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What are we all doing wrong?

post #1 of 90
Thread Starter 
I know that wrong is a loaded word, but allow me to explain.
I joined this group and clicked immediately on this Forum, and it did my heart good to see that others were also troubled by the all-night nursing kids, but at the same time, it troubled me that so many of us are suffering this way. I'm a SAHM, after years of WOH, and I'm thankful that I can sit around in my pj's all morning and drink a cup of coffee to "recover" from the night before. I am certain that letting your baby/kid CIO is not natural, but is it really natural for all of us to be losing years of sleep?? My brother co-sleeps with wife and 2 DD's and he led me to Dr. Sears and AP, which do resonate with me, as do the beliefs and comments that I see here on Mothering.com, but still...In the real-time world, I have trouble connecting with other moms, since no one seems to share the same philosophy that I subscribe to. I've dropped out of the playgroup because we just couldn't get it together by 9:30am. DH sleeps in the guest room as he needs to get up early for work. But the worst part for me is that the lack of sleep has scotched our plans for TTC. I'm 43, and haven't slept for more than a couple of hours in a row for almost 3 years, and am just not mentally or physically equipped to be pregnant. Furthermore, I'm living overseas without my support system (OK, this influenced my #2 decision as well) which makes all this craziness just a little more crazy.
I have consulted several book authors and others in search of guidance, and they all say the same thing (from Dr. Sears): If it does not affect your daytime parenting ability, then hang in there and your baby will eventually sleep without needing to nurse. And I have to confess that after a cup 'a Joe and a little time at the computer while DS watches his favorite video, we have absolutely fabulous days together, while still having hellish nights. Is this really natural? : I'm not looking for suggestions, since I've read EVERY sleep book and FB book out there, but just had another bad night and needed to vent.
post #2 of 90
I have no words of wisdom, Becky, except to say I have often wondered the very same thing.

Also, so sorry you have no support system.
post #3 of 90
I'm afraid after 2 years and 3 months of two hourly feeds and being a constant pacifier and getting no sleep and losing it all day I night weaned my son. Yes he cried, but I was with him the whle time and tried to be as gentle and gradula as possible..it took a few months. Now at 3 he sleeps so much better, still next to me. He does awake and cry sometimes but never asks for milk, just cuddles now and I find they don't keep me awake.
I am a lone-parent now but I imagine if I was TTC I'd have to set an alarm for the middle of the night or the very early hours!!!!
Hugs. It is hard and you have to do what feels right for you. Weaning felt right for me and I have not regretted it one bit cos I am a happier Mom with more sleep!
post #4 of 90
Thread Starter 

night-weaning...

I should add that I've attempted night-weaning recently, but am hesitant to allow much crying since we live in a very quiet apartment bldg. with mainly older couples around us (they are very sweet and welcoming to us during the day, but I doubt they would appreciate the wailing at all hours) and my son is what you would call "strong-willed" (euphemism for not always very cooperative) and will not go down without a fight!
It worked the first three nights (talking to him about it before sleeping, gently telling him to sleep on his pillow when he whined) but then there was the backslide on the fourth night. This happened twice, then I found excuses (like we're going to the in-laws' for the weekend, etc.) to put off further attempts.
I do appreciate the comment that it can take months, and maybe I just need to be more persevering in my attempts, and that goes for the rest of us too! Here's hoping!
post #5 of 90
hi and you will definitely find a support system here.

i struggled with the nighttime nursing too, especially when dd was teething. we weaned when she was a few months over 2, when i was pregnant and in a lot of pain when i tried to breastfeed.

what is it that makes you sleep deprived, exactly? is it the nursing or does he actually get up in the middle of the night? maybe a different bedtime would help you (i go to bed oh so early just to get as much as i can!)?
maybe with a little more info i could give better advice.

i know how hard it is to not have a support system around you and that probably contributes but just try to remember you are not alone! there are plenty of us out here!!
sending lots of hugs your way.
post #6 of 90
I'll start out by saying that I don't think there's anything wrong with frequent night nursers who are 2, 3, 4 etc. But for me, my DS' night nursing felt unnatural starting at around 18 months. It felt "unnatural" not only for me, but for him-- because I felt that night nursing was messing with his sleeping patterns.

I think that night weaning is "natural", just like I think that setting limits on nursing is "natural". I'm not an anthropological expert, and I think that field has a long history of sexism where how other cultures do things (like night nursing) have not been uncovered and/or discussed by male anthropologists. Kathryn Dettwyler's articles and books talk about culture (in primates and humans), but she doesn't talk about breastfeeding limits or nightweaning:

http://www.kathydettwyler.org/detwean.html

I think these things about nightweaning and limit-setting because I have observed them in various creatures, including my lactating dog and primates in captivity. Mothers will "brush off" babes who want to nurse if they are busy. I guess I would just be surprised if mothers did not nightwean in most cultures where family beds and extending BFing are common-- because many of those are hunter/gatherer societies where women's gathering requires plenty of physical stamina, which might be hard in an extended sleep-deprived state. And in my limited study of these types of societies, it does not appear to me that "nursing on demand" during the day necessarily happens, at least beyond the newborn stage.

The luxury (and I mean this in a positive way, not in a lazy/spoiled/consumerist way) of SAHMing where one can completely focus on one's child(ren) rarely occurs outside of western culture. It is truly a luxury in the best sense of the world to revolve family life around a child, and do what feels natural as a mother. I don't think there's really an objective side to what is "natural", but I know that pretty much every mother feels that certain practices are natural (sort of a pseudonym for "authentic" or "right") and some are not. While I don't think that I could identify what *should* be natural, I do know that what's natural for me is not extended nightnursing.

I still remember talking with my DH about this before I decided that I wanted to nightwean, especially because I was wondering if it would solve the real issue -- the night waking that was "fixed" by the night nursing. I was concerned that I'd just be removing my soothing tool for the waking and I'd end up with a frequently waking, constantly unhappy child. That didn't turn out to be the case -- I'm not sure of the mechanism, but the nightweaning cured the night waking. This seems to be the experience of many mothers, and as my DH once put it -- hey, I'd be likely to wake up and grab a tasty snack if I slept next to the refrigerator.

Anyway, I don't think that extended night nursing is wrong, if it works for you. But I have a hard time understanding why you'd want to continue it if it reduces your physical health. I'm not really sure why the benefits outweigh the costs. But I am not asking you to justify yourself, so please don't take this as a request to do so.

Karla
post #7 of 90
Welcome!

Fabulous question for which there is really no answer.
You asked for no advice, and I have none to give, since my DS is 20MO and still wakes 2-3x a night. (I did a gentle weaning process and now no longer nurse at night...or at least between the hours of 8pm -5am)

Is it something we are doing "wrong", or is this what parenting at its best is all about? I WOTH 3 days a week and literally struggle to get moving...my days at home are easier, as you describe with pj's and cup o' something! So, perhaps we are not meant to be the workaholics that we "all" have become? Perhaps parenting brings us back to 'cave' times when raising children was all we were focused on, while others did the tasks of hunting/gathering/cleaning/whatever....but for how long?

Anyhow...I think about this often - thanks for putting it into words very well.

My personal philosophy is that relationships need to be healthy and happy for both parties -and nursing is no exception. When something does not feel quite right, it needs adjustment. Teaching a child that complete self-sacrifice is required to be a good 'parent', if you are unhappy and send off vibes as such, IMO. PP said it very well.
post #8 of 90
What a GREAT post, Karla! I think EXACTLY the same things, but I've been very reluctant to post something like that here at MDC. I'm not an expert, either but it seems to me that most animals brush off their young at some point - they begin to encourage independence for their young. It seems quite natural to me.

As for Sears - well, he's not a woman, ya know? He can talk about how great CLW is, but it's not really HIM doing it, it's his wife. Same for this 24/7 babywearing thing. Easy for him to talk about it - he's putting the baby in a sling for a few hours in the evening. What a NOVELTY. He neglects ANY mention of the emotional health or emotional make-up of the mother. He misses the point that cultures that do this have COMMUNITY support. The babies get passed and worn among MANY women and girls. Not one mom at home alone with her kids. One book I really like is Working Mother, Nursing Mother because it discusses the emotional state of the WOH mother.

If it helps you, there is a Mother-led-weaning thread on BF. I think there is NOTHING wrong with setting limits on nursing. A LOT of limits if you need to.
post #9 of 90
Quote:
Originally Posted by swissmiss
I should add that I've attempted night-weaning recently, but am hesitant to allow much crying since we live in a very quiet apartment bldg.
How much is he nursing at night? Could you limit him to one nu-nu after he sleeps and then say that you'll nurse again when it's light out? How many sessions are you trying to cut out at once? I think it's fine to say that you and your boobs need to rest at night. I think it always helps to let them know WHEN they can have it again. For me, nonnies on weekends have to come after naps. Someone else made nursing cards for their toddler. They had a certain number every day. But the mom was flexible if she ran out and really needed it. There is also the "bitter herbs" solution where mothers put something foul tasting on their breasts.
post #10 of 90
You can consult a zillion AP book authors and every parenting website on the internet, and the answer still has to come from inside of you.

There's nothing "wrong" with nursing on cue 24/7 if you're both comfortable with that- and there's also nothing "wrong" with setting limits if you're NOT comfortable with the way things are going.

Sometimes, all it takes is a shift in perspective to feel OK with things- "OK, I'm more tired now, I move more slowly, such is life with a young child." Maybe the night wouldn't seem so "Hellish" if you changed your expectations. Or maybe you can just accept the fact that you're going to have "Hellish" nights sometimes and that's OK. On the other hand, you may need to make changes or establish a more structured routine in order to feel that you're coping well.
post #11 of 90
Thread Starter 

Me again!

Thanks all, for posting!
I could really appreciate Karla's POV, since I have been curious for months about how weaning takes place in the animal world--I even had the audacity to ask at a LLL meeting how primates go about weaning, and the response was that the leader "didn't know". And I've read Kathy D's web site and have even corresponded with her on this topic. I assumed that animals would push their nurslings away, and I've seen farm animals do that around here, but those I've consulted would have us believe that it is most "natural" (I'm trying to avoid using the word "should") when the child weans him/herself! Hmmm....I haven't read "How Weaning Happens" (LLL) since an online reviewer said that it should really be called, "How Weaning Doesn't Happen". I've read people's various weaning stories on the LLL web site, and it is still confusing.
I also appreciate the comment that one's attitude/expectations can be adjusted. That is the only way I've gotten through these years, but it seemed that he's nursing most of the night for the last week, and that prompted me to write. He doesn't seem to be awake for any of it, as he barely opens his sleepy eyes at 7:30 or 8 am, and then he is totally rested and is a delight for the whole day. Full of energy and tons of fun.
I also liked the point made about Dr. Sears not being a woman, i.e., that the babywearing and holding can take place more easily when there are others involved. I had to hire a babysitter for afternoons when my DS was not yet crawling and I just couldn't carry him around all day, sling or no sling, even though I wanted to.
If it does take a village to raise a child, that would explain why I needed to open up to you all and see what came back to me. I have plenty to think about, and I will not give up on night-weaning, or at least on gentle reminders.
post #12 of 90
Cosleeping and all night nursing stopped working for me at about nine months. My daughter was sleeping with us full-time and spent the first half of the night nursing. I have two other kids, one a toddler, a husband that was working all the time, and I do not function well without at least 6.5-7 hours of sleep. I had a headache all the time, I had no energy to be a good mom during the day, and I was angry and resentful that my husband and even the kids were sleeping and rested and happy and I was not. I decided that parenting is about more than how we sleep and how much the baby nurses at night and made some changes.

I started putting her to sleep in a playpen next to my bed. I nursed her to sleep in my bed and then put her in the playpen. The very first night she slept until about 4:00, I don't remember exactly, and then got up to nurse. After she nursed she stayed in bed with us until it was time to get up, and this became our routine. At 11 months I started putting her back in her playpen after she nursed and she had no problem with it. She'd lay there and play and then go back to sleep. At about a year, she stopped waking up to nurse completely and I put her in her own room on a futon mattress on the floor. That was a more difficult transition because I tried to rock her to sleep at night. One night I got frustrated after an hour and put her in her room, with the baby gate up of course, and she played for a few minutes and went to bed. (We do the "room as a crib". Her entire room is babyproofed and it is safe for her to be in there alone.) The next night I said a little prayer and put her in her room at bedtime, no rocking, and she did the same thing. This has been our routine since then and she's 17 months now.

My 3yo is still in our bed most of the night and was in bed with us full-time until he was almost three. I'm not opposed to cosleeping and night nursing in theory, only when it interferes with daytime parenting. It didn't with my 3yo, but it most certainly did with my 1yo. I strongly disagree with the notion that one or two aspects of parenting, such as cosleeping or night nursing, are worth sacrificing our entire relationships with our children and our mental health. Nothing works for everyone. You can decide to nightwean a toddler, or at least set limits, and still be an attached parent. I felt like a rock star after I decided that I couldn't deal with the all-night nursing anymore and put my baby in a playpen next to my bed. I'd forgotten what it felt like to be well-rested. I didn't have headaches anymore and we actually made it out of the house to playgroups and other fun things.

Best of luck to you. I hope you find something that works.
post #13 of 90
I should add that we have had bad nights in between. There are still nights when she wakes up at 11:00 and doesn't go back to sleep until after 3:00. I'm not sure what causes it, but those nights are much fewer and further between. I'm also able to recover from those nights more quickly because I'm not dealing with true sleep deprivation, which I was when she was up all night every night.
post #14 of 90
Karla and Eileen I want to thank you so much for your posts. They were really very thought-provoking. I want to go read more about how weaning/limiting occurs in other animals.

A friend of mine who is more AP/NFL than most of my other friends, but still not quite as into as me in a lot of ways (with the exception that she is very big into the organic foods/no sugar; not that it matters to this discussion), anyway, she recently mentioned that she was "sleep-training" her son who is a month or two younger than mine who is almost 13 months. At first I was hesitant to ask for further details, cuz I'm not a fan of the term, and most "training" programs involve CIO. Anyway, she says she's using Kim West's "Good Night, Sleep Tight". Apparently a mutual friend of ours actually went to Kim to get help with her daughter. So now I'm curious if anyone knows anything about her "program". I've requested the book from the library but they are still in the process of buying it.
post #15 of 90
I too frequently wonder what first and native cultures do and did at night. I wonder if they just let babies who want and need to be attached to the breast all night and they just pass out too because they are so tired after a day's work. I too wonder if they set limits. It seems like most of them don't things that would cause crying.
I also think that if you think about it people often have trouble sleeping, can't get back to sleep, have a restless night's sleep, and have a physical discomfort. I think we tend to have a different set of standards for baby's sleep. We also tend to enforce schedules and needs according to adult standards. Many babies can't just lay there trying to go back to sleep, they need mama's comfort, until they are older.
Finally, since this is the Nighttime parenting board where people gather for support, people with "problems" come. Since I don't know of any research, I have nothing to back this belief up, but I firmly believe there are many AP/breast fed on damand families who have no sleep issues.
post #16 of 90
i've wondered the same thing, too. and i'm not even breastfeeding! (long story.) i feed on cue/demand, so Willow always wakes for one night feeding and sometimes two or more. lately, she's been "cluster bottle-nursing" every 2 hours at night, because she's going through big developmental stuff during the day (like sitting up). i wish i could just offer her a boob, it sounds so much easier! but then i read that we're all losing sleep, regardless of how we feed our babes.

on my part, i know i lose sleep because i just don't fall back asleep that easily at night. during the day, i can catnap 20 minutes at a time and feel refreshed. at night, i need at least 4 solid hours of sleep to feel good, so when Willow is waking to eat frequently, i feel crazy by morning and i'm a zombie the rest of the day.

just wanted to say that FF babes wake up too, *IF* their mamas feed on cue and co-sleep. the other FF mamas i know are all mainstream, and they refuse to feed their babies at all in the night!! i feed Willow always as if she is breastfed, i.e. i ask myself "what would i do if i were nursing her?" and i sure as hell wouldn't ignore a nighttime cry of hunger! it hasn't occurred to me to night-wean yet, although there are times when i can tell she's not truly hungry, and just putting a soft blanket in her hands to curl up with zonks her right back to sleep. sometimes she is just smooshed up against me and needs to be rolled over to fall asleep again. other times i can tell i need to go make that damn bottle and snuzzle with her while she eats, then she'll fall asleep. i've got a system, down to 1 minute per warm bottle prep, but still! it's MUCH harder than breastfeeding, which i make a HUGE point to tell new mamas who think BFing is "too hard".

i figure i'll be losing sleep for at least another 2 years, if not longer. i catch catnaps whenever i can during the day.
post #17 of 90
I've really enjoyed reading the replies as this is something I've been thinking about a lot lately. My 10.5 month dd is a very restless light sleeper for a good part of the night, constantly on and off the breast (I think the later part of the night/morning is much worse) and I am struggling between the fact that it does feel right to have her in bed with us, but something doesn't feel right about how restless her sleep is. I put a mattress on the floor at the foot of the bed and used it one night. Dh said, "can dd come back to the family bed?" in a really cute way so I let him bring her up to our bed again.

Getting so little sleep does affect my day as I feel tired a good part of the time. Coffee does help My nipples also feel like they're going to fall off some mornings. But during the night it really is just easiest to put her on the boob. I also don't want to do her a disservice if her sleep is not restful. Oh I don't know. I'm confused. But I really do like reading what you all have to say
post #18 of 90
Just to second what Willow said.... night waking is not limited to BF babies. I supplemented my daughter with a SNS system; however, she weaned herself from the system when she wasn't getting enough from the tubes (again long story). She "wakes" between 2 and 5 times a night. I give her a bottle one of those times when I can't settle her by cuddling (like Willow I feed on demand). I honestly believe that many times her natural sleeping restlessness wake me up and I feel a need to respond to her (cuddling) when she would eventually settle herself. I kind of figure this is the price to pay for co-sleeping. And yet I feel rested during the day - if I have a rough night, I usually can make up for it later by going to bed early another night. I really wish sometimes that I was able to BF her at night like I used to, because it was alot easier to settle her when she gets riled up (now I have to rock her) : . For me a successful night is one where my feet don't hit the floor!!

I've heard that babies don't sleep consistently until age 3 and on the dark days, I just think to myself that in a few years, I will have a hard time remembering the deprivation and I will miss waking up and snuggling my daughter.
post #19 of 90

i'm not doing anything wrong.

my dd is almost 14 mos and she does not sleep through the night nor do i expect her too. i love having her next to me and i wake 2 a night to nurse her. She goes through "restless" periods and i feel like i've nursed all night. but those "restless" times are when she's cutting teeth. We've just got through one of those times recently when she cut 2 molars. And we'll got through it again soon.
I've nursed my two boys at night until they were 3 1/2 and 2. I slowly, gently nightweaned them when i was preg with my dd . They both nursed at the same times each night. Twice during the night. So i weaned them together.
My oldest who is now 5 is my night waker. I think my middle child would have nightweaned on his own earlier if not for his brother. He's the child that sleeps all night. My oldest just crawls into bed with me when he wakes for the 1st time.
I recognize that all my children are different. I don't worry about my 5 y.o not sleeping without waking. He's got a mind that doesn't turn off. My dh wakes several times during the night, so maybe it's hereditary.
We did finally get the boys bunks and for the last 2 weeks, my oldest has slept thru, but then last night he woke and found me.
I decided that long ago, i would enjoy this time even if i did not get much sleep. That's over 5 years of not sleeping through the night (except for the few months in my last preg) and i'm soooo used to it! I work partime out of the home, so my hours are flexible which helps.
I know i am doing the best for my children and they are thriving very well because of it! They will never have security issues!!!
A few years is not a very long time, and you won't regret losing the sleep in the end!
post #20 of 90
Something that always comes to mind in these discussions:

Can you sleep through (most) nursing sessions?

I can't-- I have found that people who really struggle with sleep issues usually cannot sleep through nursing sessions. It makes a huge difference, IMO.
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