3-year-old won't sleep without nursing and pinching - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 10 Old 12-28-2012, 12:06 AM - Thread Starter
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My daughter won't sleep without nursing on one breast and pinching the other with her fingernails. She'll cry for hours, and when I say hours, I mean she's been up until 6am until I, reaching my point of utter exhaustion, give in. I don't know what to do. If she sleeps and I move away, she'll wake and cry. Always. Always, always.


Early in the evenings we turn off all non-essential light to try winding her down. She doesn't get sugar or anything, ever, and I've pared my diet down to one so bland that eating is a chore now because I'm so tired of it. She'll go through what routine she has, and then she won't sleep without a boob in her mouth. I hate to say it, but just to get some alone time, I've had to leave and go for a drive. It's frazzling. When I get home, she'll still be screaming until she can nurse and pinch. If I even try to stop the pinching with her fingernails, she'll scream.


To make it harder, we live in a small studio. It's what we can afford. We have one bed, and a room-like area that is partitioned off but no actual door and no way to put one in. If we have a better home, we could probably go with the typical routine ending in a dark bedroom for her to sleep in. But we don't.


Want more of a challenge? She's mildly autistic. Her idea of a routine causes me pain and right now I have several raw spots and a few that have bled. I know a "good" mom will suck it up to prove her love, so maybe it makes me a bad mom, but I can't handle the pain anymore. I've reached my limit. I'm going to snap. What else can I do to get her to sleep without nursing and pinching?

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#2 of 10 Old 12-30-2012, 09:17 PM
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Mama, my little guy is a pincher, too, and is also three. Since I got pregnant, I've had to draw a hard line on the pinching. I just say, over and over, "no pinching" and lately I give a final warning and then that's it. One more pinch = no more milk. I'll actually get up and get out of bed if he's wailing.  I'd love to be saintly and just allow it, but it's this or wean altogether. He tries hard not to pinch but sometimes it's just irresistble to him. I've been sympathetic and offer cuddles (we cosleep) but no more nursing if he pinches. I'm not 100% convinced he's learning not to pinch, but I resent him a lot less.

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#3 of 10 Old 12-30-2012, 10:44 PM
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Originally Posted by MyDaughtersMom View Post
 I know a "good" mom will suck it up to prove her love, so maybe it makes me a bad mom, but I can't handle the pain anymore. I've reached my limit. I'm going to snap.


       No. A "good mom" takes care of herself and teaches limits and boundaries about hurting others. Not that it isn't hard, I completely empathize, I just don't think you should feel bad. My son is 2 and even though I have never allowed him to do the pinching of the other nipple, he still tries every day! I also live in a small apartment and we struggle with bedtime almost every night. We get into patterns where he won't sleep and we have to drive every night.


I recently night weaned and that helped for us. He's been going down for my husband and sleeping longer periods. It might not work for you, but its worth a try. I f you haven't already, read the The No Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers. What I learned mostly from the book is to decide what your goals are, pick a routine/ system and stick to it. We had to do it a few times, but I find that you have a few really hard nights and then every gets used to it. Our new plan starts with regular bedtime stuff (snack, bath, etc) then I nurse him in the living room with dim lights, then he goes to bed to read with daddy until head starts to droop and then lights out and daddy sings him to sleep. It doesn't always work, so our back up plan is that after about 45 minutes, if he's not close to sleeping I will either try to nurse or we go for a drive.


A little more thought on pinching... he has been learning a lot about ownership lately (and by that I mean he came from daycare with "mine mine mine" about 6 weeks ago) and so we have either confirming "yes, that IS yours" or "sorry, that is Mommy's/ Daddy's but you can use it if you are gentle". He is also learning about ownership of body parts, so when he say "my baboos, my milk" I say, "sorry, those are mommy's but you can have milk if you are gentle" and if he pinches or bites I get up and walk away tell him ouch and that he hurt me. Sometimes he gets upset but over all it seems to be working. I know with autism disorders these types of things can more difficult, they have trouble with empathy and interaction, but maybe it will help you. Another thing that helps me is to put a toy between us for him to pinch and fiddle with, where a necklace or clothing that has little pieces he can grab, or let him play with my fingers in the same way.  I feel very strongly that it is not ok for him to learn to hurt someone else including me, for his pleasure/ comfort. My motto is, "it's his milk, but they are my breasts". 


You have a right to not be hurt, to have some time to yourself, and to sleep. My advice to you right now would be to do everything you can to get her to sleep without nursing: walk in the stroller, drive in the car, read her favourite book over and over until she passes out, or even television. So maybe she will stay up all night, can you and your partner take turns getting sleep and watching her until she gives up and just passes out? In our family it started out easier for my husband to get to bed if I wasn't here, because then he wouldn't expect to nurse... so maybe if you just disappeared for one night? I know it feels cruel to let her cry, but it's not the same as leaving her alone in a dark room, if she has parent to give comfort, she is not alone. You don't HAVE to give her exactly as she demands as long as you provide clear boundaries and offer comfort and alternatives. You need to do something before you lose your sanity. You can't take of your family until you take of your self.

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#4 of 10 Old 01-03-2013, 11:39 PM
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Yes this is me too! My DD is just obsessed! She'll pitch and poke and then her latch is terrible and I feel her little bite. It makes me wonder why I don't start trying to actively wean. She just turned 3yo so I'm trying to be patient. It's very hard sometimes. You're doing JUST fine mama, just try and set good limits. I've been successfull but sometimes, I just mentally find my happy place and just let her drift off to sleep while prodding-- it's usually faster if I don't mess with her. How annoying? BUT sometimes, I just cannot handle it!!!  

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#5 of 10 Old 01-06-2013, 10:24 PM
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Wow, you're a better mom than me! I'd have weaned long ago!!! Maybe you could night wean? Dr. Jay Gordon?  My son likes to try to twiddle my free nipple when nursing and it drives me batty trying to keep his little hand out of there!!!  I hope you find something that will work. 

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#6 of 10 Old 01-06-2013, 11:44 PM
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I know a "good" mom will suck it up to prove her love


You do not have to "suck it up." You're being hurt here and even though she isn't doing it maliciously, it's not something that you are obligated to put up with. 

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#7 of 10 Old 01-11-2013, 12:37 PM
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My DD is younger, almost 1, but she's a pincher too.  I have bruises from it.  She pinches my arms, shoulders and the breast she's nursing from.  If I try to stop it, she won't settle to sleep.  I am looking for advise too.  It is helpful to me to wear a sweater or some type of thicker clothing for her to fidget with and block any remaining skin with my hand.  That's all I've got for now!

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#8 of 10 Old 01-11-2013, 12:50 PM
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Silversparrow had some great advice!

I'll add that it does take time to change a habit so make a plan and try very hard to stickwith it. The crying from your child can be hard to endure but as long as she is being comforted and isn't alone, she is old enough to bear it.

Do you have a spouse that can take her and put her to sleep? Maybe you can stay at a hotel or a friend's during nighttime for a weekend or 3-4 nights. YOU need a break and your daughter will learn to respect her mama's boundaries. Parenthood involves much sacrifice of course but perhaps this is a case where your daughter can learn a valuable lesson and you reap the rewards as well!
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#9 of 10 Old 01-13-2013, 08:43 PM
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Originally Posted by MyDaughtersMom View Post
I know a "good" mom will suck it up to prove her love, so maybe it makes me a bad mom, but I can't handle the pain anymore.


I don't have any advice, but I read this and wanted to say that you are NOT a bad mum. There is no need to prove your love. No-one expects you to be in pain in order to be a good mum.

I want to send you hugs through the internet. You are doing a wonderful job, mama! ♥

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#10 of 10 Old 01-13-2013, 08:47 PM
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Ooh, I just thought of some advice actually. I read somewhere (Kellymom maybe?) that to encourage good nursing manners you can give your baby/toddler a lovey to hold while nursing. I did this with my two year old and have been able to reduce the amount of pinching he does. It doesn't work every time, but most times. When he pinches with those sharp little nails or starts to get a lazy latch I also stop the nursing session and snuggle to sleep. There are lots of angry tears, but if he is hurting me I know it's because he's not really hungry and I can't be a safe place for him if I'm feeling resentful or in pain.



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