tell my daughter (after her bedtime nursing) that she couldn't have anymore milk until the sun shined through our window the next morning. She was at an age that she was able to understand this concept and actually did really good. After a few nights of having to hold her and explain the new rule, she started to wake up and see the sun and ask if it was time to nurse yet !!! If I remember correctly, I did have a weaning off period where I told her she could only have milk one time during the night before the sun came up and at the beginning of that one wake up, I would reinforce the new rule to remind her. I know how you feel !!!
I successfully night-weaned my nursing daughter when she was 20 months old. I am married, but my husband DID NOT help me in any way during the night- weaning process, so I may as well have been single in that regard!

I had also been nursing all night long, falling asleep while she nursed only to wake up to find her still attached or still in my arms, just like you. I finally decided I needed to teach her to sleep since she was clearly old enough not to need the nourishment!

Here is what I did: Each night, when she wanted to nurse, I actually got up and rocked her in my arms, sang to her, etc. and told her that she had to wait until morning (which I defined as about 5:30 AM, by the way). She cried, of course, but since I was holding her I donUt think it was too traumatic (or at least not as traumatic as if I left her all alone). If she was truly hysterical, I just nursed her, but tried to stay awake so that I only nursed for 1-2 minutes, then removed her from the breast. Because I wasnUt super hard core about it, this took a few weeks, and I was definitely more tired, but after two weeks (or so) she stopped expecting to nurse, except for the morning.

It may not take as long for you. I think the key was to be relatively consistent, and also to comfort her in non-nursing ways while she adjusted to the new regimen. Christine


It is tough, this stage. I had to try three different times to night-wean my toddler. The first time, he cried for an hour straight, then threw up. (sigh)

But on the third try, it stuck. I have had to remind him that we don't have ''schnoof'' at night, but it's a LOT easier now.

One thing to do is to switch to pajamas or nightgowns *without* 'easy access', as in no buttons or zippers in front. If you wear pajamas, tuck the shirt in securely before you go to bed. That way, you'll be woken up by the tugging before she latches on.

You might also find a copy of Kathleen Huggins' ''Nursing Mother's Guide to Weaning.'' Good luck. It's worth it--we both sleep so much better now! Jennie, another single mom, wearpurple@mac.com


Been there - done that - and boy was it hard! I am the single mother (''by choice'') of a now four and a half year old boy. We still share a bed. I weaned him at night when he was just over two years old and weaned him fully when he was nearly three. I do recommend the book Nursing Mother's Guide to Weaning, or something like that. Not perfect, but it's got some good ideas. I geuss the most important factor for me in both cases - night weaning and day weaning - was my own resolve. I was ready, and I was ready to deal with my son's grieving about it. I do not believe in just ''letting my son cry it out'' either - but I did know that my son LOVED his night nursies, and that he was going to fight and be angry and grieve the loss of them. I talked to him about it first - he was just fully verbal at the time - but I don't think he really understood what was going to happen until it really happened. And then, quite frankly, we had a few nights of hell. I resolved to be there and comfort my son, to hold him even though I wouldn't nurse him, but he was so angry at me that he wouldn't let me touch him. I offered him a sippy cup with warm milk, (or maybe it was even a bottle), which he eventually did take. I made myself as available as possible, but he cried and raged a lot. I probably cried too. I did it over a long weekend so that we both could deal with the lost sleep. Thank goodness, the worst of the raging only lasted a few nights.

Quite frankly, if you are not prepared to deal with the grieving and raging, then you are going to have to wait until your daughter is ready to stop nursing - and that could be next month, next year, or when, as was true with one of my hold-out friends, she is six.

Seek support from other moms who have been there or done that. Feel free to e-mail for more support, about this, or just about going it alone. It's a hard but wonderful journey. Nanu


Weaning 18-month old from night feedings

Dec 1999

I'm so tired- please help me!!! My son is a year and a half old. He is sleeping in our bed, and still wakes to nurse two to three times a night. My husband and I would like to try to ween him at night, and we can start over the Christmas break (more time for us to catch up on the sleep loss that this will entail!). Any suggestions from experienced family-bed parents? We have tried me sleeping in another room for the first half of the night. He sleep 8 hrs after one month of this- then never again. Then we abandon that method- this was about 6 months ago. He is not weened, but does drink cows milk at daycare (which he attends full time). THANKS!


I recommend pulling a twin size bed up next to yours or getting one of those made to order beds that attaches next to your bed. It really worked for me and my son; he would roll over to nurse at night and I would roll him back to "his" bed (right next to me) when he was done. This method helped me have more "space" and moved him a bit more into his own space gently. Weaning can be best done by a child led process, check La Leche League meetings and book! They are an excellent resource and are in the phone book.
I finally weaned my son from those middle of the night feedings when he was 1 1/2 years, wish I'd done it sooner. I just ignored him, pretended I wasn't awake and he couldn't seem to wake me. He wailed and pulled some of my hair out, but eventually got used to not waking up at night to feed before I was actually bald. I think it was so hard because from time to time I found myself feeding him in the middle of the night, without really having woken up enough to notice what I was doing. This is probably not the best solution, but it worked for me.
I don't have a solution, but I wanted to let you know that you are not alone. My son is 15 months, still in our bed (which we still love) and still nursing twice a night (which I do not love). About 3 months ago we tried this: I slept downstairs until about 3am. My husband slept with our son (upstairs), and took care of him the first time he woke up. He would rock, walk, sing to the baby. Our son cried a lot the first night, a little the second night, etc, but he would still wake up. After my husband got the baby back to sleep, he would get me, and I would join the family bed, and nurse the baby when he woke around 5am. After a WHOLE MONTH, one night our son slept from 10:30p to 6 am. He has never done that again, but he was waking less. Then he got a bad stomache flu, so I nursed him when ever he wanted, and we have not repeated the training.

However, that month of being about to count on sleeping 4 hours staight when I went to bed really rejuvenated me, and now the night wakings don't really tire me as much as they did.

I only know a few parents that use a family bed. So, as you know, getting relevent information is difficult (not discussed mush in the standard books, etc). The few kids I know lucky enough to sleep in a family bed all nursed at night for a long time (from one to two years). I wonder if this is just what many babies are programed to do. Good luck.


I have a four year old son and an 18mo old and we have a family bed that my four year old sometimes sleeps in. I did "night wean" my older son although I can't remember exactly when it was. I do know that by the time he was two and I became pregnant, he was in our bed but not nursing at night- so, it is definately possible. There are two approaches, the fast and the slow. Since I can usually sleep through nursing I've always opted for the gradual approach. For a more "programmed" approach, check out the example in the Sears' Baby Book of the 14mo old who was night-weaned by Daddy. They basically explained that num-nums were asleep and let the kid cry while being held and comforted by dad (as opposed to being left alone in a room).

Kids and parents and situations differ, but here are some observations from my experience. First, although they had very different sleep patterns as infants (my older boy woke many times a night while my younger son woke only once or twice from the beginning) they both started sleeping more soundly somewhere between a year and a year and a half. I'm not talking about frequency of wakings here, I'm talking about being able to change a diaper while they're asleep, transition them out of the car... We _noticed_ that my older son was "sleeping thru" when he was 20mos old.

Next, I learned early on to separate "the night" from the "morning marathon". That is, if I said, "No more Y (my son's word) until the sun comes up", well, once the sun came up I no longer had a justification for saying no. I actually think of the "morning marathon" as an _advantage_ of bfing in the family bed. It means I don't have to get up for the day. But since a lot of kids are up for the day at 6, I'll put up with any number of wakings between then and 8.

Somewhere along the line, both my sons made a switch when nursing to sleep from falling asleep at the breast to turning away, rolling over and then going to sleep. I now tell my younger son, "Time to let go" and he almost always does it!

When my older son was 13mos old, a friend of mine kind of plopped down on our floor and put her head on a pillow. When my son imitated her motion she initiated a game of "put your head down" which he loved. I remember thinking how natural it is for kids to learn through imitation, and what a positive experience this was. I use this phrase now with my younger son and he takes great pride in following my directions.

Back-patting and "daddy-nursing" would never work for us. What did work for my older son, and I'm slowly starting now with my younger one, was to tell a story in verrrrry slow monotone voice. And it was always one of two or three stories saved just for this occasion (memorize Goodnight Moon). Before bed we would say good-night to everyone and everything. If he woke during the night, I would say (also in the slow monotone voice) "X is asleep, Y is asleep, Z is asleep" and so forth. Once or twice we "counted sheep". My younger son is now starting to bring his "baby" into bed and snuggle with her.

I always played/play things by ear. If my older son seemed distraught or like he really really needed to nurse, I always honored that. He is now, BTW, an excellent sleeper. He was the best napper at his daycare and started sleeping over at friends houses at 3 1/2. A far cry, I assure you, from that colicky baby who was waking 5-6 times a night his entire first year.


I read the posting that said that I had said in a Parents' Press column that holding, rocking, nursing a baby to sleep was "good". I don't have the original column here (or the note I'm responding to) but I think what I said (or what I hope I said) is: It's wonderful--better than good--to hold, rock, or nurse a baby until she drifts off to sleep, when it's working for baby and parent. Some babies fall asleep this way easily and sleep through the night, or for at least six hours at six months of age. But some babies don't fall asleep easily even with an hour of soothing, or they wake up repeatedly during the night needing the parent to repeat the bedtime soothing. That's not a great way for anyone to get rest. Most good ideas are good for some, but not all babies and kids! Meg

Expecting another baby - wean co-sleeping toddler now?

March 2002

I've looked through past advice on the family bed, but haven't seen this particular question anywhere. For those of you who are sharing your bed with your baby/child, how long did your baby wake in the night for feedings? Was the end of night feeding prompted by you or the baby? I like sharing my bed with my baby, but need to a have a second baby fairly soon, if I'm going to have a second one at all, but can't stand the thought of having to nurse two children at night at the same time. Any thoughts?
Thanks,
Questions from a new mom


Boy, can I relate. My now 23-month old daughter, who is still nursing and still sleeping in our bed, nursed multiple times at night until she was 20 months old. How did we quit? First, I basically decided the night nursing *had* to end, esp. because she nursed 5-8 times a night most nights (hard to believe, but true). I didn't want to put her in her own bed, nor did I want to let her ''cry it out'' alone, so I compromised. When she wanted to nurse at night, I told her ''not til morning'' and basically just held her and patted her while she cried. (I have no objection to crying per se, but I didn't want her to cry alone.) If she got truly hysterical, I gave in and nursed. That happened less and less as time went on. Finally, she just stopped asking to nurse at night (though she did and does ask first thing in the AM, usualy around 6:00). The process took about 3 weeks, and it was hard to endure such sad cries of ''nurse, nurse'', but after that it was all over. Now s he sleeps almost through the night! I, too, want to have another child soon and couldn't handle the thought of two sets of nightime feedings! Christine
We shared our bed with both our children for the first four months. At four months, they'd want to eat once or twice during the night, and then quite early in the morning. I believe that the closeness to you and the smell of milk makes it more desirable for them to nurse more frequently than if they weren't in your bed. Once we put our babies in cribs, they did sleep more and care to eat less. Good luck! Anonymous
We have a family bed too. I can't recall exactly when we night-weaned our son, who is going to be 3 next week. I would imagine that we did it btw 12 and 15 months. At the time we made the decision to do so because I was absolutely exhausted during the day, and it was affecting my ability to be a good mother. Here is how we did it. Let me say first that you must have a *very* supportive partner. And if your partner does not have breasts, that is all the better. Our son would go to sleep around 9pm, then wake up at 1am, 3am and 5 am. We chose 3am as the one we would cut out first. When our son woke up I would not cuddle him or let him near my breasts. My husband would take complete control of the situation, and if necessary walk him back to sleep. This is where you need a great partner who is willing to wear a path in the bedroom carpet in the middle of night, tired, cold, and half asleep. I think our son started sleeping through from 1am to 5am consistently after about 2 or 3 weeks, at which time we began to cut out the 1pm nursing. All and all I think it took about 3 months for the wake-up pattern to be erased, and there were set-backs once and a while too, but we stuck to the house rule of no nursing before 5am. That rule still holds today. Be ready for a lot of drama. It was hard not giving in when he cried out for me, and also knowing that nursing him would get us all back to sleep a lot sooner. But I knew that I would be a much happier mother, partner, and human being if I got the sleep that I needed. I have never regretted night weaning when I did. Good luck to you. Marianne
I have recently weaned my 19 month-old son and he still sleeps in our bed with us. I had hoped to wait and let him wean himself, but I had to take medication that precluded breast feeding, plus it just seemed like the right time for both of us to stop. I did feel guilty about depriving him of the comfort of nursing - nutrition wasn't an issue as he is eating plenty of regular food and cow's milk. I can't comment on how a new baby might change the dynamic, but these few ideas might help with the issue of sharing a bed without nursing: I felt a lot better once I came to the realisation that I could give him comfort in ways other than nursing him, such as cuddling, or rubbing his back.

It's good to have a drink alternative on hand throughout the night - at first we used a ''novelty drink'' such as box juice or milk (not good for teeth, I know), but now he seems happy with water in a sippy cup. Also, we have pushed his twin bed up against our bed, so that he has started to get the idea of sleeping separately. This doesn't stop him from miraculously ending up between us by morning! If it's any reassurance, we were surprised that he adjusted so quickly. There was crying in the night, but only for a few nights and it was short-lived. Considering that nursing had been such a big part of his life for so long, we were lucky it was a relatively smooth transition. Penny


It depends. I certainly wouldn't curtail or decrease night nursing before the baby is 2. I only night weaned one of my 4 - the 3rd and 4th (4th is only 5mo) still night nurse and I (on very bad advice) completely weaned the 1st at 16mo.

I night-weaned #2 when he was around 2 and a quarter as the frequency of the night nursing had taken a large toll on me. I would probably do things a bit differently if I had the experience I have now, however.

So, short answer is 2 1/4 and not yet for #3 and 4. Kathy


I have a 16-month old son who has slept with my husband and me since he was born. He pretty much sleeps through the night without nursing now. His typical pattern is to nurse before bed at about 8 and then wake up to nurse around 5 am, after which he usually falls back to sleep for another hour or so. I don't really count the 5 am nursing as ''night nursing,'' though, since my alarm rings at 5:30. I'd say that he's been nursing like this for about a month or so. Just this week, he's even been skipping that early morning nurse.

As for what I've done to encourage this pattern, I'd say I haven't really done much, if anything. I work very full time and felt like sharing sleep and nursing freely at night were good ways to stay connected to my son. We did just started giving our son a snack right before bed. I don't know if that's why he's sleeping a bit longer or not. We started the snack thing because he was having a hard time settling down at bedtime and it seemed to be related to being hungry.

Good luck! Kerri Shannon


I finally prompted night time weaning at 2 yrs 4months old. I just couldn't take it anymore. My son loved nursing, but it wasn't a ''win win situation.'' I was SO happy after that, and my son was too. I felt like I should have done it months earlier. My son had frequent wakings looking for ''nu nu.'' This really disturbed his sleep. When I stopped, I wore a turtle neck to bed for one week. If he wanted to nurse, nu nu, I'd say ''we don't do nu nu at night time anymore.'' I'd rub his back and comfort him, but WOULD NOT NURSE. It took one week, and was difficult, but worth it! My son slept SOOO much better after that. Good Luck :) Mary
hi--i think that you can always night wean (when you get pregnant or before) if it's getting to you, and still enjoy a lovely co-sleeping relationship. you don't say how old your baby is, so this may not be so helpful, but my almost 3 yo daughter sleeps with us, and we just weaned her a few months ago. she had nursed at night (one 4 am spot for a few months, then it moved to a five am get-her-back-to sleep kind of thing) up until she was at least 20 months old, if not more. i'm one of the lucky people who was rarely bothered by night nursing (except for the 2 or 3 times i misguidedly tried to wean her at night ahead of ''her'' schedule--*that* was a pain). that said, now that she's weaned, co-sleeping is still great (or even better!). i'd say wait till your kid can at least go several hours at night w/o nursing before you try and cold-turkey night-wean, but you should talk to a La Leche League Leader (they have a website--www.lalecheleague.org?) to get advice about how to wean/not wean and live with all these issues: pregnancy/ second kids/ night weaning/tandem nursing... jessica zacher
What you can do is contact La leche, 1 800 LALECHE, they have lactation specialists, and they've seen it all and they will help you (all for free). Good luck! Violaine
You didn't say how old your child is, but in our case, we regretfully didn't stop until he was well over a year and when I did, it was because I finally got proactive. I can't imagine when he would have stopped on his own because he simply loved having mom on tap. In our case, our son didn't need to be fed, but rather wanted comfort. Because we waited so long to do something, it was a little harder to break the habit. Basically I began playing possum and laid on my stomach, making the breast unavailable, because otherwise he could help himself. After a few nights of his outrage and angry protest he got it and began sleeping through the night. Rue
I never posted for advice when I had similar issues, so I feel a bit compelled to share what little experience I have. There seems to be a void of info on this because many co-sleep advocates a)don't acknowledge night-weaning OR b)don't want to instruct others because each baby is different, etc. etc. So, here is my experience.

My son still sleeps with us at 18 months. He shows no loss of interest in nursing, but he IS night-weaned. We still have occasional bad nights when he is sick, etc, but between my bedtime and 6 AM he doesn't nurse. I acheived this at about 14 months (with a few regressions) and in retrospect I think I could have done it sooner. I had to initiate it, but I was getting 5 hour blocks of sleep beforehand (from maybe ?8 months old with teething-interruptions). It wasn't easy, but it wasn't too bad either. You don't say how old your babe is, or if you are ready to stop night feedings yet. I think there was a post awhile ago about how to do it. I'm still wondering how/when I'll fully wean my son, but my sleep-time is mine! Sharon


I know your question was not ''how to'' but rather ''when does night feeding end?'' So I share this story only with the intention of sharing our experience, not with the intention of telling you what to do.

We did and still do co-sleep with our 22 month old daughter. The night feeding continued but didn't bother me (she woke to nurse about 3 times a night) until she was around 14 months. Then for about 2 or 3 months, she would wake to nurse every 2 hours. This exhausted me. I think it just kept me from getting any REM sleep. So, I slowly moved out of the bed. My husband stayed with her and I slept elsewhere until midnight for the first week, and then 2 am, then 4 am, etc. until we reached 6 am which is where we are now. Each time we pushed the nursing time back, she cried a lot the first night and then less the next, until finally she did not wake to nurse during that time period. I hated to hear her cry, but I felt good knowing that my husband was there to comfort her and provide snuggles. She does not wake during the night very much anymore (she's 22 months now), and when she does she's easily comforted by my husband (I still sleep elsewhere after nursing her down and until 6 am). Who knows what her night feeding pattern would be if I had not weaned her from the night nursing. I'm curious to see what others say. anonymous


Our daughter still sleeps with us at 26 months. Night-feeding ended at about 15 or 16 months with little difficulty. I initiated it. She was down to nursing usually twice a night at that point. I was getting tired of waking up, and I occasionally needed to take overnight trips without her for work, which were very hard on her and my partner, her other mom, while she was still nursing at night. As a side note, the first time I traveled without her was when she was eight months old and I went away for two nights. It was astonishing to find out how much milk she was getting at night. My partner gave her something like 6 4-oz bottles of breast milk between 2 am and 6 am, while I was up all night pumping in a hotel room. By the time I wanted to stop the night nursing, I think she was getting a lot less, because I had stopped pumping during the day when she was a year old and the milk supply was definitely dwindling. The way I remember it, stopping night feeding at that point was simple. The first couple of nights when she woke up my partner gave her a bottle of milk. Then we switched to giving her a bottle of water, which she wasn't very interested in. After that she stopped waking up. She cried a bit but on the whole the change was very un-traumatic for all of us. I'm sure it would have been much worse (probably un-doable) a few months earlier. She has slept through the night since, except when ill and very occasionally when she wakes up and asks for milk or water, which we give her. Teresa
I am posting to give hope to all the parents wondering about co-sleeping and nursing. We have a 5 year old and an almost 3 year old who both still nurse, especially the 2 year old at night and first thing in the morning. We do have separate beds now, in theory, but mostly sleep together still. It is self regulating just fine, and and now that they are both very verbal, we can TALK about it . So if I am super tired one night, I just say I have to go back to sleep, and my little one says ''ok, can I have just one more?'' Sometimes I say yes and sometimes no. Btw., these two are so sweet and relaxed, as kids go, and empathetic.... Both try to nurse their dolls and dinosaurs, and know what mammals are (as opposed to reptiles, etc...). Our ape cousins nurse until age 5 or 6 YEARS, so this is right within that range. frieda

4-month-old does all his nursing at night!

October 1998

I have a question regarding night-time sleeping. Until recently my 4 month-old son slept very well during the night, only waking once or rarely twice to eat. The past ten days, though, he has started a new pattern which is causing all of us to sleep extremely poorly. During the day, he seems so interested in the world around him that he will barely eat, even though I can tell he is hungry and cranky. Instead, he is saving up eating for night, waking up every two hours or so to nurse. I have tried to nurse during the day in a quiet place with poor success. Last night I tried to feed him rice cereal which he seemed to like very much but which didn't seem to affect his sleeping. Has anyone had a similar problem with their child switching eating patterns from day to night? Any suggestions? Leslie


My son did exactly the same thing at the same age (he's now 7 months). He was sleeping 11 hours, and then started to wake up again. We waited til 6 mo to give him solids b/c of lots of allergies in the family, but once we did we did begin to notice better sleeping. BUT, it took at least a week of solids, and a lot of them, to make a difference. so don't give up on the rice cereal, or other solids if rice cereal is too bland to keep his interest (which happened with us). Sounds like you are doing all the right things--trying to nurse in a quiet place with no distractions especially. But, I can tell you that every mom in my 15-20 person walking group had her baby start waking up again at night at 4-5 months, so it is just a phase that will take a while. It does get better--my pediatrician told me that they just grow out of it as they learn to process that very interesting world that they are discovering. You can also try the Ferber method if it goes on too long. There was a good discussion of it on this list a few months ago. We eventually used it and it worked wonders. Email me directly if you want to talk about that more--no need to get that whole debate going again with everybody. Good luck! Ann
An anonymous poster wrote the following:
I don't regret nursing him and will continue. My nights are much less restful as I try to wake up and "finish" him off before I fall asleep again. This has been only partially successful as it seeems to have breeded a greater need--he sucks with renewed vigor whenever I try and withdraw the nipple.

I used to get stuck in extremely long (>1hr) nursing sessions where baby basically falls asleep but "sucks with renewed vigor" every time I try to detach. Eventually I figured out that when he's asleep enough to not really need it, he sucks in this rhythm of suck-suck-suck-suck followed by a long wait of about 15-20 seconds. If I withdraw the nipple in the first few seconds of the long wait, he doesn't notice and next time he starts up again he just sucks his tongue. (whereas if I withdraw it more than halfway through the 15 seconds, he does the renewed vigor thing and would sometimes even wake up). Doing this has really helped me feel less trapped and resentful (though that may not be a problem for you). Joyce


8 1/2 month old nurses all night

My 8/12 month old boy sleeps with me and nurses at will on and off all night. I position my body so he can connect by himself. If I try to turn away from him or make myself inaccessable, he cries and thrashes. Some nights I think he nurses for 5-10 minutes once every sleep cycle (about 40 minutes). Other nights he may go as long as 2 to 3 hours without waking me up (he might still be nursing and I'm just not waking up). Needless to say, I'm not getting the rest that I'd like to get. I also can't get up and go do something else without him waking up and crying - at least not for very long. Has anyone else been here? I don't want to go through any crying or difficult withdrawal with him. Any suggestions on gentle ways to reduce nursing and keep him asleep? I'm hoping that if I can just hold on it will gradually get better.
I have a magic pill that I gave our son for the same problem. No crying. He immediately stopped nursing at night and now sleeps for 12 hours straight in his crib. :)

No offense - I don't mean to make fun of you! I am a new mom of an adorable 6 1/2 month old baby boy, who has sleep "issues." My husband and I have found that we need to keep our sense of humor about the whole thing or we (mostly I) will go nutso. We totally empathize with you. I have spent weeks (WEEKS, not the commonly suggested DAYS) listening to him cry hysterically in his crib for prescribed amounts of time (5,10,15 mins and up), all to get him to sleep there without nursing constantly. After a long time, he is making progress - he now sleeps for 4-7 hours during the first part of the night, and 2-3 hours after that. His naps are still too short (< 1 hour) and he takes 3-4 of them a day. The only way I can get him to take a longer nap is to let him sleep "on the boob" as we call it - allowing him to wake up and nurse for 5 mins in between sleep cycles. Sound familiar? He was waking up every hour at night too (which means I was waking up every hour). I drew the line at 5 1/2 months of this, which is why I instituted the crying method. I feel like the worst Mom on the planet when he's throwing a fit, but I have to admit that he's making progress. The thing is, we both sleep better when he's in his crib and not nursing in between sleep cycles. Getting back to sleep is something that does not come easily for him, and I hate to say it but "he has to learn." I love my baby so much and I guess I'd rather do this now while he's still really young, than drag myself sleepless through the rest of his babyhood. It was hard enough for the first 5 1/2 months.

So, good luck. I wish I did have a magic pill for you! Instead I can only relate my own experience and assure you that our son still smiles and laughs and is very attached to me - he doesn't seem to be holding a grudge. I feel like it's my introduction to parental discipline, the ultra-hard way.
Take care,
Maia


I also sleep with my daughter and let her nurse on demand, but usually she only (I think) nurses once or twice at night. I have a friend whose daughter was doing what your son is doing, and she gave her daughter a pacifier in the middle of the night. I'm not pushing the pacifier, but it may be your little boy just wants to suck--and if you use it very very carefully, you may get a little more sleep and satisfy his sucking demands without interfering with your milk supply and nursing routine.
As to the night nursing I believe it is what you, yourself can tolerate. My daughter slept in our bed till she was 81/2 mos. She also nursed a varied amount of times through the night. Some night it might be one or two feedings, but most of the time it was quite a few feedings a night. And if she was sick, or teething it was every hour. I had many people raising their eyebrows at me ( clearly not approving of our sleep situation), and many people supporting it and encouraging it to continue, but in the end it was me who could not take it anymore. (She also would not nap by herself, but that's another long story!!) The person who saved us was Meg Zweiback. She is a nurse that specializes in family/infant issues. She also specializes in sleep related issues. I believe she is listed in the phone book. She helped us see my daughter was only comfort nursing, and not nursing for hunger at all. Now she sleeps in her crib, still returns to our bed, but she sleeps longer at night than she ever did with us! She is not the only one who gets a lot of sleep, either! Good Luck whatever you decide.
My daughter nursed throughout the night until at about 13 months, we decided to put a stop to it. I braced myself for a huge fight and waited until the rest of our lives had entered a period of relative calm. The first night, I nursed her to sleep, but when she wanted to nurse after that, I picked her up and told her "no night nursing" while rocking her and rubbing her back. She wailed for all of 30 seconds before falling asleep again. That happened once or twice more during the night. The next night was similar. Then after that, she just slept through the night. I can even put her in her crib and have her sleep by herself for most of the night now. I just wish I'd tried it earlier!
On night nursing--I'm still doing that, too. I kept hoping my son would just stop on his own (I'm weak when it comes to my kid screaming), but he still nurses a couple of times per night. For various reasons I won't go into now, we have always subscribed to the family bed philosophy and it makes weaning at night more difficult. I would say to the woman who is wondering if it will ever get better---yes it will, but it may be years if you don't make an effort to stop it (get the kid out of your bed). Good luck!
I just had to throw my two cents in about night time nursing. I have a older toddler who slept with me in bed until she was about 20 months old and nursed on demand. What made the situation so positive for me was I am a pretty sound sleeper, and I was so exhausted from working during the day, she hardly ever woke me up. That said, I would definately talk to a lactation consultant because I think with a slightly older baby night time nursing - how many times, how much, has a lot to do with what is going on during the day as well as the child's non nutrative needs. I found that specifically and overall, if my daughter was in her crib crying everyone got less sleep and it was a LOT more trouble than just rolling over. I do remember waves of annoyance thinking AGAIN? but if left to their own devices eventually they will stop nursing at night, but this probably won't happen until the child is 1 or 2 years old. I say that because It would have made me more comfortable to know children eventually night-wean because people always were telling me, oh that's such a bad habit, your child will sleep better on their own, will not learn to sleep through the night unless you put them on their own, etc. I think these are myths perpetuated by people who never went the full cycle with their babies. Good luck, talk to a lactation consultant about your specific situation, I think the suggestion about letting your partner handle some of the wake up calls is a good one. My daughter however was hardheaded from day one, and if she wanted to nurse, whether she was 6 weeks or 6 months, she wasn't going to "forget." She could be occupied by my partner, but she wasn't going to fall back to sleep either.
Just adding my $.02 here, since I'm in the midst of this issue, too. A couple of weeks ago my husband and I decided we had to do something about the nighttime nursing with our 8 month old baby. Since we knew he really wasn't hungry, I went and slept elsewhere so my husband could comfort the baby when he woke. The first night it took about half an hour to get the baby back to sleep.The second night was actually worse (about two and a half hours). But since then it's only been a couple of minutes. As of the last couple of nights, I'm back sleeping in the bed with my husband and baby, without nursing him in the middle of the night. Last night he didn't even wake at all until almost morning. We all seem to be happier during the day, too. (BTW, this is my second child--the first slept thru the night in a crib starting at 6 weeks...just goes to show how different kids can be!)
I am a mother of an 8-month old baby boy who is also an avid night-nurser. He has a 4-6am trouble zone too; he has since birth. There are no easy answers to this problem - I know b/c I've searched for them too. I am a graduate student working on my dissertation, so although I have a flexible, reduced schedule, I do work and I really need sleep! Our baby still wakes up 2-3 times a night on a GOOD night, but just recently I finally had to stop breastfeeding him when he wakes. My suspicion has been that the nursing stimulates his digestive system and he gets gas and activity going about 4 am every morning. He seems happier if he can be awake and work it out, but sometimes in his delirious sleep he just wants to nurse b/c he's uncomfortable. He too thrashes and switches sides frequently, half awake, half asleep.

Sooooo, he cries. Very hard sometimes. I cry too. Or I get up and do something like bake banana bread or put pictures in his album. I hate listening to him get upset. But I'll tell you something, something which I think is very important. When he wakes up in the morning, he smiles at me, he laughs, he nurses fine, he plays, and he doesn't seem to be emotionally scarred or have any residual upset feelings. I never wanted to try Ferber's technique either but I think of it now as my first brush at discipline, which is never fun for the parent but is necessary for your child's well being. Your baby has to learn how to get through most of her sleeping on her own, and she is not going to want to do that. I know that some babies do (it seems like every baby in my Mom's group is this way!) but yours and mine do not. You sound like a loving, wonderful Mom, so just try to remember this when your baby isn't happy that your not feeding her at night. My baby spent 12 nights crying hysterically on and off during the night before he really got the picture. I thought I was the worst mother on the planet. I had stomach aches and headaches during the day for those miserable weeks, but I'd rather trade that for many more months and years of a well rested Mom and baby. Don't expect that sleep problems are gone forever - some people really struggle with sleep all through life, maybe your baby is one of them. But if you're like me, ANY improvement is welcome! We all have to make our own choices based on what feels right, but I think it's better to stop the pattern earlier rather than later when habits are even more ingrained. With whatever you choose to do... good luck!


From my own experience with my 22-month-old boy - My son still sleeps with me and nurses at night also. His need to nurse has gradually been lessening, partly from him and partly from my gently nudging him along a little. It goes up and down; he's had times where he doesn't nurse much during the night, and then he's back to nursing more, then less again, but the trend is naturally toward less and less. I started feeling really tired and interested in cutting back maybe 9 or 10 months ago. He's never really woken up much to nurse, since as soon as he's started to stir, or root for my breast, I had always just nursed him before he really woke up. But I started to just wait a little, sometimes, when he wanted to nurse at night, and to my surprise many of those times he went back into deeper sleep without nursing in maybe 30 seconds or a minute. I usually didn't want him to really wake up, so if he didn't drop back off right away I'd just nurse him as always, but I found that over a short time, a couple of weeks maybe, he went from nursing several times in the night to having many nights where he didn't nurse at all. I also started pulling away sometimes before he pulled off himself, and sometimes he would just drop off to sleep immediately, or if he didn't I might go back to nursing him so he wouldn't get too woken up. The same when we're going to sleep; he used to have to nurse until he was sound asleep, but I started pulling away, and then later just quietly saying "ok" or "enough", and he now nurses for a bit and then usually falls asleep afterwards next to me, maybe wiggling around for a bit first, which I think is good because he's starting to find a new pattern for falling asleep. I think if you want to make changes you can do so gradually; you could start trying things, perhaps gently saying "enough" sometimes in the mornings instead of just going through the "morning marathon", and see if your child goes along with it. The direction children naturally go is toward more and more independence, and I've found sometimes you can see a little opening where they may be ready to do things a different way if you're really ready yourself. Good luck. Alexandra
We weaned our son from nighttime nursing at about 19 months and still kept the family bed. And our son also does not take a bottle or pacifier. While it will be more difficult because you don't have another adult to help, I think it is possible. First of all, it's easiest to do if your child shows signs of readiness--our son would seem to get woken up more by nursing, and would come off the breast before going back to sleep. He also switched sides a lot. But we did also have month long periods (from his first teething at around 8 months) when he was teething when he would wake up a lot to nurse, but those always ended after the teeth came in. I don't think that would have been a good time to wean from night nursing. Our theory is that these times of "readiness" come and go, so just look for the right opportunity. It will be hard for the first few days or week, or maybe longer, and you may get even less sleep than usual, but if your daughter is ready for it (and I suspect she may be given the switiching sides routine which my son did right before we started this) I think it will work. I would start by talking about it with your daughter and explaining that now that she is older, you will nurse her before bed and when it is morning and not light out, but not during the dark nighttime. We actually did it gradually, first going with feeding at the first wake up, but no more, and eventually no nursings during the night. I would wait before responding when he stirred and if he didn't go back to sleep, I'd rub his chest or back, snuggle, hold, rock, stroke his head, and sing to him (I'd sit up in bed). For a few days he would really cry for a while while I held him, but after three days he cried less than a minute. And within a week, he hardly cried at all, just would want to snuggle. He would ask to "nurse" and I would respond, "not until the morning, Mommy's here, let's go back to sleep." After a month he was waking up only once during the night if at all. And now, he ususally sleeps through the night (ten hours or so). He does often scoot toward us to snuggle but without waking up. We're so happy to have been able to keep the family bed, while ending the night nursing. I guess it's sort of like Ferberizing, but you're not leaving your child alone to cry it out. Our son showed no signs of being traumatized by this, i.e. he seemed his usual happy and energetic self during the daytime, which suggests to us that he was truly ready. I made sure to provide lots of focused attention and physical contact during the daytime, so I guess that can help too. My husband did participate in this a lot (took turns comforting our son), so I imagine it will be harder on you, but I do think it's possible. I admire you for hanging in there when you're on your own. Best of luck!
Friends of ours did the following: Let your daughter know a day or two in advance that you would like to stop that two-hour nursing session and let her know why (you are very tired and not feeling well during the day; harder for you to play with her energetically -- whatever the reason). Don't assume she doesn't understand -- I believe the explaining is very important. Let her know that if she wakes up to nurse at that time, you will hold her as much as she needs but you will not nurse her. If she cries, reflect to her that you understand that she may be feeling sad, angry, confused, scared -- whatever you think is going on -- and explain again why you're doing this. I'm not sure whether this is possible for just the 4-6 am session or whether you'll have to wean at night. If a parent is always present with the toddler to comfort, reassure, and let the child know that they are understood and loved, I think it's much less (if at all) "cruel" than the various "let them cry" methods, which I, too, would not choose. Good luck!
My son is 24 months, and also still nursing at night, and has always slept with me and my husband. On and off, he has also had these boughts of wanting to nurse for extended periods of time in the early morning, but usually not more that 1 hour. Also, these periods lasted maybe a week or so at a time, not an ongoing thing, so my experience is different. I don't really have a solution, but I have some things you could try. I also do not want to "Ferberize", and I have not done this. First, I don't move the baby to the other side of me when I switch breasts. I just lean over farther so he can reach the far one (the right one, if laying on my left side). This is less disrupting. However, I still cannot fall asleep when he is nursing, and you have to get positioned just right so your arm (my left if I lay on left side) doesn't fall asleep. What I have tried in these boughts, (when I just can't stand it anymore) is too release him from the breast and lay on my stomach. Of course he cries, but I sing or speak softely to him, tell him "the milk goes night-night, the milk is tired", and after a few nights he won't do the extended nursing thing. I guess it is a kind of ferberizing, but I do not leave him, we are still snuggled together. I have also noticed that these nursing marathons occur when he is either extra tired, or a little sick. My guess is that he just wants the extra comfort.

Also, I used to think my son woke up a lot. Like your daughter, he woke a minimum of 2 times a night, usually three or four. I have very few friends who actually do the family bed thing, so my data set here is very small, but we all had the same experience (child waking many times a night way past one year old). Also, babies of my friends who used the crib in the other room learnd to sleep through the night much sooner. However, I have just noticed that my son now sleeps from about 10:30 pm to 4 or 5 am without waking. Appearently, things really do get better with time. Good luck!


I still nurse my 2 1/2 year old and we do the "family bed," though he no longer nurses at night. For a long time, I found it easier to nurse him in bed than to get up out of bed to nurse him. When he was 12 months old, I was feeling exhausted and needed to reduce him to two nightly feedings. My experience is that you have to make it clear to the baby (and yourself) that you are making a change, state clearly what the change is (even if the baby doesn't understand), and then do it. I dealt with the transition, when he asked for what he used to get and then cried when he didn't get it, by holding, rocking, and singing to my baby. (I also chose a vacation week to make the change, expecting to have even more interrupted nights for a few nights.) Eventually he would go back to sleep next to me. He was used to the new regime within a week and I knew that I was still giving him love and support throughout the transition. Penny
My son is a night nursing 16 month old and seems to go through periods where he wakes more and less often. I suspect it is a combination of teething a growth spurts. My best advice to you is to wait it out... and take naps/go to be early so that you are getting more rest. Also you might want to get the book "Mothering Your Nursing Toddler" there is a whole section on getting enough rest... due to night nursing. Night weaning is just one of the techniques mentioned... Ferberizing is not. Good luck.
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