Weaning Yet?

A while back, my pediatrician mentioned to me that it might be time to start weaning my 16-month old (who is now 18-months old), specifically at night…

Dr. Jack Newman writes an article about the nutritional benefits of extended breastfeeding, which my NP didn’t discredit, but did try to discount when I said I feel like I’d like him to get more of his milk from me than from a cow (not in those words, but you get the idea.)

kellymom says it best:

First, please ignore what everyone else says about your baby’s sleep habits and what is “normal.” These people are not living with you or your baby. Unless your doctor sleeps in the next room and your baby is keeping him awake every night, he has no reason to question a healthy baby’s sleep habits. If you and your baby enjoy nighttime feedings, then why not continue? It’s a great way to have time with her, particularly if you are apart during the day…
If the amount that your child sleeps and nurses at night isn’t a major problem for you, then there’s no reason to try to change anything. You are NOT doing a bad thing by nursing on demand; you are doing a wonderful thing for your baby. When you comfort baby at night, you are not teaching her a bad habit: you are teaching her that you are there for her when she needs you — Is security a bad habit?…
Your baby will begin to comfort herself and to sleep for longer stretches at her own developmental pace. If your baby wants to nurse at night, it is because she DOES need this, whether it’s because she is hungry or because she wants to be close to mom. Sleeping through the night is a developmental milestone (like walking or toilet training) that your baby will reach when she is ready to. Trying to force or coax baby to reach this before her time may result in other problems later on.

One of the comments on this Carnival of Breastfeeding post about sleep and breastfeeding answered the very question I have been wanting to know: When does breastfeeding at night become a habit vs. a need and who decides this? Her response was this:

Angela White, J.D., breastfeeding counselor

I don’t know that there’s a particular age where it’s definitely considered a habit rather than a need, but from experience I can say it’s the point where the child responds positively to gentle efforts to night-wean. If the child resists night-weaning, then there’s still a “need” for night-nursing, whether that need is physical or psychological or due to teething or illness.

The one thing that made a big difference in stretching out the time between night-nursings for both my kids was a change in the bedtime routine, when they were each ready (around age 2). I would talk to them about the new plan (communication is key!), remind them about the new plan, and implement the new plan: nurse, brush teeth, read stories, sing songs and rest on my chest (or daddy’s) to settle to sleep. Putting the nursing first helped break the sleep association with nursing. As the child got older, we also talked about not nursing until the sun came up. The mum-mums were going to sleep until the sun came up, and once the sun came up the child could nurse again (in the meantime, after a reminder about the new plan, snuggles or water were offered as alternatives to night-nursing if the child woke).

Keep in mind that night-weaning is also not the complete end of night-waking. My five-year-old sleeps well most nights, but sometimes she still asks to come into the family bed in the middle of the night. There are still episodes of illness, and for my two-and-a-half-year-old, teething. The sleep situation improves a lot (I slept from 10 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. last night!!!) but there’s no guarantee of a good night’s sleep! Hang in there!

I don’t know how much longer I’ll be nursing, but I want to make sure Josiah, who doesn’t seem to want to eat too much, is getting nutrients that are easily absorbed. Especially since he can’t be bothered to eat most of what I offer him.

As far as weaning goes, I haven’t offered to nurse in a very long time, and I often offer food and or drinks when I’m asked, but I am too lazy to give up this built-in free and always ready and available comfort and nourishment. There are rules in place for when and where and how we nurse, but as of now, I’m not willing to just cut my kids off. Although, I’m entertaining the idea of a weaning party this summer.

So, for those of you who are wondering (and I know you are out there), yes, I’m still nursing and I am in the process of weaning (my children both eat solid food at least some of time), but see no end anytime soon.

1 Comment »

  1. Kristen said,

    March 18, 2008 @ 2:08 pm

    I weaned at night only because I couldn’t handle it anymore. I really needed the sleep. I plan on doing it sooner for the next one and again it is because I get very depressed and become non- functional during the day if I don’t get enough sleep at night. With that said, I really like the free food for my children and the extra calories I get to eat w/o extra weight gain. So the river is flowing during the day, but not at night because the mommies really need the sleep.

    I did start to wean Beth, but nap and night has been a nightmare even though she hasn’t requested to nurse, so we are back to me gently reminding her it is an option and then she is much happier at bed time.

    BTW Beth and I are eating dairy. No cow’s milk yet, but cheeses and chocolate are in the diet… but not too much or we get upset tummies.

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