Not really looking for direct advice per say, more commiseration. And other people's experiences. We've always co-slept with our little girl and have no plan to do otherwise anytime soon. I have also not done any kind of night weaning and, while I feel like that is on the horizon, I'm having trouble deciding on when to go for it. My daughter will stay down for about 3 hrs then call, in her sleep pretty much, for "Ummies!" at which point I go to bed if I'm not there already. Then she'll nurse and pull off another couple times before the last few hours of the night (somewhere between 4 and 8am) when she pretty much has to be latched on to stay asleep. I'm torn because I think her sleep quality would be better if we weaned - but what if it isn't!?! She does get 10-12 hours at night depending on whether she naps or not but she's pretty grouchy in the morning and I wonder if that's from the restless wee hours. Ummies are still SO SO SO important to her and I'm hesitant to take them away, even at night. And yet, what if, under it all, she's asking for a little more boundaries and structure then am I doing her a disservice in continuing night nursing. She and I have talked about how at some point she will not have ummies at night and she's not cool with that idea (of course!) We've read the Sally Weans From Night Nursing book and she loved it at first UNTIL I made a comment about how just like Sally learned to not nurse at night, she will to. Now the book is not allowed to be read. I am in the final throws of finishing a graduate program and am gone 1-3 ten hour days a week but am always home for dinner and bedtime. I'm thinking maybe when we're done with that in April that maybe I'll reexamine night-weaning? What's normal 2.5 yr old grouchiness like?
My 27 month old DD is similar: we share a bed and she nurses quite a lot day and night- and I've tried to night wean a few times starting from about 18 months. Like you, she does a pretty-much non stop nurse from 4am-7am, and is pretty grouchy when we finally drag ourselves out of bed. And I am too! She continues to cling and want to nurse for the first hour or two of most days which I also find pretty trying as I try to get breakfast and a bit of coffee to feel somewhat functional :)
My night-weaning attempts helped a bit (for the past 4 months I often get from 10pm-3/4am without nursing) but my efforts to increase the no-nursing window to even 5am haven't worked. Basically she just won't go back to sleep without nursing in the wee hours of the morning. I spent a few weeks trying to be really firm - no nursing 'till the sun comes up - and she would just wait it out. A few times she sat up in bed staring at the clock that lights up when it's "morning" for 1.5hrs+ in order to wait for nursing. Not crying, just waiting it out (and reminding me every 10 minutes what she was waiting for so I was holding the same vigil as she). Needless to say the clock has been stashed away and I have given up trying to stop her early morning nursing marathon. It was just getting too exhausting.
But I still desperately want her to be able to get back to sleep without nursing! Nap, too. If I don't nurse her the ENTIRE time, she just won't nap. I'm really sick of that, too, so the past 3 days I've been telling her she can only nurse for 5 minutes, then we cuddle/rock/sing to sleep (which works at bedtime, btw). But guess what? 3 days of no nap. So I'm stumped. And feeling guilty about short-changing her her naps. With both the naps and the early morning hours, I almost feel like she's not quite exhausted enough to capitulate and fall asleep without nursing (like she does at bedtime) but by no means is she well-rested.
So no advice, but some commiseration, anyways! Hopefully someone out there has some tips for breaking the sleep/nurse association in older, co-sleeping nurslings....
Do you have a partner who can get involved? For us that was key, my DH took over sleeping with DS. I do have friends who have done the night weaning themselves and the kids keep sleeping with mom no problem. But my son would get too upset with me there saying no than if he was just with his papa.
As a warning: we still had months of early waking after night weaning. We finally had to move bedtime earlier, as without nursing on and off all morning DS would not sleep past 5-5:30. Then after a few months it's like something clicked and he started sleeping later. Finally to completely stop nursing in the morning I started bringing a banana upstairs to give him when he wakes. Now sleeps until 7-8. Waking up anticipating nursing was robbing our whole family of sleep!
This was hard for us too. I was okay continuing to day nurse my daughter, but I had to end the night nursing because I was just exhausted and napping during the day was tough to make happen. When they are so active during the day it is hard to be up most of the night. My daughter used to wake up about every 2 hours to nurse. I think it became more of a cuddling habit for her, which is very sweet and also important, but when it impacts functioning for me I needed make some changes. I read a book that inspired me to write my own book to help her wean---so I did! It totally helped her and I used the character Sally in the book to remind her when she would want to nurse at night. I personally found it easier to night wean and then keep day nursing for a few months after, just so that it wasn't all gone at once. I also agree that if you get your partner involved it does help! They have been nursing their entire life, so it is hard for them. My book, Sally Weans From Night Nursing, is for older babies/toddlers, to help them wean from night nursing. As a prior mental health therapist, it was important for me to make sure that in the book the child feels validated about their feelings regarding night weaning and also that they understand the process of weaning and even some of the benefits it can bring (like more energetic play in the day!!!! Wooo-weee!) Sometimes colorful pictures can help a child move forward. Or you could also draw your own story and color it, it could even be stick figures, toddlers aren't critical of art, they love all art!! Good Luck Mamas! :)
Lesli Mitchell, MSW,LCSW (in-active, stay at home mom)
Since I last posted, we've made some ground with DH doing putting her down for bed as much as work allows (about 4 nights a week) which means she happily goes to sleep without nursing and I get a lovely break in the evenings! (I have to pretend to be out of the house though - won't work if she thinks I home). That alone makes me way less irritated with nursing during the night. The first few weeks of the new routine on my nights to put DD to bed she still wanted to nurse but I tried to do just a quick session. Now she doesn't ask me to nurse anymore when it's bedtime! But she still wakes frequently during the night for a quick nurse and we're still stuck with the 4-7am sessions followed by a grumpy wakeup.
Realizing I need to be patient though, we're slowly aiming to have DH do the entire night. I have a feeling that will mean me in another room or possibly even pretending to be away overnight... Hopefully by the time she turns 3 in November? See, I just can't let go of "deadlines"
I'm even toying with trying to get her to wean completely in the next 6 months or so with the hopes of avoiding tandem nursing (baby#2 due in January). We'll see...