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Night-Weaning Breastfeeding Baby

Originally published in late 2006

Before my wife gave birth to our first son, both of us were determined to raise him in a way that would help him feel physically and emotionally safe from the very first second that he arrived.

A part of our plan to help him feel loved and protected as much as possible was to sleep together as a family on a large mattress. The last thing we wanted to do was to put him in a crib to "cry it out."

In case you aren't familiar with the "cry it out" method, it refers to leaving a baby in a crib during sleep time, even if the baby is fully awake or crying for hours on end. The hope is that after a few days, the baby will learn to stop crying and just go to sleep when he or she is put in the crib during sleep time.

During our baby's first couple of weeks, I estimate that we woke up every two hours or so to change his diaper and/or have Margaret nurse him. As my schedule started to get busier with our clinic, there were nights when I had to sleep in a separate room, as getting up every two hours made it very difficult to take proper care of our guests and patients. Through it all, Margaret continued to change our son's diaper, nurse him, and sleep right beside him every night.

When he reached six months of age, I was able to alter my work schedule in a way that allowed all of us to sleep together in the same room again. We laid a queen size mattress alongside a twin size mattress on the ground of a small bedroom, and lined the walls with additional twin size mattresses to create what amounted to a padded room. It was a lot of fun and actually a dream come true for me - I had always wanted to have a slumber-party-like feel with our children, and our son had and still has a lot of fun bouncing off all the mattresses.

We continued to wake up every two hours to feed him and change his diaper, until at month sixteen, we realized that Margaret was so tired that we would risk ruining her health if we kept at it. I was also tired, but my body wasn't constantly producing and being drained of breast milk like hers was. And as any woman who has nursed for that long will tell you, the process can be exhausting.

I should point out that we were using cloth diapers 90 percent of the time, which necessitated more frequent changes than disposable diapers would have, as cloth diapers are not nearly as absorbent as disposable varieties.

Once we decided that Margaret just had to get more than two hours of uninterrupted sleep at a time, we were conflicted about how to proceed. He had grown so accustomed to nursing for comfort throughout the night that we knew that he would be sad and upset to have this end. The big question was: how could we teach him to sleep without breast milk in a way that wouldn't force him go through the "cry it out" process?

My feeling was that crying it out at sixteen months would have been more traumatic for him than crying it out at three to six months, since he was so much more aware of his surroundings and his relationship to me and Margaret at month sixteen than he was when he was just born. At sixteen months, I was sure that he would feel a real sense of confusion and abandonment if we left him to cry it out in a crib, no different than any of us would feel if we suddenly found ourselves all alone in a room that we couldn't get out of.

Ultimately, we decided to have Margaret sleep in a different room, while I stayed with our son. The plan was to have me hold him and try my best to comfort him while he learned that he wasn't going to get breast milk anymore at night.

I have to admit, when we went to sleep that first night, just the two of us in our padded room with Margaret nowhere in sight, I was nervous about how it would go. I dreaded the possibility that our son would cry and be sad for several hours straight for a few days or more.

About two hours into our sleep, in predictable fashion, our son started making his little noises to signal for some breast milk. When a nipple didn't brush up against his tiny lips, he opened his eyes just a peep and took a look around the moonlit room. It took him about two seconds to realize that it was just him and me.

I laid still and watched him walk over to the edge of the mattress, step down to the ground, and stare at the door. I knew that he had only one thought on his mind: where is my mom and my breast milk? It was heart breaking to watch him stand there all on his own and stare at the door. I remember thinking, what if I wasn't in the room? What if he was there all by himself? At that moment, I felt good about our decision to have me stay in the room while he went through this process.

After approximately a minute or two of staring at the door, he turned back to take a look at me. I waved my hand, encouraging him to come and sleep with his appa (Korean, for father). He stepped up onto the mattress, reluctantly waddled his way over to my side, and in one swift motion, he swung his left leg over my abdomen to sit on me.

By this point, my eyes had adjusted to the dark, and with plenty of moonlight filling the room, I clearly saw him scrunch up his face as he looked up at the ceiling and emitted a frustrated howl. To me, it looked just like he was saying "this sucks!"

He then resignedly slumped forward to rest against my chest. About twenty minutes later, he was sleeping soundly.

To my and my wife's amazement, he ended up sleeping for about six hours straight that night. After about forty minutes of playing together with lego, I managed to get him to sleep for another two hours after that, totaling eight hours of nighttime sleep.

Also to our amazement, when our son woke up for the first time the following night, he seemed to know right away that there would be no breast milk. He proceeded to sleep another six hours straight.

It's been over two weeks now since my wife starting sleeping in a separate room, and our son consistently sleeps about six hours straight, followed by a short break for some water and maybe some play time with me, followed by another two to three hours of sleep.

Margaret and I are extremely grateful that the worst part of his night-weaning experience amounted to him feeling frustrated - the moment that I felt he was saying "this sucks!" We feel that there is a world of a difference between what he went through and what he would have gone through had we put him in a room or crib to cry it out on his own.

Raising our son the way we have thus far has made us realize that if parents are going to cry it out with their babies, it makes a lot of sense to do so within the first few months. None of us can be absolutely sure how much babies know at different months of their development, but I think that any parent can testify that by the time most babies reach about four to six months of age, it definitely looks like they can feel sadness associated with feelings of abandonment. Actually, it may be far earlier than this.

I can definitely understand the reasons why some parents choose to cry it out early on. Getting up every couple of hours for many months or years can reduce a parent's capacity to provide constant loving care for his or her baby. Sleep deprivation can also create serious safety and work issues for parents throughout the day.

Something that I was amazed to discover during our night-weaning experience is that our son has complete awareness of who is sleeping with him. When we all slept together, he got up every couple of hours because he wanted the comfort of snuggling with Margaret and getting breast milk. When Margaret was in a different room, he seemed to know almost right away that there was no reason to get up so often. It's almost as though he could smell Margaret and/or her breast milk. So in a way, having Margaret sleep in a different room has been good for him; it has allowed him to sleep for longer stretches at a time, leading to better overall quality of rest for him and us.

I hope that our experience with attachment parenting, night nursing, and night-weaning is helpful to some parents and their babies out there.

If you have any thoughts on this topic that stem from your own personal experiences, please consider posting them in the comments section below. Parents who are currently struggling with these issues may find gold in your experiences.


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WE also had our son sleep w/ us but we had a basket beside the bed as I could not sleep soundly for fear of rolling on him. I would nurse him and let him sleep between us for awhile and then tuck him into his basket beside me where I could reach out and comfort him. I would nurse him at around 11pm and then he would sleep until about 5a.m. One thing we did discover was that the amount of activity and noise he experienced in his enviornment had a distinct impact on how he slept. We had read a book called the self calmed baby and it made sense about a baby coming from the womb w/ very little outside stimulus and then being thrust into a bright, noisy enviornment and the nervous system not being able to cope w/ all the activity. We left the TV off and the radio most of the time although all other house activity continued as we had no desire to create the situation where he would not sleep unless it was dead quiet. When he had had too much stimulus we could tell and a blanket over him or his car seat to make the outside world go away would calm him down right away frequently. We never did have the cry it out thing and at around a little over a year he graduated to a crib and we never did have any crying and he would sleep through. Lee
Monday, November 20, 2006 8:38:34 AM
Erinn said...

Any ideas as to how you move your child into his or her own room when he or she are older so you and your spuse can have your privacy (sex life) back?
Monday, November 20, 2006 8:42:57 AM
Georgette said...

I read a great book called The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley. It really helped me to wean my son at 2 from nighttime nursing. I wasn't waking every 2 hours but maybe 2 times sometimes 3 times a night. When my son would wake up I would comfort him & tell him no mommy milk. Then I would offer him rice milk or water. Now he still takes the rice milk at night. I think he has a fast metabolism b/c he eats great & is only 23 pounds. Anyway, he still sleeps in our room but we moved him into his own toddler bed b/c I'm now expecting his little brother (our 4th child)in April! His bed is flush against mine so in the middle of the night he sometimes crawls in next to me but once he is sleeping I can easily slide him right back. So far so good. Now I wake up more to go to the bathroom!
Good luck out there to all you parents......Georgette-NY
Monday, November 20, 2006 9:27:32 AM
Anonymous said...

you need to be creative with love making, if you like to sleep w/your child make sure they are safe and you & your partner can go to another room.making a padded safe room with a baby monitor is ideal.
babies do have a keen sense of smell even in the womb, so yes they can smell their moms & milk.
everyone in the family has needs & balancing them is a challenge but can be done. both my children nursed until 3 yrs but we stopped night time nursing at around 18 months. I held them when they woke up to nurse and gently repeated no nursey, tears & frustration for about 3 nights but we got through it. Please see the assoc of pre & perinatal psych has many resources for aware parenting. blessings Linda Welch
Monday, November 20, 2006 9:41:36 AM
Miiko said...

Congratulations! I'm so glad for you and especially Margaret. My daughter weaned at 4 years 10 months and that was only because I had a breast biopsy and she didn't want to 'hurt' mama, so she weaned herself after that. And I was 10 weeks pregnant then too. With my son, I knew I didn't want him to be breast fed for that long as I was already so sleep deprived (yes, my children sleep with me, and like you it has to be in separate rooms or daddy will have a hard time at work). My son weaned at 2 years 8 months. I remember that plan to wean him completely and it was just so heart-breaking. I told him he was a big boy and mama wasn't going to give him "nene" at night. I pointed to him that his sister didn't have to take "nene" any more. He was at that stage when everything his sister did was to be imitated, so he noted that. Day one of my plan, I distracted him each time he wanted breast milk. At 2 years 8 months he was already eating heartily, so the milk was really more for comfort and the occasional thirst. I gave him water each time he was thirsty. I gave him lots of hugs and kisses each time he needed to be comforted. And I played and read to him each time he was bored and wanted his mama's warmth. Anyway, I remember not giving him breastmilk that evening whenever he sought me. I'd speak gently to him and rub his head and sweet body and assure him of my love; and for once in MANY years, I slept for than 2 hours that night. The next night, he did come to me and well, I succumbed. But only because I knew that that would be the LAST time my little baby (okay big boy) would nurse and that would certainly the the last time I would nurse a baby (since chances of me having another are very, very slim). So for those few seconds I savored that closeness. He didn't need much; he rolled away and then slept. I continue to savor that last time to this day, 2 years later...

So he was weaned just like that. Incredible, I thought, since I just went on with my daughter till she was nearly five!

BUT I still have a challenge. Like the second person who commented, I am still sleeping with my children! Thankfully I have a great and understanding husband. Still it will be nice to sleep like a normal couple, LOL. We tell them that once my son is 4, mama will go back to daddy and the room where she has been telling me he doesn't want to be 4. My daughter understands the situation but she is dreading the separation. Actually I will too. It is just so absolutely sweet to hold your children, one on each side, the whole night long.
Monday, November 20, 2006 9:42:16 AM
Anonymous said...

I gave birth to my child in Russia and after coming home from the hospital in a week we were advised to stay with the schedule for feeding. Every 3 hours during the day and 6 hours break during the night- from 12mn till 6 am.
First nights my daughter was crying a lot. We gave her pacifier, some water and hold her, BUT didn't give her any milk. We stayed firmly with this schedule from the day one and it worked nicely. She slept 6 hours straight during the nights and had her feeding every 3 hours during the day. She usually started to cry 10-15 mins before the time of her feeding. It was very easy nursing.
Thanks for reading.
Monday, November 20, 2006 9:57:43 AM
Anonymous said...

I was just looking for this kind of information. My 10month old daughter has come to rely on 2 or 3 middle of the night nursings. I am looking forward to weaning her in the next few months,but she is very strong-willed. I wanted to know if there was something I could do now to start preparing her for the big change over. Maybe it is as "simple" as having Dad meet her in the middle of the night, though at this point, she would be very upset.

thanks for sharing your story
Monday, November 20, 2006 10:06:53 AM
Anonymous said...

I'm one of those who let the child "cry it out" after 9 or 10 months of nursing in the night. When I knew they were nursing for comfort and not for calories, I used the Ferber method, which worked, and only took one night. Both of my boys, now 8 and 12 are great sleepers and have never had a problem with sleep issues. One child is very independant (the older) and the other one is still quite a cuddle-bug. I don't think they were changed or "hurt" by the method I used. It promoted good, independant sleeping habits.
I chose this method because I was exhausted and drove off the side of the road twice (with the baby in the car) and knew I needed to drastically change my own sleep pattern to a more normal one.
Monday, November 20, 2006 10:26:31 AM
Anonymous said...

Hi Dr. Ben,
Thanks for talking about this personal subject. I had to let my firstborn cry it out at about 15 months because I didn't know what else to do, and I didn't know about concepts like the family bed, or self calming (she is now 28). For our next two children, I refused to do that, but we didn't have a good plan for figuring out what else to do instead. Good for you.
I really enjoy your thoughtful, sensible newsletter. Joan
Monday, November 20, 2006 10:51:19 AM
Anonymous said...

Between my 2 sisters and myself we have 11 children and we have all used a "parent-directed" feeding schedule for all our children. It consists of a cycle in the order of sleeping, feeding, wake time, then sleeping again, etc. Using this method a baby is fully rested when eating so they stay awake during the entire feeding and are able to take in a full feeding. Then they play fully rested on a full stomach, then after playtime are put to bed awake but tired and fall asleep on their own. The baby usually drops the night feedings by themself with little prompting from Mom, and using this method all our children were sleeping through the night by 2-4 months without endless crying. It takes the guesswork out of wondering if/when the baby is hungry, tired, needs attention, etc. My baby did cry at times when going to sleep or in the middle of a nap, and if she didn't fall alseep within a few minutes on her own I was there to her pat her back and comfort her without picking her up, which was usually enough for her to put herself back to sleep. Now I have a 14 month old baby who sleeps 11 hours at night (in her own bed from the beginning) and rarely wakes up during that time, and if she does she puts herself back to sleep within seconds. I think it's all about training my child to eat properly, sleep properly, and stay awake for appropriate amounts of time. She didn't come out of the womb knowing how to do these things so it's my job to teach it. There is nothing wrong with a crying baby - it's a way of telling you to do something and sometimes it's a way of getting rid of extra enegery when they're infants.
Good luck to you parents out there...enjoy your time with these precious little people! -Becky, Colorado, USA
Monday, November 20, 2006 10:53:33 AM
S.R. said...

We have 4 children and have always had a 'family bed'. Each child has been different with their weaning schedule from night time feedings, as well as how old they were when they were able to sleep on their own in their own bed. They do know, that they are welcomed back in at any hour of the night if they need. Our youngest son is 6 and has his own bed, as well as a toddler bed beside ours. Some nights he goes to sleep on his own in his own room, other nights he needs the comfort of knowing that he can sleep in our room. He is content to sleep in the floor beside the bed, because he now is old enough to understand that the bed is too crowded and then mommy doesn't sleep well. Being in our room means to him that he can hold my hand or crawl in for a while if need be. My husband and I have adapted our sex life accordingly. We go into another room or carry a sleeping child back to their own bed (knowing that within a few hours they may be right back) My heart goes out to the sleep deprived, as I know what that is like, and am now trying to heal from the health reprocussions of too many years and too little sleep. I do know that before long, the youngest will soon be completely on his own. Each of our kidz has a great level of self esteem and confidence which I believe comes from knowing that they are loved unconditionally and can come for a talk or a cuddle at any time. However, they also know that one day they will be gone from home, and mommy and daddy will be here together...meaning, they realize that we value the importance of our relationship as husband and wife and need private time to nuture that as well.
Monday, November 20, 2006 11:15:04 AM
Linda said...

Thank you Dr. Kim for sharing your personal experience here.
It's been two years since our 6 year old has been weened, and your account brought back some good memories.
I find your methods heartwarming!
Take care~
Monday, November 20, 2006 11:17:58 AM
Gombojav said...

I have four children with a fifth on the way. I nurse in the night and let the baby sleep with us, but to be honest it does not really impact my sleep. I don't really even wake up. After the baby as the knack of nursing he/she learns to latch on all by himself. I just sleep through it usually!

I also use only cloth diapers so understand how they do have to be changed more often than disposables. However, this too, can be solved with using a different type of cloth diaper. It really is worth it to invest in a higher end cloth diaper and to experiment with different systems. At night I diaper the baby in Fuzzi Bunz with a prefold insert with a hemp doubler. SUPER absorbant and the best part is that the Fuzzi Bunz keeps the baby's skin DRY! The outer layer stays dry while the inner layer takes all the moisture.

Buying different cloth diapers solved night-time changing for us, unless the baby is poopy.

Hope that helps.
Monday, November 20, 2006 11:37:23 AM
Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for the article. I too have a 16 month old who nurses at night for comfort. I was really hesitant to do the CIO method. We decided that my husband would sit with our son during one of our feedings. Like your child, he too learned to sleep through the night with help from daddy. We have avoided the tears on both sides by taking this wonderful approach.I still nurse him first thing in the morning, but at least i can get some sleep.
Monday, November 20, 2006 12:52:19 PM
Happy MOM said...

oops, forgot to put this in my last comment. My son actually NEEDED to nurse during the night, he hadn't gained any weight in 4 months because his metabolism was high. So please make sure before you wean that your child's nutrition is met.
Monday, November 20, 2006 12:59:20 PM
Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your experiences of night weaning. We have five children ranging from age 21 to 4 years old. All of our children nursed once or twice during the night until approximately 14 - 18 months. They slept in their own beds, except one of our sons who shared our bed until he was six months. Each of our children were different and the situations were different so the experiences were as well. Our oldest was nursed and put back in his crib after nursing. I weaned him totally at nine months. We were new and inexperinced parents from non-nursing families. If I could do it again, I would have nursed him much longer. Next, we had twins, who were nursed and put back in their beds because there was no room for two babies with us! I nursed them till they were 18 months. Our next son would not sleep at all unless he was with us. I nursed him till he was three. Our youngest slept in our room in his crib and later his toddler bed due to no room in any other bedrooms. After waking up during the night he spent the rest of the night in our bed. I nursed him till he was about 2. At this time I was 43 years old and had a hard time maintaining energy for fulltime nursing. He took it well since I was slowly weaning him during the day already. All of our children gradually weaned themselves at night. With the twins, I did do some comforting with back rubs when I needed sleep and train them not to wake so often. Nursing babies and being available at night for your children certainly does create a bonding which continues throughout their childhood and creates a trusting relationship as they get older and into their teens.
Monday, November 20, 2006 1:22:35 PM
Anonymous said...

Someone once told me not to worry about when my son would go back to his own bed because there's only a window of time in their lives that they can or want to sleep with you. My husband & I stressed about it alittle but for the most part my husband slept on the couch as he enjoys watching tv and I slept with our son. When he started kindergarten, he started sleeping more on his own and now that he's in first grade he almost never sleeps with me only every once in a while. It works itself out and then the opportunity will never be there again. It's very sweet and wonderful while it lasts!!
Monday, November 20, 2006 1:30:24 PM
Anonymous said...

I have 2 children ages 6 and 7 and I also used the "parent directed" approach. It was wonderful!! The first few weeks they ate every 2 1/2-3 hours - they would usually sleep 5-6 hours at night though. After a few months they moved to eating every 4 hours. They'd nurse at 8am, play, nap from 10-12. I'd nurse them again at 12, they'd play and then nap from 2-4. When they woke at 4:00 they'd nurse and then play. I'd feed them at 8 and put them to bed. Then the next morning, start all over again at 8am. It was great - I could plan my day around their schedule. I know not everyone agrees with it, but it was wonderful for our family.
Monday, November 20, 2006 2:12:41 PM
Lisa said...

thank you for sharing your story. We also co-sleep and believe in child lead weaning. My son is almost 3 and wakes up 2-3 times a night to nurse, sometimes he is willing to just snuggle but sometimes nothing but nursing will do. I also agree with the other comment about is is a small window of time that this goes on. Every baby is different just like every family is, that's what makes it all wonderful.
Thanks again for you blogs, I really enjoy reading them.
Monday, November 20, 2006 2:12:52 PM
Anonymous said...

I have a comment regarding cloth diapers. It all depends on the cloth diaper you use. If you choose a hemp diaper (or some other absorbant material like that), you would find you would not have to change as often. My son is almost 11 months old and he can sleep all night in his cloth diaper without a leak or rash or anything such as that. We also co-sleep (my husband, myself, our son & our three daughters). This has been true of all of our children. One hemp diaper we like can be found at
Monday, November 20, 2006 2:44:45 PM
Laura said...

I have no experience with night weaning yet, as my child is still very young, but I have to comment on the cloth diapers. There is no reason why you consistantly should have to change an older child every two hours at night. The others that commented on this had some great suggestions, and I have another one. Really absorbant fitteds or even a prefold with a doubler with a wool cover (Aristocrats, Loveybums) or even better - knit longies - is a great nighttime solution. Wool is antimicrobical and can hold up to a third its own weight in liquid. When properly washed and lanolized, it does not wick at all, for as many as 12 hours at night. Go to or to learn more about this and for recommendations.
Monday, November 20, 2006 7:15:21 PM
Ben Kim said...

Many thanks to everyone for sharing their experiences. I've already received several e-mails from parents who have found encouragement and useful tips in this blog entry and the comments section.

Ben Kim
Tuesday, November 21, 2006 9:46:01 AM
Anonymous said...

I have two healthy teenage boys, both were breastfed and both wore towelling nappies with a muslin lining and lashings of barrier cream. One son reacted best with petroleaum jelly, whilst the other would only tolerate thovaline. In this way, neither suffered from nappy rash. The first son weaned easily and took bottled drinks very readily along with breast. I had to cut down his breast milk beacause I had to return to work once he reached age 6 months, but I know he had an excellent start. The other son had to be completely weaned from the breast milk at 6 months, as it was all or nothing for him, as he would not take both bottle and breast, which left dad feeling anxious when he wouldn't eat and kept crying. I had to spend a whole day watching him starve himself, and when he finally took the bottle his lip was petted. He was over it within a week. He has always been the more stubborn of the two. Funny how you see that even at an early age. Both were eating baby solids at 3 months and this started in the evenings, thus, with a feeling of fullness with the solid and milk at last night feed, they both slept 6 to 8 hours. This made life so much less stressful and happier during the day. Both my sons slept on their own from day one, in a room right next door to ours. I never had any problems with them regarding this and when they were ill and in need of extra attention I brought them in beside me till they were recovered. This seemed to work, and they got lots of cuddles and attention during the day. If they cried at night, I would check the nappy and change it if neccessary, and hug or touch them. I always checked them before I settled and was always aware for them, even the smallest sound I would hear. As my partner was a light sleeper also, we had a double alarm system going to listen out for them. In the mornings they would come through to lie and cuddle first thing and then we would get up after a time to get organised. It was all quite relaxed. As there was only 18 months between them, so the older son had to sleep in a bed against the wall with a bed guard and loads of soft pillows and teddies lying around incase he fell out during the night. Once he did, but after that never. I think the shock of the drop onto the soft ground had some impact on him. Like that, I heard him as he cried and comforted him. Even when they were older, I could still hear them if they were upset at night and was always there to comfort them and when they were being toilet trained the occassional accident during the night was swiftly and lovingly dealt with. I loved to read tothem and talk with them prior tosettling down for the night, and it came to be part of a routine which we all enjoyed. Needless to say they have grown out of this, but we still have a good relationship and they can talk to me about anything. Each individual child is different, and truly the younger ones do try to be like the older ones, till they are old enough to assert their own style. There is no right or wrong way of bringing up a child, so long as the love and care is there.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006 8:07:08 PM
Anonymous said...

I have always been in awe of families who could do the family bed. When we were pregnant with our first (we have three and the youngest is 6 months) we were determined to do it. We did for the first 3 weeks and then sought relief with a capital R. I was not able to sleep except in fits and starts and had a horrible cramp in my neck and daddy was sleeping on the couch after the first week(which was not ok for us). We moved the baby into a cradle beside the bed, then outside the door of our room, then to her own room over the next few weeks and it worked very well(Since we have started the kids sleeping next to our bed from birth). I had read about parent directed feeding before she was born and had not thought about it in the whirlwind of activity. I decided to pick it up again at 5 weeks because she just cried all day and took tiny little naps and then sometimes wasn't going to bed till midnight or 2 AM. I was exhausted! Within 3 days of feeding on both sides, then wake time, then as soon as the fussies began putting her down to cry (for a few minutes...not hours and hours), she was taking four naps a day, she was happy all the time until it was another naptime and she was sleeping through the night by 8 weeks. I mean 8 - 10 hours and on breastmilk alone...and she was thriving. I have since done this with my other two and it works wonders. All three of our kids 2 girls and a boy are healthy and happy. So for those of you out there who need something different...there is another way...Babywise is an excellent book to teach this method. We felt it was very family-oriented and found a balance between the two extremes of nursing on demand and crying it out. I know it might be sacrilegious to some of you that I say nursing on demand is an extreme. It is worth looking into the effects of sleep deprivation on infants and toddlers. Long and regular periods of sleep do statistically show healthier and better developed kids. Parenting is such a journey...may God bless you all as you walk the time honored path.
A fellow mom.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006 2:45:38 PM
Susan (5 Minutes For Mom) said...

How wonderful to hear that you were able to wean him in such a loving manner.

I am still nursing my 18 month girl and I co-sleep with her. My husband sleeps in another room because he needs a proper sleep in order to get up early and work long days.

My daughter also nurses several times during the night. I often wonder how I'll ever wean her. When she was about 15 months I thought I was going to start weaning her and then she showed an increased interest in nursing. Now I think weaning will have to wait until she's two.

The night nursing is very exhausting, but I treasure the time sleeping next to her. I'd be too jealous to trade with my husband. I'd rather lose my sleep and be next to her than be in another room. But I think we will have to do that once we finally do wean her... but I can't yet bear the thought.
Thursday, November 23, 2006 3:48:37 PM
Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the great comments on night-time schedules and weaning. My youngest and probably last child is 26 months and I'll be sad to have him not asking for his "chi-chi." Just a comment on the overnight diaper - I always wanted to purchase a nice diapering system, but couldn't afford it. I stuck with what my mom did for my younger sisters which is a double cloth diaper (one folded in thirds as a liner,) diaper pins, and rubber pants. After my kids were 2 or 3 months old, I haven't had to change a night time diaper.

Friday, November 24, 2006 8:41:29 PM
Anonymous said...

I nursed 2 boys for 3 years each. The first stopped nursing when I became pregnant with his brother, as I then lost my breast milk. He resumed his nursing after his brother was born. The latter child nursed throught the night for at least 15 months or more. I never has to change a night diaper after the first 3 months though! I was able to nurse and sleep easily then. My husband slept with our older son in a seperate room. Our boys are now 7 and 4 and still sleep with us most of the time. Sex is catch as catch can when the kids are off playing. I think life is amazing with these kids! I have a 22 year old daughter, and I can tell you the time flies. Enjoy it! You have your whole life to sleep with your husband, but only a few years to snuggle your little ones.
Monday, November 27, 2006 11:38:30 AM

That was such a nice read, it was great to here about such gentle loving parents, you have shown that you don't have to be cruel to get your baby to sleep well.
I'm breastfeeding my 10 month old daughter and she sleeps a total of 12 or 13 hours every night, but she wakes for about 3 feeds in the night, i'm really exhausted but i believe she must need it as she takes a really good feed then goes straight to sleep, i have never let her cry but i'm worried about how difficult it is going to be to stop them, i will let my husband read this and see if he will help like that too.
You did really well and you have helped me realise it can be done in a nice loving way.

Wow! I am on child number 3 and I am nursing still and my son is 18 months going on 19 here in a few days. I have been tossing the idea around to wean or not to. My husband is deployed and he wants me to be done. We have had all children in bed with us the past 4 1/2 yrs. He is tired of it. I enjoy co-sleeping with our youngest, since my 4 yr daughter is now in her own room and my 2 yr. in his. I love being a nursing mom, now that my son is getting older people look at me strange because I am nursing still. We are not planning on having anymore children so I am savoring this time with my youngest son.
My husband is putting pressure on me to get our son out of bed and into his own. I lay him in his bed during afternoon nap time but when he wakes up, he is screaming his head off like he saw a monster in the closet. He looks so freaked out. It breaks my heart. If anyone has any helpful ideas please share. My husband will be home in a month and he is expecting changes.

I loved this article. When my second son was about the same age (out of exhaustion) I had to end his night time feedings, but like you did not want him to "cry it out". With my first son my husband slept with him,my son barely woke and weaning was a breeze. With my second son it was going to be more difficult because by that time my husband had passed away. The tactics I used were not completely honest but extremly effective. We had moved to a colder climate and the house we now lived in needed light construction work starting with the bedroom. I convinced him that the only place we could "nightime nurse",and now it was unheated. Not wanting to go in the cold room, he barely even asked to nurse during the night.

My husband unfortunately has no interest in helping wean our 16 month old. I think he feels that I got us into this situation by nursing on demand (once or twice a night still) and it's up to me to convince him to stop. I'd happily continue for awhile - I'm tired but really enjoy the cuddle time since my son is in daycare all day without me. Unfortunately I'll be going out of town for the first time without my son and now am faced with about 3 weeks to wean him. I don't want to have to pump while gone... and I don't want him to wake up grandparents either. Last night was our first serious attempt. He seemed to get it - although he cried and didn't sleep, he also didn't try to nurse. I think he understood when I told him "mommy milk was night night". I rocked him and held him and tried to put him down repeatedly but he woke up and cried and cried. I did even try to let him cry alone for a few minutes - we do that at bedtime and he usually conks out within 2 minutes. No luck. I rocked and held and comforted... Two hours later I finally gave in and let him nurse... which I know is the wrong way to handle it... but it's just so hard. Now I wish he was a binky kid. I think that would help. At any rate, we'll try again tonight. I'm hoping that he'll figure that if he has to cry and carry on for two plus hours that it really isn't worth it! My biggest worry is that I'm making him night nurse which is also coinciding with his move to the toddler room at daycare and our vacation. I feel horrible for doing this all at once! Ugh.

Funny! I am in the exact same position you are in. My husband sleeps downstairs and I and our son sleeps upstairs in our room. He does not like sleeping with us because room is limited and he is an active sleeper. Our son is 13 months old and still breastfeeds at night. He does the bottle all day and eats regualr food but at 9:30 at night he wants to cuddle, and breastfeed. Yes I did get us in this situation, no he won't help me either and is actually kind of snotty about it. I have tried for the past two nights to get him to stop using me as a human pacifyer after his last feeding but it does not work! I found an article that I am going to try tonight. It says a half an hour before bed feed him 1/4 cup of rice cereal give him a warm soothing bath, try giving him a warm bottle and read him a story, as a treat give him a breast right before sleep when starting to fall asleep, remove him and move him to a mattress on the floor by our bed. Do not breastfeed during the night substitute with a warm bottle or warm water in a sippy cup, every night make his little mattress further from your bed and each night cut his nursing down and start laying him on his mattress awake so he can fall asleep himself. Let him think it's his idea. I am going to try it and if it works I will let you know.

After reading your article, I am now re-considering weaning our daughter at 10 months of her 2-3 night feeds. It's been so exhausting getting up every night sometimes over 3 times per night, but she takes a good feed and then goes right back to sleep, so I don't think it's only about comfort and I'm going to stick with her for another few months. I think we will try the same technique of having Daddy great her when she wakes up. We have tried that before and it never worked, but I think as she gets older, with her perception of the world around her, it will be easier to talk her through it. When they can't understand language well enough, its too hard.

Anyhow, I've really enjoyed hearing of other parents that still have nighttime feeders at ages even older than my daughter, so thanks for sharing your stories - it helps me realize I'm not alone. May be I will just try and take some day naps to get through this! :)

I really enjoyed reading about other people that have went through the same thing that I am going through right now. I started weaning my 13 month old son last night. I was laughing when you described your son looking up at the ceiling and letting out a howl. My son did the same thing and he also laid his head on my chest and went to sleep. He slept longer last night than he has ever slept before. My husband and I still sleep in the same room and I am still the one that comforts our son at night. I want him to know that I am not leaving him and I still love him. I think he is doing great. He went to sleep easy tonight. He has been asleep in his crib for 3 hours without crying out for me! That is great. I'm free! Yee Haw!

You just didn't feed him when he wanted it? My daughter is almost 14 months old and if I just refused to bf her at night she would flip. Whenever I've attempted it, it has taken twice as long for her to fall back to sleep. If I leave her in her crib, she stands at the rail and screams at me and if I have her in bed with me, she crawls all over me, hits me, crys, sticks her hand down my shirt. I don't know how to do this on my own. Any suggestions? I have no partner.

Hi Heather,

I breastfed 3 children 2-3 years each. Sooner or later each of them got to the point where they would run around playing, take a drink, run, take a drink - it was time to quit.

I used a topical product on myself that is to prevent thumb-sucking in children - I'm sure anything bitter, but edible, would do. I warned my child first, that, "Mommy's milk tastes bad." It tasted so bad that it only took one taste. Yes, my last child sat in the chair just looking at me, cried a bit. I held her a lot. The next day everything was fine.

It's a tough time, and La Leche League wasn't much help in this area.

Hi everyone! I also co-sleep with my 16 month old son. He wakes up probably 2-4 times a night to nurse. Sometimes he only nurses for a few minutes until he drifts back to sleep. I know it is more than likely for comfort because I work nights, and the 3 nights I am not home he co-sleeps with my husband and requires nothing. Sometimes he doesn't even wake overnight, but when he does he never wants a bottle of breast milk to get back to sleep.
My new concern is that he just had his first dental visit this week and they told me that I shouldn't allow him to nurse overnight in less I am going to brush his teeth afterwords (he has 14 teeth). If I were to do that, not only would I actually have to wake up (most of the time I just unclip my tank and go back to sleep) but I would also be waking him up, which more than likely would just want to make him nurse some more. I do not want his teeth to get cavities but also do not want to force him to stop something I feel like he must still need. Tonight I tried to not nurse him when he woke up and he cried so hard which made me cry and now I feel like a horrible mother and that both of our hearts are broken!
Please help! Has anyone had any similar experiences?

I have nursed 4 children nights--3 of them nursed till almost 5 and the fourth is now 2 1/2 and they did naturally extend their number of hours of uninterrupted sleep on their own over time with maturity, reaching a "full" night (sometimes) around 3 or 4....But with teeth...I don't know the "research", and I guess theoretically the sugar in the milk would encourage cavities. However, I could never manage to clean their teeth after nursing at night, and I figured the nutritious breastmilk did them more good than it would harm. So I didn't worry about it. We try to be diligent about brushing teeth mornings/evenings (though we don't always get 2 a day even with our best intentions). Admittedly, my kids have had one or two small cavities (no more than that between the four of them), but I personally don't think they are directly related to breastfeeding at night....

I am no expert, so please don't hold me accountable to this, but my opinion is that it's more important to be giving kids good food and nutrition during the day and having a healthy lifestyle which will make their teeth healthy and cavity resistant. And brush their teeth after eating, etc. But if it were me, I'd lay back and enjoy peaceful nights of breastfeeding my little ones!

With 4 babies' experience of night nursing, I would encourage you to relax and enjoy it. As a disclaimer, I am not an expert, and don't know the "research" on cavities and night breastfeeding. However, I nursed 4 of my little ones to almost 5 years and the fourth one is at 2 1/2. Between all of them, I will admit we have had one or two cavities (no more), but I personally don't think they are directly related to night breastfeeding....

I do wonder if there's not a difference between breastmilk and those who are bottle fed (who reportedly DO get cavities if they sleep with their bottle of milk in their mouths)...? Don't know the answer.

MY approach has been to try to focus on good nutrition and lifestyle which encourage healthy, cavity-resistant teeth. And to brush regularly ...and to just enjoy the short years of night nursing....

I hope you can find peace as I have about this....

hi please refer to the work ofkarlton terry and david chamberlain if you think emotions aren't present even before birth. thanks for your article and your approach to parenting. leonie

Lucky You!!! My son is 5 months and he wants to continue to be nursed throughout the night. I am not really ready to stop nursing altogether, but I feel that there is not other alternative for me. If I remove him from the breast once he is asleep, he wakes up for it after about 20 minutes or so. It has made things really hard for my husband. Once I get up for work my husband struggles to get him back to sleep. I am totally against letting him "cry it out"(I don't know who gets sadder, the baby or me.) I would like to bottle feed at night and still nurse him throughout the day, but I don't know if the smell of the breast milk will confuse him more. I will continue to search for help! Thanks.

Thank you so much for this article. I've been struggling with how to wean our 10 month old son from nursing every 2 hours at night as well.
We've attempted letting him cry it out but we don't feel comfortable letting him cry more than 15 minutes.
I'm exhausted and grouchy from sleep deprivation and am looking forward to trying this out. I may wait until he is 12 months old to start this, but at least I have something to try other than letting him cry.

I did the 'cry it out' method, just to get my daughter used to sleeping in her own bed. I would get her to sleep by breastfeeding her, but the minute I put her down she would wake up immediately. So... she never napped and sleeping at night was getting difficult. It helped alot for that, she gets alot more sleep now and is much happier, she is also very good at getting herself to sleep, barely cries at all. I'm now slowly working on weaning completely, I've cut down feedings to; one before nap, one before bed, when she wakes up in the night and sometimes early morning. I really like your night weaning method, but I do not have a husband. I was wondering if once your son was into the mindset of not being nursed at night, if your wife was able to come sleep in the room with you two again? Also, if you have any suggestions for my single mother night weaning?