help! how to wean 2 yr old from nursing to sleep - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 7 Old 10-25-2010, 03:23 AM - Thread Starter
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Oops! I posted this question in the wrong place. Re-posting it here with some additional thoughts.

I am 5 months pregnant and it is sooooo painful to nurse any more. We are weaned altogether EXCEPT nightime nursing to sleep. It's the only way my 2 year old son has gotten to sleep for all these two years and he just can't sleep without it. It's a nightmare. Apparently my milk flow is very minimal or the milk tastes bitter, since for the last few weeks my son has said, "not working" when trying to nurse to sleep. But once it "stops working" he is UP, bam, completely wound up. Jumping or crying, kicking or sobbing, playing or trying to crawl off the bed, trying to sleep but not being able to, snuggling with me or pinching my nipples, cuddling with me or grabbing at my breasts, sobbing and wiggling and just being utterly, completely exhausted. He hasn't been able to fall asleep till 10 or 10:30 -- tonight it was 10:40.

I've tried having my husband do bedtime instead of me but he just sobs, for two hours, "mama, mama, mama. Find mommy, find mommy." etc.

I've tried earlier bedtimes. No luck. Bottles of warm almond milk, which he loves, but doesn't get him to sleep. Calms forte. Chamomile tea. A shot of whisky (kidding!).

We talk about it during the day. About how he is a "big boy" and nursing is for little babies like the one in mommy's belly. He seems to understand that and has been fine about cutting out the other nursings. But he can't get to sleep without it. We talk about mama's nursies "not working" and how we need to learn to sleep without nursing. He'll try nursing and look at me as if to convince me that they're "working" saying, "working! working!" But then a few minutes later it's clearly not working and he starts crying. "Not working, not working," then it's all over. Of course I've also tried a few days at a time of not even trying to nurse, but then he's just absolutely hysterical, totally beside himself.

Sometimes I just keep him up reading till like 9:30 when he's sooo tired, and then he falls asleep within a few moments of nursing before it "stops working." But I do want him to learn how to sleep without nursing.

We still have everything in place but nursing: bath, stories, same songs, books, same nighttime ritual. He gets so tired and almost every night asks to go to sleep ("lights off") around 8-8:30pm, but then if he can't nurse to sleep he's totally up for the next 2-3 hours. This has been going on for at least two weeks now, maybe even three.

I've read here and heard from other mamas in the same pregnancy-but-nursing boat that at some point the child just self-weans b/c of milk flow or taste problems. I wish that would happen! But I don't see any end to this. It's just utterly exhausting for everyone, and so traumatic for him.

What do I do? I'm at a complete loss. Thank you!
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#2 of 7 Old 10-26-2010, 05:55 PM
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Hun, I'm so sorry you're dealing with this. DS is 22 mo. and I am 13 weeks pregnant, and my milk just dried up completely about a week ago, which has made it easier to get DS to sleep w/o it since there's not milk there. He still wanted to nurse, but would just toss and turn while nursing(insert nipple pain here!)and it wouldn't even calm him down enough to go to sleep anyway. So, what I started doing last Monday was laying down in bed with him, and letting him nurse just for a minute or two, then telling him, okay, no more. Then I'd let him drink his cup of water, or play with his paci(he doesn't actually suck on it, just bites it or flips it between his fingers) Don't get me wrong, it's been a struggle every night and naptime, but for the most part, within an hour, he's asleep. DH has been able to get him to sleep as well. The last time he nursed was yesterday morning at 5am. He has still asked for it, but only briefly and then just tosses and turns, intermittently taking a drink of his water, screaming, and finally giving in and going to sleep. Like I said, it's only been a week and a half, so I'm not surprised he's still fighting it and taking an hour to go to sleep. You may have to just stop nursing him completely. I know it sounds easier said than done, but if you really want this to end, that may be your only option. Sorry mama!

DH(9/04) DS(12/08) and DD(5/11)

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#3 of 7 Old 10-31-2010, 12:50 AM
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Your story sounds so much like what we went through with our daugther. She was 18 months old and I was pregnant. I was very sleep deprived and very sad by this whole thing. I was still breastfeeding her while I was pregnant but I wanted to night wean her so that she could fall asleep on her own and also because the dentist warned us about the problems she would have if she continued to have milk on her teeth at night. I know this is different from the situation you are in... Our daughter was taking a pacifier, so that helped but then we had to wean her away from the pacifier. The best thing we did was have her spend the night at her cousin's house. She had been waking every night several times a night to seak comfort from mama when sleeping at home. It was exhausting and very difficult for all of us. After she spent the night with the cousins, she was much more independent and has been able to handle nights better. I don't know if there might be a cousin or good friend who might be able to have your son overnight.
Good luck to you and bless you. Sleep deprivation is one of the hardest things about motherhood. I wish you rest and I wish your son a really easy way to go with all of this! Hugs.
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#4 of 7 Old 10-31-2010, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Nova0929 View Post
Sometimes I just keep him up reading till like 9:30 when he's sooo tired, and then he falls asleep within a few moments of nursing before it "stops working." But I do want him to learn how to sleep without nursing.
How does this affect his behavior during the day? I mean, is he still able to get up in the morning and have a good day? If so, I would just embrace this. DD wasn't ready to consistently go to sleep without nursing until she was closer to 3.5 and DS until even after that. But at 9 & 11 they certainly don't need to nurse to sleep If you can give him the time to come to it on his own, it will be easier. He will get there.

To be clear, I think a lot (maybe even most) 2 year olds can go to sleep without nursing. But given how many things you have tried and how long and hard he has fought this, it really sounds TO ME like your DS is not ready to go to sleep without nursing. I'm sorry, I know how hard it can be.



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#5 of 7 Old 11-03-2010, 10:41 PM
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We were in the same boat you were, OP. When I got pregnant just before DS turned 2, there was no way he would fall asleep without nursing. It took a while but now he nurses for part of his lullaby and then we lay together and eventually he falls asleep. It takes a lot longer, but it's a lot less painful for me. How we did it. hmmm...I just kept taking the boob out at the end of the lullaby and then firmly telling him that it's time to lay down and sleep. Then I would lay there and ignore his screwing around for a while, but "wake up" and tell him he needs to lay down and go to sleep if he kept screwing around. If he still wouldn't lay down, I would threaten to leave (originally I threatened to go get daddy, but we're trying to get him to go to sleep with daddy so I've stopped that, but it was a sure fire way to get him to lay down!). As long as you can get him to stop moving for 5...10 minutes, he'll get tired and go to sleep.
Of course, while I type this, it happens to be on a night where DS wouldn't go to sleep after an HOUR of me laying next to him. He kept turning his head and looking at me and moving his legs or arms to keep himself awake. Siiiiigh. So, it can be done over time, but putting him to sleep takes forever now.

Mother to one (8/08) with another on the way (04/11)
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#6 of 7 Old 12-16-2010, 01:07 AM
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I'm so glad to have read this. I'm experiencing a similar ordeal and just wish my DS (28months)would wean himself. He's so attached to 'boozy' and is asking all the time. Getting to sleep without it is impossible, but I'm getting exhausted and my nipples are so sensitive I'm writhing in pain while he sucks(I'm 8 weeks pregnant). I think the supply is dwindling too as he now asks for a drink of water while we are nursing. I don't want to tandem feed, and don't feel I have the energy at the moment to wean. When my son has an afternoon nap I find even nursing won't get him to sleep before 9pm and I'm ready to sleep an hour earlier. I usually have to sit by his bed and pat him on the back for ages. Is your DS still having a day nap? On the days he doesn't nap, my DS goes to sleep really easily, but I'm loath to give up the naps, because I need the break during the day. I'm sorry I can't help, just wanted to let you know that I commiserate and hope that you can sort it out really soon.

Wife partners.gif and mama of five grouphug.gif,  Alfie angel2.gif 12/10  and Louie angel2.gif 6/11, CPangel1.gif5/12, CP angel1.gif3/14
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#7 of 7 Old 12-16-2010, 01:32 PM
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I think there's always going to be an adjustment period.  Probably trying to nurse him is making it harder all round.  I would expect a few rough nights (late bedtimes) but trust that in a few days it'll be fine again (so a few days of no boobs in the picture whatsoever).  Many times with my two I've had to just make a decision and barrel ahead with the idea that if after a week or so we were having trouble then I'd reevaluate.  But being confident in my decision and realizing that the change HAS to occur makes it a little easier.  


When I weaned we went to singing/cuddling.  For my DD who wouldn't settle down I would leave her for a bit.  She likes to potter a bit and 'talk' to her babies.  So she falls asleep alone now.  But I can't say enough things about feeling confident and giving things a good go.  It's OK that you're done.  It hurts, it's done, it's OK.  Good luck!

DS (6.06), DD (10.08), DD (05.11).

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