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Do you HAVE to nightwean?

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

I have a 15 month old who still generally wakes for 2 full nighttime feedings, plus waking for me to soothe her a few times in between.  It doesn't really bother me (knock on wood!), so I'm definitely not thinking about nightweaning just yet.  I've been wondering, though, if nightweaning is a necessary step in the life of most toddlers, or if most babies will eventually drop their nighttime feedings if given enough time.  Anyone have experience to share on this?  Did you nightwean your toddlers?  Why or why not? 

post #2 of 28

You don't have to nightwean your toddler, just like you don't actively have to wean them from nursing totally. They will all eventually do it in their own time. If it works for you, then continue to nurse at night. Eventually, your LO will sleep through the night, and won't need you to nurse them back to sleep. Also, just because a child is nightweaned, it does not mean they will automatically STTN. Sometimes nightweaned children still need help going back to sleep after waking at night.

post #3 of 28

If you are getting enough sleep, I vote that you stay with the situation, allowing her to change and grow as come naturally. You are blessed with a happy arrangement. I was ok with my DD waking frequently at night (some nursing, some comforting back to sleep) until the last couple of months or so. She is now 18 months and still wakes up to 6 times a night, plus there are stretches inbetween that she keeps me awake with her constant flopping around. (We are cosleeping.) I am weary now, very weary, and am contemplating nightweaning. It will be tough on all of us.


Good luck and happy sleeping.

post #4 of 28

I'm 7 months pregnant and haven't had milk for about 2 months. The funny thing is if my breasts are available (we cosleep too) she still nurses on and off all night. But if I turn my back to her and sleep somewhere on the bed she can't reach them (me) she sleeps through the night (not even questing for nursing). It's been a week since I discovered this and it's amazing!


If I wake her up by mistake (ie when getting into bed) she still nurses dry to settle again, but other than that it was like instant night weaning with no pain when I discovered the above. Pretty cool!

post #5 of 28

when DD was 15  months and I was 10 weeks pregnant we decided to start transitioning her to her own room because we knew we weren't going to be able to cosleep two kids at once, she kept kicking her dad all night, and her sleeping on top of me was killing my back. she was already starting the night in a floor bed in our room (and moving into our bed the first time she woke up), so we moved the floor bed into her room, expecting she would keep waking up wanting to nurse and move into our bed for the next couple of months (up to this point she has slept more than three hours straight only a handful of times in her life). the first night she slept 12 hours without waking. she sometimes wakes and nurses when she's sick or teething, but usually sleeps straight through the night. 

post #6 of 28

I've never nightweaned, I just wait until my toddlers do it themselves. It has ranged from slightly before 2y until 3 years of age. 

post #7 of 28
Just after DS turned 2, he started sleeping longer stretches most nights (for us, that was 4-6 hours a night vs. no more than 2 hours!)... so I knew then he COULD do it & he seemed ready to (emotionally ready, eating better, etc.), so I took that opportunity to gently enforce no nursing for a certain block of time. I would say he's only partially nightweaned, he's 2.5yo now and usually sleeps 6-8 hours (sometimes wakes up once or twice but doesn't nurse) and then nurses for 2-4 hours in the early morning before he wakes.

I couldn't really deal with him waking every 20 mins-2 hours all night long anymore, I did it for over 2 years and I was just DONE, I needed SLEEP and some predictability, so that's why I grabbed the chance to (partially) nightwean. If he had been only waking a few times a night and/or his night nursing wasn't bothering me, I would have continued to BF on cue. So no, of course you don't HAVE to nightwean, and there are many options besides nursing fully on cue or fully nightweaning. smile.gif Oddly, I noticed the less he nursed, the less he needed to nurse, and not nursing to sleep somehow made him wake less frequently to nurse all night too.... I don't know if he had to pee a lot more and was nursing to resettle? (We did not EC because DS hated it!) Or maybe it was still reflux (minus the vomitting)? Or something else, I don't know, I'm just very glad to sleep 4 hours straight again!!
post #8 of 28

I nightweaned DS1 from 19-20 months (took about a month and did it slowly) because I was pregnant with DS2, milk was drying up, and nursing was really painful. Previously DS1 was waking every 1-2 hours all night. He started sleeping 3-5 hour stretches in the first week of nightweaning, and eventually began only waking 1-2 times a night. He still wakes 1-2 times a night at almost 3 yo though, even in his own bed and fully weaned (he weaned completely around 2 years old, partially mother-led and partially child-led).


My opinion is that, if it is working for you, don't change it! But, if you are tired and want/need some sleep, I see no harm in gently nightweaning now or in the future. My DS1 started eating a lot more solids during the day once we nightweaned, so he more than made up for the missed nighttime calories. And like I said, we did it over a months time, so it was very slow and gentle and without a single tear.

post #9 of 28

I don't plan on nightweaning. My son is 20 months. He nurses several times a night and is a very content sleeper, it makes me happy and I get a good night's sleep.


post #10 of 28
Thread Starter 

All these responses make me wonder how much awesome sleep I'm missing by NOT nightweaning.  Sounds like a lot of babies were actually ready, even though they didn't seem to be leading the way.  I FEEL like I'm okay with DD's nightwakings, but I have very low tolerance for nights that are worse than the norm.  And although I don't feel that tired, I have become really REALLY stupid, spacey, forgetful, etc., and I think that may be from accumulated lack of sleep.  Either that or I'm just losing it :)  So...maybe this nightweaning thing will be worth a try in a few more months. 

post #11 of 28
I'd say, just be open to it. I wasn't really open to it at all but when I saw the opportunity I ran with it... it probably would have been easier if I'd been more open to it to begin with lol. You will know when/if she's ready...
post #12 of 28

Thanks for this post and the responses! I've been struggling w/ the night nursing thing (just being cranky about it)... and well, I'm thinking I need to start enjoying it a little more as it will be over in the blink of an eye! Easier said than done though! I've tried getting DS back to sleep w/out nursing, and he will have none of it at this point, so he's not ready. It's nice to know there are other mamas out there who went through far more night wakings for far longer!

post #13 of 28
I was going to post about this as well. My DD is almost 22 months. Our situation is a little different in that we adopted DD at birth and she has been bottle-fed donated breast milk and milk alternatives. We co-sleep and DD started sleeping throught then night (for the most part) a few months ago, waking up for a pacifier only and every few days for a bottle. We were so thrilled. But a couple of months ago she started waking up more and asking for bottles - 2 or 3 per night - every couple of hours. I thought it was a growth spurt and would pass soon, but it has not and we are so tired! My husband and I both work and it is really tough dealing with sleep deprivation (esp since we were doing so great a couple of months ago). In addition, my DD is really active some nights, kicking us, tossing and turning, etc. we have a king size bed, but if we try to move a little further from her to get away from the kicking, she just follows us around the bed! We love co-sleeping and are not looking to change the sleep arrangement, but I am wondering if we should consider weaning her off her night bottles. But I don't know how. DD demands the bottles and if we try to gently encourage her to go back to sleep, she starts screaming for a bottle or she'll kick us harder, etc. Plus if she is really hungry I don't want to not feed her. She eats a decent amount of food, some days more, some days less. We did BLW as far as starting solids and DD was very slow warming up to food. Still, most days I feel that if I didn't offer,she would just not eat. I am at a loss as to how to proceed. I don't want to force her to wean if she is not ready. We don't believe in CIO and I certainly can't let her cry for a bottle. But I am so tired and the sleep deprivation is making me grumpy and impatient (after particularly bad nights).
post #14 of 28

I suppose to put it into perspective, throughout  human history children nursed through the night up until recently, which is the last century or two. This is a very interesting article on night nursing:



post #15 of 28

I think you have to do what works best for you and your family. I have a high needs little one who has never slept all that well at night, especially not when he is teething. He also was really difficult and painful to nurse (and yes, we had a bevy of lac consultants and supportive midwives at our disposal, turns out the boys on one side of the family have a "barracuda" type latch).


Around 15 months I tried to just prolong the spaces in between nursing at night and it didn't work. He howled, was inconsolable and got really worked up the one time I tried (so much the mommy guilt kicked in). Around 18 months we discovered that if we put him down in our bed instead of in his he would sleep for 8 hrs or so compared to 2, 3 or 4 (previously I'd go get him at his first wake up and bring him to bed). Guess who moved into our bed full time?


I also partially stopped access to the boobs for a certain stretch at night, there was some grumbling and asking but nothing that couldn't be comforted. I provided lots of comfort other ways (which means you get a little less sleep for a while). He still nurses before sleeping and for an hour or so at 5:30 am. Yeah, I wake up at 3:30 am with his feet in my face, but get to watch him snuggling with Papa. This is working really well for us, but took flexibility on everyone's part and him being verbal enough for us to have a meaningful back and forth. I believe it's a negotiation between all parties involved, and probably was historically as well.  I'd love to see some peer reviewed cultural anthropology on that.

post #16 of 28
Originally Posted by Asiago View Post

I suppose to put it into perspective, throughout  human history children nursed through the night up until recently, which is the last century or two. This is a very interesting article on night nursing:



That article got me through DS's first two years, during most of which DS was indeed a 3-4 times an hour nurser, day & night... I always wondered whether my DS is less 'evolved' or something lol because he needed to nurse the way they did hundreds of years ago and wasn't able to adapt to the 21st century. (I mean that in an affectionate teasing way of course, he is an amazing kid!!)
post #17 of 28
Originally Posted by Asiago View Post

I suppose to put it into perspective, throughout  human history children nursed through the night up until recently, which is the last century or two. This is a very interesting article on night nursing:




Thanks for that link! All of the articles on that site are really interesting!


post #18 of 28

I night weaned at 15 months.  I never thought it would work, but I slept on the couch for three or four nights and when DS got up, DH offered him crackers and water.  He wasn't actually hungry, so he went back to sleep.  It was surprisingly easy (and DS was a really high needs baby/toddler) and it dramatically improved my night time sleep. 

post #19 of 28
I never night-weaned my son, who was done nursing at age 3. I worked full time, so he actually got most of his nursing at night. That was the only time he nursed after about age two. It was good for both of us, since I wasn't able to be with him during the day.
post #20 of 28

Like a couple of PP, being pregnant is what did it for us. night nursing was the last thing to go, as my milk supply dropped in a hurry. I think he was completely weaned by 15 months. One night I put him in his crib for the night, and didn't bring him to bed with us when I went to sleep, and he slept through. since then, he does wake up sometimes at night, and comes to bed with us, but is content with snuggling. I've noticed lately (he is 19 months and I am 28 weeks pregnant) that he likes to have a hand or his head on my breast while going to sleep, but hasn't actually tried to nurse again, although he has access should he want it.


so we didn't really actively nightwean. I don't think I could have, honestly, because at night, if it is Mama he wants, then it is Mama he gets. anything else makes all of us lose too much sleep!

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