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Nighttime Nursing/Sleeping Help

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  • Nighttime Nursing/Sleeping Help

    Greetings everyone,

    We're struggling with an issue, and we're desperate for help. We co-sleep, and my partner has been nursing our just-turned 3-year old daughter to sleep. She also had been waking and nursing throughout the night. In the last few months, our daughter has been demanding to nurse throughout the day with the demands coinciding with emotionally trying moments or transitions in the day (e.g., when the two of us are talking with each other, when she's tired and frustrated, or when my partner returns home after being out.) Her demands are intense; she moves into hysteria quickly if my partner tries to negotiate with her about delaying for even a few moments. She rejects offers for other forms of comfort or attention. Things changed, though, a couple of weeks ago. We had a night where my partner couldn't sleep in our bed with our daughter, so I comforted her to sleep through a couple of spells of serious crying. My partner had a stomach virus and had been sick all night. Our daughter had been sick the night before and had discovered that nursing led to vomiting, so she cried through not nursing and went to sleep. For several nights after this, without prompting our daughter went to sleep after nursing, though with some crying. She also stopped all day nursing altogether. Over the last week or so, she has returned to demanding to nurse during the day. She also refuses to go to sleep unattached and enters a state of utter hysteria if my partner tries to urge her to have some milk and then be snuggled to sleep. We've discussed our desire to help both of them sleep better by not nursing to sleep. My partner had discovered that they both sleep much, much better if our daughter doesn't nurse all night.

    So, we're struggling to know how to help them. We've read accounts here of children self-choosing not to nurse, and we've approaching this from the belief that the two of them could make the decision not to nurse anymore when our daughter was ready and could make that decision herself. But the latest events have underscored that the nighttime nursing is no longer sustainable for them both, even though our daughter's emotional needs clearly seem to be demanding it. My partner is at wits end, and that is exacerbated by being so tired. We're also concerned with providing our daughter with stability, attachment and healthy comfort. Being dad, I don't participate directly in their nursing relationship, and I'm trying to be supportive, but at this point, I don't know how to help them. We'd appreciate any advice you might be able to offer.

    Thank you.

  • #2
    I have a 3.5 year old, who I ended up weaning a little after she turned 2, because it was not sustainable for me. She wasn't choosing to wean, but it wasn't working for me anymore. I was 6.5 mo. pregnant and it was very painful. The one thing that I focused on was the importance of the nursing relationship working for both mom and child. If it is causing undo stress for one person then it's okay to be done even if that one person is mom. That's not failure, it's not a bad thing. It's meeting everyone's needs.

    What you were saying about your daughter becoming very demanding when you and your wife are talking reminded me a lot of my daughter. She doesn't nurse anymore but anytime my husband and I try and have a conversation she starts screaming at us to stop talking. And then makes any number of requests to divide our attention. And often she doesn't even want to talk with us, she just wants us to be ready to give her attention whenever she needs it. So I think that piece with the tantrums is normal 3 year old behavior, and from my experience not associated with the nursing that just happens to be what she is seeking out.

    When we night weaned I had a few conversations with my daughter about how mommy needed to stop nursing her, it was painful, it was making Mommy a really grumpy and grouchy mommy and I didn't want to be that way. I wanted to be the happy mommy who had patience. There was a lot of screaming and tears and tantruming. I just offered a lot of reassurances, and extra snuggle time, reading time, etc. For my daughter reading books together really took the place of our nursing sessions. I also wore shirts that were really hard for her to access me in, So turtlenecks, and shirts that had hard buttons to undo or were really high that helped with the self-help she was so used to. It made it worse for us if my husband stepped in, but I know other families have had a lot of success with Dad stepping in.

    Good Luck, remember it's not just about your daughters needs, everyone's needs need to be met, so that you have the most to give to your daughter. If your running on E there's nothing left to give to the other members of the family.