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Nap & Night Nursing - All or nothing?

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  • Nap & Night Nursing - All or nothing?

    Hi there! I'm hoping to get some ideas and advice on how to make some gentle sleep changes in my 8 month old. Sorry it's so long, I've outline my current situation & my intended plan to get some feedback.

    My daughter and I have been co-sleeping for 4 months. I love co-sleeping and nap and night nursing and don’t want to stop but I would like to make some changes. Right now I bounce her to sleep and then she wakes up instantly when I put her into bed. She needs to nurse herself back to sleep (oddly enough she won’t settle down enough for me to nurse her to sleep from the start). However, she wants to sleep with her mouth either on or inches away from my breast and she bobs on and off constantly all nap or night. She usually wakes up instantly or at least within 10-15 minutes of me trying to leave the bed. Sometimes I can sneak out at night if she’s been asleep for hours and then I might get an hour on my own but usually I have fallen asleep by then too.

    I don't really mind this too much although it's starting to be problematic since 1) we have to be home and in bed for all naps and no one else can get her to sleep for longer than 20 minutes or so 2) and most importantly, I have zero alone time with my husband which is starting to put a strain on things 3) I am going back to work part time when she's 1 (still 4 months away but I'm thinking if I want to be gentle these things take time).

    My plan was to chose a time (i.e. 2 hours after she goes to sleep) and not nurse her until that time. So, when she wakes up before that time I will try to get her back to sleep by bouncing her. Although, I know this will cause her some upset and tears. Then, once it's been 2 hours I'll crawl into bed with her and allow her to nurse whenever she wants. If that works, I would try to pick one nap a day without nursing as well... and so on.

    Does that sound like it sends mixed messages to her - sometimes she can nurse, other times she can't? My hope was that she will eventually stop waking up during the first few hours of going to bed. Has anyone tried this and had success? I have read several books on sleep but feel more confused than ever about which approach to take. Any ideas/suggestions would be great! Thanks!

  • #2
    I think it is entirely possible to 'spot' wean at certain times at night and not totally night wean. With my first I did some deferring around 8m. Sometimes I would try to get 5 more minutes untill the the next usual nursing, then 10 then 20 etc.... and that would eventually move it to another big chunk of sleep for me. I think it is VERY important to be creative with approaches to this as some children do better with some ideas where they respond very poorly to others. My second child WOULD not be night soothed by my husband while my first would (and if he slept next to him-he had just turned 11m- would wake less then if he slept next to me) My second would take a sip of water and a verbal cue- 'finished' is the word I used. My first would fall back asleep if I just repostioned him and didn't open my shirt so quickly, if I tried that with my second child he would be alert and distressed quickly!
    Try to approach this gently. Try to defer 1 night nursing first for about a week, then try another one, then another. Especially at 8m this is better and less drastic from her point of view. Also stay open to the idea of illness and tough days, she might need to still nurse then and be very against the new idea. With my second night weaning started really rough! I finally realized he was getting a tooth in and started the next week it it went MUCH better. That is the 'window' idea and you really need to make sure you have a 'window'!

    Don't try to do it all at once. Patience!

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    • #3
      Thanks Naomi! It's good to hear that others have tried this approach and had some success. I think the key will be to get her to bed at night without going onto the breast. It's not so much that she's nursing she's just comfort suckling. So, she'll stay on there for 1-2 hours. I think I'm going to try to get her into bed without getting on the breast and if that works for a week or so then try deferring her first nursing.

      You're right on with the 'window' thing. She's been not her usual self the past couple of nights so I don't think I'm going to try yet. She keeps waking up crying even while I'm lying right next to her. She doesn’t' want to nurse and often cries until I get her out of bed and take her into another room. I'm not sure what that is. Tummy ache? teething? Too early for nightmares? It's happening a few times a night.

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      • #4
        I did skip the nurse to sleep at nightime session first in both cases. I know some people that started combining the nurse to sleep with book reading and other 'bedtime routine' stuff either before or after nursing, with the child's father doing the other part or not. I will say that it was MUCH easier to have my hubby do the book reading stuff because both my kids had the attitude of "I would much rather nurse then read this book".

        Wait for that window to open! DOn't forget to update us!

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        • #5
          Another quick question...

          We had some sleep setbacks so I haven't started to make any changes yet. In the meantime I have come up with another question. Do you think it is confusing and/or intermittent reinforcement if I stop nursing to sleep at night but not for naps? I was hoping to just start with bedtime but don't want to accidentally reinforce the nurse to sleep behavior even more by doing it sometimes and not others. However, I do want this change to happen as gently as possible.

          Has anyone experienced this?

          Thank you!

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          • #6
            I still nurse my 2.5 year old to sleep for nap and not bedtime for over a year and a half. They are obviously different times and situations (even if sleep is involved). In my case it is rare that hubby is around for nap so that in itself is different.

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