Do babes ever nightwean themselves? If not, does it always come to CIO? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 26 Old 11-07-2010, 12:48 AM - Thread Starter
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My DD is nearly 15 mos. She is definitely high needs, and an avid nurser, especially at night - a really light sleeper in general. I have always assumed she was a light sleeper and having the boob at night helped her settle, but I do let the thought creep in that maybe having the boob so close all the time is what's rousing her more often...?

I've always sort of had in mind that we would nightwean around 18 mos but now that that's nearing I don't really know how I feel about it... for one thing, I wonder - do babies ever nightwean themselves? If so, does anyone have a guess to the average age of that particular child-led weaning?

And if a mama starts the process before their babe has indicated they are finished on their own, does it always have to come to CIO? I realize that there are different levels of this, and it's not the same to leave a baby alone somewhere as opposed to your DH comforting them, etc, but I just wonder what everyone's experiences have been. When my DD doesn't like something she makes it completely apparent (and soooo loud!). I wonder if I would know the difference between her protesting in general and genuinely not being ready. And how many hours/days do you let your babe go on protesting to get it to "stick"?

And last, for those mamas that have already nightweaned their high need babes, did the night wakings actually stop, or at least lessen? My fear is that we will go through some awful process and she will still wake as often and I will just be without my easy go-to....

Many thanks in advance!
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#2 of 26 Old 11-07-2010, 01:08 AM
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My very high-needs son nightweaned himself around age 2, and it was about that time that we also taught him to fall asleep without nursing. We did this by talking to him about it ahead of time, and then singing him to sleep. It took awhile (both on any given night, and over the course of a month or so, I think), but it eventually stuck fully. There was never more than a little whimper, if I recall - I don't have the stomach for crying for nursing.

I think kids do nightwean themselves for the most part, but not until around age 2 - depending on the kid. I do think that starting around 12 months, being physically right on top of mom at night can lead to an increase in nursing. I'm experiencing that now again with my 2nd son. If I get even a little space from him in the bed, he doesn't stir to nurse nearly as often. I recommend trying to get some of your own sleeping space at this point in order to allow your daughter to learn to sleep in her own space, too. You can still share a bed, just scoot back from her even a few inches so that she isn't right at your breast. That's a good first step.

I don't think nightweaning/teaching to sleep without nursing goes well until kids are pretty verbal. I don't think you'll find that it's tough to keep nursing her to sleep and throughout the night until around age 2 - especially if you get a little space from her in the bed. When she's old enough to talk and understand what is happening, it's a lot easier to move to singing, telling stories, whatever, to help her to sleep.

I can promise you that you will not need to do CIO, you might just have to be a little patient and push back your timetable a little. I find sleeping with a nursing babe/toddler very peaceful and don't mind doing it.
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#3 of 26 Old 11-07-2010, 01:10 AM
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Mama, I wish I was here to give you some sugestions, but I'm right there with you. My DC6 (a little boy, also 15m) is pretty much the same as your dd. he's a light sleeper, wakes so easily if i get up out of bed. I don't recall my other 5 kids being this way with sleep, although my 4th child (a little girl now nearly 6) nursed til she was 4 and was an big-time night nurser for a LONG time. I wouldn't say that my little guy is "high needs" or overly demanding through out the day. I just don't think he can sleep without nursing or having it nearby. There are days when I start regretting my parenting style (co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding). We are expecting baby number 7 in May, and I'm trying to figure out what changes must be made. DC6 will only be 22 mos old. anyway, OP, thanks for posting your situation. wish i could be of more help.....
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#4 of 26 Old 11-07-2010, 01:27 AM
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#5 of 26 Old 11-07-2010, 01:45 AM
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for us dd was a great sleeper unless she was hitting a milestone, got woken up and was upset, had a nap too late, or wasn't feeling well. however she still nurses to get to sleep. sometimes i can story tell her to sleep though. honestly at 3.5 i don't think she has nursed at night in a loong while. however she asks constantly through out the day and i we never officially night weaned so if she for some reason needs a midnight snack, so be it. ds is very similar in his sleep patterns as well. he is usually only waking once a night (unless any of the above mentioned)
i know some people don't think it is cio, if dh or another caring person is there but honestly i would only do it as a last resort (like had to work or something) and i would work up to it very slowly. like starting with that person helping get dc down for a nap.

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#6 of 26 Old 11-07-2010, 01:54 AM
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We night weaned at age 2 with very few tears.

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#7 of 26 Old 11-07-2010, 01:58 AM
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My DD1 weaned at 28 months - more or less CLW. I never nightweaned her. She cut back night waking between 18 and 24 months, but I remember a week or so after she was 2 that she was suddenly waking and nursing pretty often again. I did start wearing a shirt to bed sometime in DD1's toddlerhood to discourage latching while we were both asleep. I also started sleeping with DH between me and DD1 for part of the night sometimes, in part to lessen her night nursing and in part just to get some time close to DH.

I imagine I'll do all of that at some point with DD2 as well, but DD2 is 14 months. I haven't considered anything like nightweaning. She feels way too young to me.

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#8 of 26 Old 11-07-2010, 02:37 AM
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DD1 nightweaned shortly after her first birthday. She went from clusterfeeding all. night. long. (reverse-cycling) to sleeping through for 12-13 hours at a time. Literally, in the blink of an eye. She had severe reflux and had always been a very light sleeper. When she was about a year old, I was finally able to become a full-time SAHM, and almost immediately she began to STTN. After that, the only times she'd wake to nurse during the night were when she was sick or teething. Otherwise, she slept through with no issues at all. She was a very high-needs babe up to that point (and after that point, other than during the night ).

DD2 was not high-needs, no reflux, and she was still nursing like clockwork during the night 'til she was about 2 1/2. Then she gradually tailed off. I think by the time she was 3 1/2 she was weaned. She nursed less and less at night and before bed and then she was done ....

I had to wean dd1 during my pregnancy with dd2 (nursing while pregnant made me irrationally angry ). We did it gently and gradually, we never had to use CIO while she weaned (I used LLL's "How to Wean" book). I wish I hadn't been reacting that way to nursing - she was reacting to my anger and I didn't want her to remember nursing being like that - I feel like I took the best route I could in my circumstances, but I know that she wasn't ready to be weaned yet and she did regress and struggle in the first months afterwards.

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#9 of 26 Old 11-07-2010, 03:07 AM
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I do not think they generally nightwean spontaneously until more like 3 (I think if the child is 2 they probably had SOME encouragement). I don't think it has to come to CIO, but there might be tears. Are any tears out of bounds? I do think sometimes frequent night nursing makes them light sleepers, but sometimes it also helps them settle, and it's impossible to tell the difference until after you've taken away the boob!

I would probably set a few hours at the beginning of the night first when you won't nurse her(5? 8-1 or so?), push a little beyond when the first nightwaking is before you nurse her, and give it 5 days. If she's stopped waking up to nurse, it was just habit and you can try to push the others. If she's still waking up, she's not ready.
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#10 of 26 Old 11-07-2010, 03:33 AM
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Although I wasn't really actively trying to night wean, how it worked for us was having Dad sleep between us. We never had to CIO.
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#11 of 26 Old 11-07-2010, 09:47 PM
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I have initiated night weaning each time, with varying degrees of crying. The plan is, if my toddler wakes and is fussy crying, then I make sure they have something to drink, I hold them and cuddle them, and comfort them back to sleep. If they were actually CRYING, and drinks and cuddles and soft singing and rocking were not helping, then I nursed them, and chalked it up to them not being quite ready. If it's a bad time, it's a bad time. And I tried again a little later.

It's been a relatively simple process each time, and my Dh works third shift so I was alone for it. I've found the best approach IMO is to set a 4 hour block of time where you won't nurse. From 2 AM to 6 AM, maybe. Nurse on demand up to that time, and after that time, but not during. Having some visual cues helped us - I had a bedside lamp that stayed on until 2 AM, and there was no nursing in the dark. Around sunrise, when it got light again, we could nurse again. This worked well! During the no-nurse times, there were times of waking to nurse. I was committed to doing EVERYTHING but nursing (being pregnant and having nursing aversion was a strong motivator for nightweaning) which meant that they got snacks and cuddles and singing and anything else that would bring comfort. For 3-4 days, you absolutely lose some sleep because it takes more wakeful effort to do those things than to just let them nurse. But after a few days which are the hardest! - for us anyway - they stop waking during the no-nurse hours. And then you can start extending that time gradually until its the whole night. Getting that block of time without waking to nurse was the hard part; it seemed like once that happened, getting a full night happened without any additional effort.

I want to add that my kids have not been particularly high-needs -- from what I've seen with my friends and their kiddos, with higher needs kids, it is even more important to pay attention to timing; you may think 18 mos makes sense, but doing it a little earlier or a little later might make all the difference. It just depends on how receptive your child is, which changes from stage to stage. It probably will involve a bit more fighting on her part (and I totally believe that in-arms crying is NOT the same as CIO, and also that a mama's overall sanity is sometimes hanging in the balance) and may take a little longer. My friend whose Dd is pretty hn slept downstairs for a full two weeks, while her Dh took care of night waking needs. BUT their Dd pretty much sleeps through the night now, and she considers that it was worth the effort because her toddler was nursing very frequently at night (since birth) and she was beyond exhausted and needing to make that change.

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#12 of 26 Old 11-08-2010, 12:00 AM
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My kids didn't nightwean themselves, but nightweaning didn't involve what I would consider CIO. I found this old thread where I described how nightweaning went with DD, when she was around 22 months. I was prepared to let her cry off and on for 10 minutes or so, but she didn't really cry at all, just made some half awake fussing sounds - and that was mostly only on the first night. After that, she would mostly just snuggle up and go back to sleep. So it seemed she was nightweaned pretty painlessly - but then, months later, it turned out that although I had thought of her as being nightweaned, she had a different idea about it. She started waking up and asking to nurse, and when I didn't let her, there was some crying. I remember at least one night where she kept crying and asking "Can I nurse?" over and over in this pathetic little voice. I can't remember how long it went on. Not hours, I'm sure, but long enough to make me feel bad. Maybe half an hour? But after months of not nursing at night, I didn't feel like I ought to start it up again. I can't remember how long it took for Part 2 of nightweaning. I think she might have asked to nurse at night off and on for a few weeks, but maybe it was only a few nights.

I don't remember exactly how it went with DS. It was around the time he turned 2, and I think I just started telling him that there was no nursing when it was dark, and doing other things to comfort him when he woke up - reciting nursery rhymes or singing or telling stories. I don't remember any significant amount of crying. He accepted it pretty well.

Both kids started sleeping better after nightweaning. DD had always been a frequent nightwaker. On the fifth night of no nursing, she slept through the night for the first time ever! She didn't start doing that all the time right away, but she gradually started doing it more and more often, until by the time she was 2 1/2 she probably slept through the night half the time and the rest of the time usually only woke once. DS, who had always been a better sleeper than DD, started sleeping through the night pretty much all the time as soon as he was nightweaned.
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#13 of 26 Old 11-08-2010, 10:19 AM
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My second baby has slept through the night almost since birth, so there was no CIO there. LOL.

The first one, I nightweaned at 24 months. I didn't need to use CIO, nor did I intend to. I figured I'd try, and if she got upset I'd just nurse her and try again later. But she didn't get upset, she just whimpered slightly for just a second and fell back asleep. She did that same thing again later when she woke to nurse, and then didn't wake again that night. She did the same thing once the following night, and then slept through the night from then on. I think they key was waiting until she was ready for it.
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#14 of 26 Old 11-08-2010, 05:02 PM
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My high-needs, reverse cycling DS1 nightweaned and started sleeping through the night on his own at around 15 months of age. YMMV, but that was my return to sanity. DS2 is pushing a year and still wakes up 2-5x/night to nurse, but he goes back to sleep really fast, so it's tolerable.

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#15 of 26 Old 11-08-2010, 05:10 PM
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DD didn't nightwean herself but when she was 14 months, I put on a shirt at night and she didn't sense booby so she didn't ask. I guess that is sorta self-nightweaning.
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#16 of 26 Old 11-08-2010, 05:14 PM
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DD1 was nightweaned while I was pregnant. She didn't scream or cry (no tears) but she whined, yes.

I'm trying this with DD2 for my sanity and she whines a lot more, but she's been more dramatic from the start.
I put on a shirt at night and she didn't sense booby so she didn't ask
I'm wearing two sports bras at the moment and a sweater and DD2 is still asking. LOL!

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#17 of 26 Old 11-08-2010, 05:25 PM
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Originally Posted by kcparker View Post
My high-needs, reverse cycling DS1 nightweaned and started sleeping through the night on his own at around 15 months of age. YMMV, but that was my return to sanity.
This was us too. Although, throw in there - I moved out of the family bed in the middle of the night at around this age, and she didn't notice one bit that I wasn't there - that was the start of our night weaning and the beginning of the end of co-sleeping for us (me and the kids - DH stayed with them until DD was truly done nursing at night). I did notice when we stopped nursing at night, we saw a huge increase in daytime nursing - especially on the weekends when I was with her all the time.

We never CIO.
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#18 of 26 Old 11-08-2010, 05:37 PM
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Yes, I know lots and lots of babies that eventually STTN without CIO. My son did around18m and all of my sister's kids were 10/11/12 months. Sometimes he had wake ups but DH would go to him.
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#19 of 26 Old 11-09-2010, 04:11 AM
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We night weaned around a year using Jay Gordon's plan and it wasn't fun, but it wasn't awful. A couple of crabby nights full of cuddles and not a ton of sleep, but no screaming for very long or daytime repercussions. Oddly enough, complete weaning was much much easier.

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#20 of 26 Old 11-09-2010, 04:41 AM
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I think you have to make a distinction between crying it out and crying. Nightweaning before the child is really ready may result in crying, but you can be there, holding the baby and comforting her or him. Crying it out is something different, and I don't think it ever really must come to that unless the parent is just at the end of his or her rope.

My first child was fairly high needs and didn't nightwean until 3 years. I had a friend who night weaned her child at a year although they continued with the family bed and nursing, they just didn't comfort in the night with nursing. I think night weaning at that age might almost be easier than waiting until 2, just because it seems like things can actually get worse at 18 months to 2 years when you are expecting night nursing to naturally slow down--it can be very frustrating. I didn't really feel like it slowed down until 2.5 or so. But night weaning seemed unthinkable to me at a year, so it probably wouldn't have been any easier then either. I guess by two it's just I wish I had done it, and then by 3 I was glad I had stuck it out when it naturally did become easier.

My second child was easier and sucked her thumb a lot, and would sleep through the night sometimes as a baby, but she also went through a phase of nursing a lot when she was 2. And even though she weaned awhile ago, she's 7 now and bedtime is still a struggle, she still wants me to lie with her and sleep with her.
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#21 of 26 Old 11-13-2010, 01:38 PM
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I night-weaned my (now school aged) boys around a year. They did cry some but it wasn't CIO. My husband was comforting them, or I was. I don't see any way to raise a decent person without sometimes refusing to give in to their desires. They also cried occasionally when they wanted a food they couldn't have, a toy at the store, even a diaper change. I just don't see this as either spoil them rotten or make them CIO. There's soooo much in between! 

Sleep is important to me. I came onto this board today, for the first time in years, to try and find some ideas of how to get my 4 mo. old to wake less, and she only wakes 2-3 times a night for ~10 minutes. But I have 3 kids, and in order to meet all of our needs I need to fit as much sleep as possible in the hours of 11pm-7am. It's a process where the baby's needs come first at the beginning and eventually, the baby can fit into the family life. 

99% of the time, a 1 yr. old doesn't need to nurse at night. They will probably want to and if that works for mom, great! But there is nothing wrong with nightweaning as gently as possible. FWIW, my oldest coslept and nursed until 5, after nightweaning at 1. 

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#22 of 26 Old 11-13-2010, 01:47 PM
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Oh goodness... DS2 was the model high needs child. Nights were terrible. He was waking every 45 minutes, needing me to switch sides and help him latch on again. It sucked.


We nightweaned at 14 months. Basically, DH took over nights. I slept on the couch, and DH slept in bed with DS2. The first two nights are so were really rough. DS2 would cry and DH would just hold him, lay with him, walk around with him for a little bit. After the second night, I guess he figured out that daddy was what he got, so he started sleeping pretty well, only waking once or twice, and DH would just pull him in closer and they'd go back to sleep. 


I did have to sleep on the couch for about 8 months. But it was worth it. 


Getting him out of our bed was an entirely different thing.......

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#23 of 26 Old 11-13-2010, 01:59 PM
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We're in the middle of the Jay Gordon method but we're spreading it out a bit longer because DS has always been high needs and we don't want to traumatize him too much.  It just got to the point that we felt like he was not getting enough quality sleep lying next me, constantly tempted to nurse.  The first 2 nights were amazing, nursed him a little when he look up but stopped while he was awake.  He bawled for a few minutes and then passed out for 5 hours...a serious record for a every 45-60min night nurser.  Since then, it has been a rollercoaster of good/bad nights and I've been reluctant to move to the next step since I started back to work part-time but I feel like it will help all of us and since it's only 6-7hr.  I don't think it's horrible since he's almost 14 months but it's still a battle of guilt, what's most important for the household etc.  I do have hope that you can co-sleep and wean from night-nursing!

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#24 of 26 Old 11-13-2010, 08:24 PM
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My 2 1/2 yr is no where near night weaning or sttn. I am hopeful by 3 but if I refuse the boob she cries so she is clearly not ready.

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#25 of 26 Old 11-17-2010, 07:44 PM
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My fairly high-needs DS night weaned himself around 17 months or so.  I'm not sure exactly how it happened, he just started wanting to be cuddled back to sleep instead of nursing.  He did still wake at all his usual times, but since we were co-sleeping I would just pull him to me and he would fall back to sleep with my arm around him.  Sometimes that didn't work, and it was because he was hungry so we learned to keep a snack by the bed and I would just hand it to him without making a big fuss.  He still nursed a ton during the day, and I thought I would have to really try to wean him at night because he was one of those kids that just loved to nurse.  But somehow he did it himself with no encouragement from me.  


I have also heard good things about the Jay Gordon night weaning plan.  I have a couple friends that have used it with great success.  I am considering it for my DS2 because he is still nursing at night and I would like that to end soon, but I want to give him a chance to stop on his own.  

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#26 of 26 Old 11-17-2010, 08:36 PM
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My first nightweaned herself.  My second 2 didn't.  I had to tell tehm no and cuddle with them until they understood that we weren't nursing at night anymore.  They cried for about a minute, in my arms as I patted them and comforted them, and then fell right back to sleep.  I sure wouldn't consider that CIO.      I think your question about nightweaning vs CIO is like saying "does it have to be one extreme or the other?"  and the answer to that is more obvious--no, there are many more possibilities in the middle!










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