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Mother’s situation: Should I night wean?
My son is 18 months old and still wakes regularly every few hours throughout the night. He is settled, very quickly, by breastfeeding. It is not a huge problem for me when I am in bed, but I would like to have more time in the evening to spend with my husband, to go out occasionally and, most importantly, to get a bit of work done (I am a working mom and work from home). My friends have suggested night weaning but this sounds a bit drastic, especially as I intend to let my son self-wean. I am worried that night weaning would result in his stopping breastfeeding altogether. Has anyone a similar experience or tips to offer? How have other mothers coped?
I also have an 18-month-old son (and three older daughters). My son still wakes up to nurse as well. We share sleep, so it is very easy for me to nurse him back to sleep without really interrupting my own sleep. He usually has a longer stretch of sleep when I first nurse him around 8:30–9:00pm. I can get him off to sleep and then, if I have the energy, sneak out, and spend time with my husband or get some work done. Sometimes I bring my laptop or the reading I need to complete into bed, so I can keep working while I nurse or nurse him back to sleep. As for going out on dates with my husband, it seems easier for us to go out during the day or late afternoon. Andrew is easier for a babysitter to handle when he isn’t too tired.
Nighttime nursing is very important to my son, so I don’t think I could take on the challenges of night weaning right now. Nursing at night keeps my milk supply strong and my metabolism high! I’m enjoying eating as much as I like! I know that my son’s nighttime needs will change in the next year or so. I’m happy to cuddle up next to him each night and meet all of his nursing needs at this moment. I know mothers are able successfully to night wean. It is a process that may or may not require some extra time and effort on your part. But you should do what feels right to you. Follow your instincts and you’ll never go far wrong! Good luck!
Kris Crownover, Redondo Beach, USA
Many mothers will explain to a nursing toddler that when the sun comes up he can nurse again. In other words the sun goes to sleep, and so do moms and children.
Dee Russell, NY, USA
I night weaned both of my children. My daughter was still waking up 8–12 times a night to nurse at 16 months, and I was four months pregnant. When I hit my limit one night, rather than nursing her like I normally would have, I rubbed her back instead. After crying for two or three minutes, she went to sleep. The next several times she woke up, she fussed a little for a couple of minutes before going back to sleep, again with me rubbing her back. She didn’t seem to need to nurse or to miss it, and it didn’t affect her day nursing whatsoever.
My son only woke up six to eight times a night to nurse, and I nursed him until about 20 months before I reached my limit. I did the same thing with him as I had with my daughter. He was quite angry that first night, but after that, he seemed to understand. He still woke up occasionally in the night, but my husband or I were able to soothe him back to sleep. It didn’t affect his day nursing either. The bigger thing was getting my children to sleep without nursing, which took a little longer with both of them. They were night weaned long before they gave up nursing to get to sleep. The night weaning itself went fairly smoothly. We never let either of them cry it out; one of us was always there to soothe and reassure them.
Amanda Keen, Huntsville, AL, USA
When my babies grew to be toddlers, I often wondered what I could do to deal with their frequent night waking. An LLL Leader suggested that I look for ways to deal with my own fatigue, because that was my problem. If you look at what it is about his night waking that is bothering you, perhaps you could find other solutions that don’t involve weaning? Since you would really like more time in the evening with your husband and for work, you might try setting up your bedroom to accommodate all these needs comfortably. Or you could see if your toddler could sleep without you for a couple of hours. Many babies go into a deep sleep soon after falling asleep at night.
As a mom who works at home, too, I set up a play area near my desk so I could work during the day. You’ll work it out: moms of toddlers are very creative!
Jo-Anne, Fredericton NB, Canada
My children also still nursed often at night at 18 months. However, with my second, my husband started putting her to bed sometimes when she was around a year old. This was to allow me to go out occasionally after the children were in bed.
When I was home, I nursed her to sleep, but on the few occasions that I was not home, my husband comforted her back to sleep. We had consistent bed and naptimes, which helped her to go to sleep easily.
Michelle Stille, Georgia, USA
I have breastfed and raised three children who are now 24, 20, and 16. Breastfeeding happens for such a short time in your lifespan, but it is so important for the health of baby and mother! Have you read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding’s suggestions on working while breastfeeding and weaning?
I wonder if you could get any help during the day to get more work done then? I do know that time spent working at night can be rough on a marriage and takes a lot of patience. I know each situation is different. However, I also know that babies are very adaptable, and night weaning would not necessarily lead to total weaning. You might need to concentrate on maintaining your milk supply by increasing nursing frequency during the day (because your milk supply is directly connected to your baby’s demand for milk). So if the demand on your body goes away at night, it may need to be increased during the day. I hope you are successful in whatever you decide. You have already done a great thing for your baby, your family, (and the world) by breastfeeding for 18 months!
Yvonne Townsley, Louisburg, NC, USA
Many mothers find that the swings their babies take, from being more independent to being dependent and back again can be frustrating, and it may seem there will never be an end to it! Attending a La Leche League group and learning how other mothers handled similar situations is one great way to identify options, because the reality is there is no one right way to do it.
Some mothers want their babies to wean on their own, which can be at any age. Some babies self- wean earlier than others, but there’s no way for us to know when that time will be. Some mothers set a day and time.
It can be frightening to a child to be refused something they have counted on for all their lives, and uncomfortable for the mom, who risks engorgement and mastitis. Others find a middle way. Some babies take in a lot more food than parents believe in the nighttime feedings. A balance between making sure the child eats enough during the day that they don’t need the calories consumed at night is a good idea. In fact, one of my kids just needed to eat from a “buffet” of healthy options that was available almost all day. (He was a very active child and never overate, just snacked.) Babies who are very busy in the day time learning new things need/want to “touch base” with us at night to “fill up their love tank” so breastfeeding is not just feeding the baby’s body. You may find the chapter “Everybody Weans,” with many different options described, in the 8th edition of The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding pages 313–338, helpful. I want to warn you, though, that sometimes not breastfeeding at night might not mean not waking at night.
Jeanette Panchula, LLL Vacaville, CA, USA
This is not an easy issue at any age. I found it useful to carry and nurse my baby in a cloth sling in the evenings, particularly when settling older children to bed, or if I needed to go out. There were times when we had a romantic night in, with candles and a glass of wine, snuggled on the sofa together. When you really need to get some work done, you can ask your man to take your little one out for a walk in the stroller and your baby will likely drift off to sleep, especially if it is dark out. Then when he wakes, you can gather him back into your arms and nurse, knowing you have got at least some work done. I hope this is one of those “this too will pass” phases of your life!
Sue Cardus, Coventry, UK
Mother’s new situation: My house is a mess!
When my toddler was a baby I felt that I had an excuse for not doing many household chores because her needs were clearly so immediate. Now my daughter is two years old and I feel guilty about my untidy house. I seem to have even less time these days to devote to the necessary tasks. How do other mothers cope with getting the housework done while at the same time meeting the needs of a toddler?