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Night weaning 3 YO: natural and/or necessary?

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  • Night weaning 3 YO: natural and/or necessary?

    My dd just turned three a couple of weeks ago. She is an avid daytime nurser and at night mostly nurses once during the middle of the night and just before waking in the morning. Occasionally, recently, she has slept for 9-10 hours without nursing until the morning.

    She has had ongoing dental issues (small beginnings of cavities) which, of course, the dentist blames on night nursing. While I know the research shows that this isn't the case, I know that nighttime b'feeding, in conjunction with the S. Mutans bacteria (which I'm sure both she and I carry, hence the cavities) will contribute to that. We go regularly, so they catch them early, but still, watching my three year old get fillings and get nitrous oxide is something I'd rather avoid. She has some that look like they are getting remineralized, so the dentist was positive about that. But she (yes, she) asked again about the nighttime feedings and kind of gave me that look like "it's time."

    I've been clear with them that this is a parenting decision, not a dental one. I think we've been relatively lucky given the amount that this little girl has nursed in her short lifetime (and still continues to!). We use xylitol but not as religiously as we could. We brush twice a day without fail and brush on fluoride at last 4-5 times a week.

    This all being said . . . we made the decision to work on night weaning her within the past week. She's really smart, so we explained it to her and it went pretty well. Our deal was one time per night with a drink of xylitol water afterward. The first few nights, it went wonderfully. She went right back to sleep when I told her that she had already nursed, and we cuddled up and that was that.

    Then three nights ago, it started. She began crying, clawing at me, throwing herself around, begging for "mom milk." It broke my heart. She didn't realize it, but I was crying right along with her in the dark. I did my best to comfort her and try other things we had talked about, but it was just awful. Both nights we ended up downstairs at 4:30 in the morning and ended up nursing anyway.

    Anyway, my husband and I have paused in the midst of all of this to ask ourselves if this is natural and necessary to do. I have felt committed to child-led weaning since she was born, and this definitely goes against this. I'm just not sure. It just felt to awful to see her like this. Even though I know it's different than when she was a baby and we were there comforting her, it has just made me wonder. A lot.

    I'm not sure what to do. Tonight I'm going to sleep in the other room just to see what happens and how long she sleeps without me next to her. I am fine with her sleeping a long stretch (8+) hours and calling that night weaning. But if this process is this hard, I tend to feel like it's not the natural or necessary thing to do.

    Which then brings me back to concerns about her teeth. And, I suppose, her sleep quality.

    I don't have anyone in my life that has gone this route before, so I am hoping that anyone feels that they could add to my information or thoughts about this process. I really appreciate it.

    Thanks for reading this very long post and for anything you can contribute. Our whole family will appreciate it.

  • #2
    Check out the thread for 2 yo shows no signs of weaning. One of the responders posed some valuable questions about MOTIVATION for weaning and said it helped her.