How to Night Wean High-Needs 3-Year-Old? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 4 Old 04-11-2012, 06:51 AM - Thread Starter
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I am SO ready for my 3-year-old DD to nurse less, especially at night.  I am all for CLW, but after 3 years, I think I've done a pretty damned good job, and I am completely touched out.  Nearly every time she nurses now, my skin crawls, and it makes me resent her.  gloomy.gif  And then I feel guilt for feeling that way, because she is still my "baby" and I know that nursing makes her feel loved and is still good for her.  I really can't take it much longer, though.  I don't enjoy nursing anymore, and that's not good for her either.  I wish she would just let me hold her sometimes without having to be on the boob, but she doesn't.  If I'm sitting down or lying down, she wants the boob.  I can't relax for even two seconds without her heading straight for it.

That being said, the other issue is that we have been TTC #2 for almost 15 cycles now, to no avail.  It took 9 months to TTC #1.  I have a feeling that is related to DD still nursing frequently, because my LP is on the short(ish) side at 10-12 days.  She nurses 3-4x per night, and probably 10x per day.  I feel extreme guilt in wanting to wean her, but is it doing her any good for me to be aggravated and resentful over it?  I don't want her to quit completely just yet, but I wish she could at least stop/lessen the night nursing.  I have tried all the gentle things I can think of, but she is a Boobasaurus Rex, and she cries and/or gets angry when I try to offer things other than the boob (hugs, water, food, other distractions).  

Nursing is the only thing that gets her to sleep.  The only thing I can think to try is to leave the house (maybe sit in the car?) while DH tries to get her to sleep for a few nights, but it could backfire and just keep her up all night, thus messing up her bed/wake/naptimes significantly, which throws off our whole day.  I have tried the "boobies hurt" and "boobies are night nights" lines, but those don't work with her.  She just pulls down my shirt aggressively and pulls my boob right out, or screams if she can't pull it out on her own.  I have read Jay Gordon's method, but for a high needs kiddo even that seems kind of harsh.  I can't stand to see her cry.

What can I do?  I am desperate!  Please HELP!

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#2 of 4 Old 04-11-2012, 08:44 AM
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Wow, it sounds like you really have it rough right now.  I wish I could tell you something that would 100% work, but I can't.  Each kid is so very different.


I'm going to encourage you to do what I encourage everyone to do (lol) and that is make yourself a list of what *you* need.  What is bothering you and how you think you can change it.  Then, just start on the list.  For some moms, they just really need a block of sleep (when I partially nightweaned DD, that was me--- I decided I just NEEDED one 4-5 hour stretch at night that I could sleep).  Honestly, I think you need to really think about it and be sure, because if you're not, they sense it and it just becomes a confusing, frustrating merry go round of torture.


What is your current situation?  Like--- does DD nurse *to sleep* or just before sleep?  When does she go down for the night?  When do you go to sleep for the night?  Who is sleeping in the bed?  How verbal is she?  How do you feel about bribery?


If you're not already doing this, what i would suggest is to nurse her to sleep.  Then, whenever you go to bed wake her up and have her nurse as much as she will.  We did this with DD (so, she would nurse to sleep around 9:30ish and then I'd wake her up at like 10:30-11 and really have her tank up).  Then I just slowly increased the time.  So, to start DP was "in charge" from 11pm-2am.  Then we slowly lengthened the time (where he would get up and rock/pat/walk with her until I was ready to nurse again) until she was going from 11pm-3/4am.  I was pregnant with DS at that time and I was just exhausted.


Now, I have to warn you, that in retrospect... I never really was comfortable with the decision to night wean her.  I felt that it really altered the natural course of our nursing relationship and with DS I did not night wean (not entirely true, there were a few days where I attemped to, rather successfully, but those days were enough for me that time around to just go back to night nursing).


Good luck!



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#3 of 4 Old 04-24-2012, 05:56 AM
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Dear filiadeluna,


First of all... your daughter is so lucky to have been able to nurse for so long.  It is not easy to keep it up this long and you should feel good that you have provided that for her for 3 years!


I am also still nuring a high needs 3 year old.  I have mostly weaned from daytime weaning (though she does still ask from time to time), but nighttime is my weakness.  I am newly pregnant and not dealing well with the lack of sleep as some nights she is up frequently.  Last night was particularly horrible as after a nice 5 hour stretch, she was up every hour.  My husband has been helping in the middle of the night for over 6 months and she still screams for me almost every time he goes in there.  Some nights he can get her back to sleep easily, but last night she just wouldn't give up waking up until I came in.  Anyway, I know for me it is just my own resolve that is mostly in my way of night weaning, but all I picture is a lot of screaming and me having to get up and rock and walk her which is exhausting as well.


As for any advice.  I found that daytime nursing was easier for me to let go of.  I try and make sure that we are out of the house before she gets cranky and wants to nurse in the morning (I am a stay at home mom, not sure if you are).  We have mostly cut out daytime napping (which is a blessing and a curse), but when she does nap, I try to get her to fall asleep in the car for a drive.  When she wakes up, she used to always ask to nurse, but I've tried to have her come out to the living room to me, instead of me going into her bedroom.  If I offer to read a book or let her watch a video, she lets go of the need to nurse.  It took a while, but now she doesn't expect it anymore when she wakes up from a nap.  When TTC, I read a lot about nursing and many said if you can just get a large stretch of no nursing, that can help kickstart your fertility.  So, whether it's nightweaning or just getting maybe a 10 hour chunk of time during the day when you are not nursing, that may do the trick (so they say, I'm sure everyone is different).  I have also (at times) been able to get my daughter to shorten the length of nursing time at night, by saying "2 minutes to snuggletime.... 1 minute to snuggletime.... snuggletime!".  My daughter came up with snuggling "with the nipple" (really the breast), as a way to help her sleep without nursing.  Some nights she'll fight me to not snuggle though, but probably if I was more forceful with it, we would be further by now.  


I feel like I've tried everything except just saying no at night.  Well, actually, about 6 months ago we spent almost 3 weeks trying to nightwean and once my husband got sick and couldn't help out and then went on a business trip, I gave up.  I was up with her for two hours each night trying to transfer her from my arms in the rocking chair to the bed unsuccessfully and just couldn't do it without his help after 3 weeks!  Plus, everyone said after a few nights or maybe a week, we would be done and she would be sleeping through the night, but I guess she wasn't ready (at 2.5 years).  Or maybe we were doing it wrong by getting up to walk and rock her instead of finding a way to soothe her in the bed.  Anyway, after that failed attempt when we did no nursing until the sun comes up, I have been waiting for the right time to start again.


I have been working on putting boundaries on nursing for over a year.  We went through a time of nursing each side once before bed and then saying, "Last nurse" and then she would cry but we would rock or walk to get to sleep after that.  I try to explain to my daughter that I just don't have much milk anymore now that she is older.  My body just can't nurse as much.


These days when I try to put boundaries at night, she'll sometimes cry and say, "When can I ever nurse again?!".  Oy. I try and say, "I love you" a lot and I tell her when she can nurse again.


Anyway, I don't have the answer, but I am with you.  I think the other response was a great one that I want to think about too.


Oh, one more thing.  We moved my daughter to her own bed over a year ago, which went well, though at her first wake up I normally go in and sleep with her for the rest of the night.  It has been nice to fall asleep on our own without her and have some couple time in bed too.  We called it a special big girl bed and she was excited about it, but of course told everyone that Mommy sleeps in there with her:)


Of course I really think that once we are resolved as to how we think things should go (that it is best for them and us), that helps.  My daughter knows I'm not yet resolved to night wean, so she pushes the boundaries well.  When concerned that the nursing gets in the way of baby #2, I often think about how having a sibling would be a blessing for my daughter and I try to prioritize that in my mind over the crying today over nursing.  And sometimes that crying is not more than a few minutes long...


I hope none of that felt preachy at all.  Everyone in my life tells me to wean and that bugs me.  Definitely every mom, child, family is different and have different needs.


Keep me updated as to how things go for you!



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#4 of 4 Old 04-26-2012, 05:08 AM
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Just an update from me.  I was trying to get my daughter to nap two days ago and she wouldn't and I found myself losing it because her sleep issues drive me crazy!  I decided then and there that I needed to nightwean her to get her and I sleeping better.  I started talking to her (on our way into the grocery store!) about how at nighttime she needs sleep, Mommy and Daddy need sleep, and the nipples need sleep.  We talked about it a few times that day that after nursing to sleep, the nipples would also go to sleep until the sun comes up.  She was okay talking about it during the day and I decided I had to go through with it.  I always thought she was too old for the "the nipples go to sleep" but I think she has a vivid imagination and the image worked for us.  Well, that night she did cry when I said the nipples were sleeping, but not for more than a few minutes at a time.  She was up for an hour though trying to get back to sleep and then asked for a snack.  We went to the kitchen and brought a banana back with us to the bedroom.  After she ate the banana, she fell right to sleep.  When she woke up a few hours later (at 3:30am), she asked to nurse, cried for 10 seconds and then went back to sleep.


The second night, she couldn't fall asleep for about an hour again, we ate another banana, and I ended up in the rocking chair rocking her back to sleep.  More crying here and there too, but not more than a few minutes at a time.  I just hope she starts sleeping more and that I don't have to get up and rock her every night.


Anyway, I had to tell someone!  I hope there is a light at the end of this tunnel and I hope it is not too far away.  Nights have not been bad, but I so need sleep!!!



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