I had a grand plan that I was going to stop nursing him to sleep at night tonight. We have been talking about it for a couple of weeks, reading the fantastic new book Sally Weans from Night Nursing, and combined it with a change in my work schedule where I will be coming home an hour earlier so I can have more QT with him before bed. DS was totally on board and saying he wanted to do it. The plan went great today until bedtime.
Well, we had our night nursing in our special chair. When he was nice and relaxed but losing interest in nursing because the milk was gone, I moved him into his bed. He had an absolute and utter meltdown. He was crying and coughing so much his shirt was soaked and I thought he was going to cough up a lung. He was clawing at my shirt. He just looked so hurt and foresaken. After 30 minutes of this, I knew I didn't have it in me.
I was desperately trying to come up with some way to let him have it but to save face and keep a shred of credibility. Finally, I proposed a compromise. I said we would do 5 minute shifts -- 5 minutes of nursing and 5 minutes of trying to fall asleep without nursing. He nodded ecstatically -- deal deal, he said. Until I set the timer for 5 minutes. He started crying again and saying, no, I will say when I am ready to fall asleep without booboo! I set the timer, debating what in the world I was going to do when it went off. Well, it turns out he fell asleep within 5 minutes anyway. He was utterly exhausted.
So. There simply has to be another way but I cannot for the life of my figure out what it is. I don't think I have it in me to let my son cry like that. Can that possibly be healthy? But my husband needs me too. I am at a loss.
I wish I could hope that at the magic age of 4 he would just grow out of it and merrily jump into bed on his own. But I have memories of my own mother laying with me for ages trying to help me fall asleep, and I am not sure that was good for my own independence or her relationship with my father. I think kids need a nudge toward independence, I guess I am just wondering if the fact that it was so hard is a sign that I am doing it too young, or does it have to be that way?
My daughter is 3.75 and had just started falling asleep more regularly without nursing. I will post more when I am on my computer. I totally understand how hard it is on the rest of your life to have this take so long.
Would love to hear how you got to that point with your daughter!
If 10:30 is when he falls asleep no matter what time you start the bedtime routine, why not just wait until 10:30 to put him to bed? I get that you want him to go to sleep earlier than that so you can have time with your husband, but trying to make him fall asleep when he's not sleepy yet is just not going to work and telling him he can't nurse isn't going to make him get sleepy earlier - just the opposite. If you want to get him out of the habit of nursing for a long time before he falls asleep, instead of stopping the nursing earlier I think it would make more sense to start it later. If he's really tired, he may be more willing to get into bed after just a quick nurse, which could eventually be phased out. If you usually read stories before nursing, if you wait until much later than usual to start reading, you might be able to put him in bed to listen to a story and have him fall asleep before you even get to nursing.
You could combine this with getting him up earlier in the morning so he'll be sleepy earlier in the evening. I think the only way you have much hope of getting him to fall asleep earlier is to make sure he's tired earlier, and the only way to do that is to get him up earlier. Unless he still naps. Does he? If so, maybe it's time to see if you can stop the naps.
Any chance it would work for your husband to handle the last phase of the bedtime routine? When mine were little I would nurse them, then my husband would take them to their room and cuddle and sing to them until they fell asleep. That way he's still getting some special cuddle time, but he's also not needing to nurse to sleep. Plus it gives Dad some of that special nighttime cuddle time and you a break during the evening.
Thanks Daffodil. He does still nap, 1-3. I tried phasing out the naps but night times were a disaster - tantrum central, if he even made it. More often than not he would fall asleep in his high chair eating dinner or worse, at 5 before I got home and then be up past midnight. I think what you are suggesting might work in terms of night weaning. My concern is that I do think he needs more sleep. We're having behavior issues which I think are sleep related. It also doesn't get me more time with my husband, unfortunately.
If he really isn't getting enough sleep, why isn't he tired enough to fall asleep with less than an hour of nursing? How much total sleep does he get?
My idea doesn't get you more total hours when he's asleep, because I don't think that's very realistic. If he gets a consistent amount of sleep and you're not seeing signs of sleepiness like you did in the evenings when he went without a nap, chances are the amount of sleep he's getting is what he needs. And it's only going to decrease as he gets older. What he needs now may already be less than what he needed at 2. But my idea can get you more time with your husband in the evenings, if you get him up earlier or shorten or eliminate his nap. If you're used to having some time to yourselves in the morning before he wakes up, it will cut back on that, though.
I bet your life will get a lot easier when he drops the nap. Dropping the nap can get harder for a bit before it gets easier, as you saw. Isn't it horrible when your kid falls asleep at 5? But if he stays up just a bit longer, late enough that it means he'll be out for the night when he does fall asleep, it's awesome. You may get to the point where he'll fall asleep with no effort (or nursing) on your part by 7:00 and sleep all night, and then you and your husband can have your evenings together. It might be worth struggling through a few weeks of horrible evenings to get him on a no-napping schedule
Daffodil, it's a great question. I have no idea why he takes so long to fall asleep even though he is clearly tired. I suspect it is because he misses me, or because the milk runs out before he's asleep. In the hour plus that he's trying to fall asleep there are usually 2-3 times where he is asleep, or nearly asleep, and then he wakes himself back up and starts fidgeting. He just can't seem to let go. You sure are right about naps! I keep hoping he will show a sign of being ready to give them up but so far no luck. I think if he could somehow get more hours at night he might. But as it stands now he's only getting about 9 hours at night, so he really needs that nap. I've read that 3 year olds need 12-13 hours total.
Since my DH can't help with this transition period, my nanny offered to come back to our house at 8:30 pm and put him down herself for a few weeks -- essentially fill the role of what a husband might do. I haven't taken her up on it because, apart from the expense, I am not sure it would work. He already knows how to fall asleep for her and for my mom. It's me he has the issues with..... I am so indelibly connected to nursing in his mind.
I'm pretty sure my kids didn't sleep for 12-13 hours when they were 3. Some kids need more or less sleep than the typically recommended amount. So it's entirely possible that 11 hours is enough for your kid. But you're right - 9 hours total wouldn't be enough, so he needs the nap if he only sleeps 9 hours at night. Or he needs to start sleeping 11 hours at night if he drops the nap. I don't think you'll be able to get him to sleep 2 extra hours at night first and then drop the nap. You'll have to do it the other way around - start by keeping him awake all day so he'll sleep longer at night.
My DS turned 3 in August and has a similar schedule - BUT, i am a SAHM so i have SO much more flexibility - AND my DH gets home at 8:45 4 nights a week - so we know we arent going to have any time together!
DS gets up around 6 -6:30 AM and we are in the process of taking away naps - so on "No Nap" days - i will put him down no later than 7PM - often earlier..... on "Nap Days' he goes down at noon and is up about 2 - sometimes its 1 - 3 and then bedtime is tough....typically wont go down before 9PM.
He doesnt nurse for very long - thank god because since hes been 18 months or so - i barely can tolerate nursing this child! He is really big for his age and has a mouthfull of (perfect) teeth - sometimes he does have trouble - i nurse him for 3 - 5 minutes per side - then stop and he will lie there, sometime roll around a little - it can take an hour sometimes for him to go down - but that is not typical.
I would maybe try taking away the nap - or, if possible waking him up no later than 2pm.....for me - that is close to impossible - dont know why but this kid WILL NOT wake from a nap until the nap is OVER...lol but then put him down at 5 or 6 pm - if he gets up at 5 - 6 AM will that be terrible? i mean this sincerely - for me its no big deal - my DH has to get up super early too - so its fine if were all up ..... if its an issue ....than ignore me!
i think its possible he just does miss you - but being exhausted at a bedtime can help a little....and no - this wont last forever ...as his language increases - well i hope this is true....as his language improves - things like bribery will work! i am honestly pretty upset with the idea of nursing this baby to sleep until he is 5 or 6 ...i am hoping i can find a way to talk him into it sometime this coming year ....but i am also bracing myself for bad news there - maybe your DH should too
Happy at Home Mama to DD 4/95 DS 4/98 and DS#2 8/10
I also have a frustrated DH who complains that he isn't getting "snuggled" to sleep...
Sigh. I just hope that this too shall pass (and soon!)
This is funny. .. my brother in law will tell sleepy kids he has to go to the bathroom. He waits five or ten minutes and they are usually asleep when he comes back.
I started telling her she just had to wait for a few minutes. Usually it was because I was nursing her brother, but other times it was because honestly my nipples needed a break. Often she would fall asleep during the wait. Lately she decided she wants to sleep in her own room. So she lays next to me waiting while her brother goes to sleep. 9/10 times she falls asleep and I carry her to bed.
The biggest change was probably dropping her nap. We went from hours to get to bed to probably twenty minutes. And the more physical exercise she gets the better.
Other people getting her to sleep just read her books until she falls asleep.
I just got the Sally weans book too. I nursed my 26 month old to sleep and we are night weaning starting tonight. He had night weaned twice before but I went back during stressful times when I felt he needed it. I how it goes well. I am still going to nurse him to sleep though.
That was almost 9 months again, when DS was 2.5. Now he's 38 months and sleeps from 7:30-7ish each night (wakes once and crawls into bed with me). Afternoons are fine, bedtime is soooo much better than DS's first 2.5 years of life ever was. And even though he still nurses to sleep, it takes 5-10 minutes and is a lovely cuddle time for us.
From my point of view, I'd suggest trying the no nap for 2 weeks and then reevaluate. It may not be easy late afternoons so have exciting activities planned. Hope that helps!
Me: Sarah, married to: J, mommy to: C (8/10) and E (11/12)