Thoughts on Nursing, Weaning, and Sleeping

We love to nurse in this family.  My kids have never had an issue learning to nurse properly (and OFTEN!) and I’ve never had an issue beyond the initial few weeks of ow-ow-ow-WOW this hurts a bit! Ernie, our oldest, nursed till I weaned her at 22 months.  We never planned how long she would nurse, and never found a reason to stop until we were ready to try for another baby and wanted to give my body a few months of rest.  (Given that Mimi is a little over 3 years younger than her older sister, we didn’t know how long that rest would be!)

Mimi is nearly 17 months now, and still nursing.  I think we’re reaching the end, though.  I decided last night.

Now, I’m of the (unpopular) opinion that some kids just don’t sleep through the night.  If there are thousands of books written to help parents teach their kids to be “normal” and sleep 12 hours at a time…perhaps we need to re-evaluate what normal means?  Seems that if only a tiny percentage of children sleep through the night at 6 months, it’s perhaps not a typical behavior.  I don’t want my child crying for me if she’s hungry, or in pain (and despite what doctors say about teething, anything that can turn our cherubic kids from happy-go-lucky to snotty-nosed criers…it MUST hurt!)  I also know that when Mimi has dairy, she does NOT sleep.  Our yogurt experiment led to her only able to sleep in my lap in the middle of the night- I caught an hour or two early in the evening and early in the morning.  Our morning-milk experiment led to awake and wailing every 2 hours, from 8 pm to 7 am.  Our last experiment, a goat cheese pasta (which I didn’t think of as an experiment) has brought us to 3 wakings during the night, and a lusty “good morning!” yell at 5 am.  (She’s added a morning nap to her routine, as well as her noon nap, and moved bed time to 7 pm.)  I know it’s “morning” because she looks at me, picks up all her blankets, throws them over the side of the crib, and then points around the room to everything I *must* do: open the blinds, shut off the space heater, switch off the humidifier.  It’s morning!

If Mimi is just unable to put herself back to sleep, though, that’s where I draw the line.  She MUST have that skill.  Ernie was such a different child- her whole world revolves around routines, and it was my job to teach her a new routine.  Mimi is motivated by needs most of the time.  If she’s not hungry, she doesn’t eat.  If she IS hungry, she pulls the 5 pound bag of pretzels out of the pantry and drags it to wherever I am in the house.  Ernie nursed every three hours, until I weaned her.  It didn’t matter if she was hungry or not, that was her routine.  Mimi just won’t try, if she’s not hungry.

I’m eliminating all dairy from her diet for the time being- I know she can handle small amounts, but it seems like a detox is in order right now.  I’m giving her extra day-time naps, to help her catch up on lost sleep.  I’m going to stop offering nursing to her- if she asks for it, great.  If not…it will just slowly go away.  As it should, as children grow up.


8 Responses

  1. Good luck, sweetie. Something that really helped me was to limit the nursing itself. I went from two sides every time we nursed, to just one side every time we nursed. Then, if he pulled off and looked around the room…well, then he must not be hungry. It took about two weeks, but one day, he just decided that nursing was NOT food and let me know it. Bonus – none of the swelling and pain I had when I weaned BBJ cold turkey at 11 1/2 months.

  2. All five of my breastfed children slept entirely through the night by the time they were 2 months old after I learned about teaching babies to sleep the *natural* way.

    I learned that if babies fall asleep during or right after eating, they learn to equate tiredness with a full belly. But their little bodies digest so quickly that they will awaken a couple of hours later, unable to sleep until the belly is full again. Instead, by engaging my babies in playtime, music, or toys/things to see after feedings, I helped them stay awake, only grow tired naturally–because they were physically spent–and they learned to equate sleep with physical tiredness, instead of a full tummy. This very *natural* approach worked great, and yes, it did come from one of “those books” you mentioned, so they’re probably not all that bad, as long as their strategies reflect natural lifestyle, rather than a forced, “behavior modification” attitude.

  3. Good luck with the dairy elimination! My two oldest children both had issues with dairy (and soy and eggs for my daughter). We *think* our youngest (2 months) also has problems with dairy.

    So…we’ve been through the no dairy diet a lot. We eliminated dairy so much earlier in my son (b/c we recognized the symptoms sooner), and I really believe the “detox” helped him outgrow his allergy sooner (at 1 year as opposed to my daughter who outgrew hers around age 3).

    We were big fans of hemp milk as an alternative to soy or rice milk. The kids LOVED it, and it is loaded with good stuff. Do you use an alternative milk?

    If you have any dairy free recipes, I’d love it if you’d share them!

  4. One thing I didn’t know about with my first is that you can do just night weaning too. Only nurse during the day. But I completely understand being ready to move on to that next phase. My 6 year old would still be nursing if I let him. In fact, sometimes I feel like he is trying to crawl back into the womb! Drawing the line between you and the babies (no matter how old they are) is tough but necessary.

    I also have a baby site ( but followed you here from my gardening/food blog. 🙂

    • 🙂 It’s the night-weaning that’s difficult! 🙂 Since we’ve cut all dairy out of her diet, she’s settled down to waking up once a night which is MUCH better than the every-two-hours-crying-in-pain we had before. It’s all such a process, isn’t it?

      Thanks for coming by! Myrnie

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