June 18, 2009,
H.A. asks from San Francisco, CA on May 13, 2009
Any Toddler Co-sleeping, Breast-feeding Mommies Out There?
Our daughter is 20 months old and we are still breast feeding and have recently started co-sleeping. Anyone else out there in a similar situation? Honestly, I feel like we are the only ones!
I have two questions for you:
We tried all kinds of things before co-sleeping, even cry-it-out last summer. For the most part we have been soothing her to sleep in various ways (including breast feeding) and she had been sleeping about 1/2 the night in her crib, then coming to our bed because we are too tired to sit up with her in the middle of the night (we used to do that, but it would take 1-2 hours and we just couldn't stand it anymore).
But now she won't go to sleep in her own crib (at the beginning of the night) so my husband and I take turns TRYING to get her to sleep, but she is only sleeping there for a couple of hours, and most recently not at all (she just sleeps in our arms)! I never see my husband anymore because one or the other of us spends the entire evening trying to get her to sleep until we are ready to go to bed. It is just ridiculous and we can't keep it up. I don't want to do the cry-it-out again. Any other suggestions?
2) How the heck do you wean a toddler?
I believed La Leche League when they said babies self-wean... what a lie! :) I think my little one will keep at it until high school if I let her. Since we have started co-sleeping she has started to breastfeed a lot during the night. She isn't breastfeeding much during the day anymore, just at naptime and bedtime and during the night. So my question is, how do I get her to stop the breast feeding when we are so used to using it as a tool to soothe her to sleep? And since we are all sleeping together?
I am feeling kind of like a failure that our toddler isn't sleeping by herself through the night, even though I don't think we are the only ones. And how does one wean without being too harsh?
Thank you for any advice. Please don't send mean comments... it wasn't my plan to be co-sleeping and breast feeding this long!
p.s. Our daughter is healthy and happy, so that's not what's keeping her awake and on the boob!
A.R. answers from San Francisco on May 14, 2009
i feel how hard this must be for you... and i get it. i've been there. i brought my daughter into our bed when she was 15 months so i could get some more sleep at night... she loved nursing so much i thought she would never stop. but to be totally honest, cosleeping at that age was a terrible move. i didn't ever get any sleep, and i wasn't helping my daughter learn to sleep through the night (an essential skill at her age). also, it's nearly impossible to wean a toddler who sleeps next to you and is used to nursing all night!
we decided that was it, we needed her to sleep in her own bed. we put her in her own crib and my husband slept in her bedroom with her for a week. I never went into the room no matter how much she cried, because if she saw me she would just want to nurse. after a week, my husband left her room but would go in to console her BRIEFLY when she cried. it's hard. however, it worked. it took a couple of weeks, but since then she has slept through the night in her own room without a peep. it's like a miracle! i highly recommend it. your daughter is capable of sleeping alone- she is old enough, and while she may protest the change in routine, believe in her ability to adapt. she can handle it.
same with weaning. i was terrified to wean, but my daughter accepted it pretty easily. first you have to get her on a regular nursing schedule -- always nurse at the same times each day and only then. naptimes and bedtime perhaps. then you remove one feeding at a time. i removed one feeding per week and it took 4 weeks to wean her. save the one she likes best for last. the key is to never ever give in and change the routine. she will accept the changes if you are firm and consistent. if you deviate from the rules you set up it will only confuse her.
good luck! let us know how it goes.
A.S. answers from San Francisco on May 14, 2009
You are NOT the only one! I co-slept with my older boy (who now sleeps beautifully on his own at 4) and am co-sleeping with my 15 month old. My older boy only started to sleep with us when he was 2. He stayed until he was 3.5 (and the new baby was ALSO in the bed) and he concluded that it was too crowded for him and he transitioned fairly easily into his own bed. When I say fairly easily, I mean, he said he wanted to sleep in his own bed, tried it one night and then changed his mind. The next 3 nights he complained, but I encouraged him to stay in his bed. On the 4th night he stopped complaining. For the next month and a half, he would keep coming back to our room in the middle of the night and we allowed it until it just became less and less and less and he stopped altogether. Our second son (who is now 15 months) has been in our bed since birth. Most of the time he falls asleep ON OUR CHESTS! but he is slowly weaning himself of that habit.
Do not feel like a failure! You are creating an independent and strong child by being so loving and practicing attachment parenting. Both of our boys are very independent and secure kids, because we do not let them feel alone at night time. Keep up the great work!
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A.S. answers from Redding on May 14, 2009
Before my first child was born, I was opposed to co-sleeping. Then he was born, and the realities of parenting became apparent. At first the co-sleeping was because it worked best for the two of us, so Dad grew to accept it. After I went back to work, it was a way for us to reconnect at the end of a long day. He slept with us until he was 5 1/2 yrs because his younger brother did not like to co-sleep and moved into the toddler bed well before we were ready to set up the bigger bedroom (which is farther away from my room) for the two of them. By the time they got the big room, they were ready, and neither of them had any trouble with the transition.
1. My opinion is that you honor your daughter's desire to sleep with you (for now) and put her to bed in the family bed. Forget about the crib for a while. Develop a bedtime routine and stick to it. We use bath, books, then bed. Spend some time with her, then say goodnight and stick to it. If you have to go back into the room, keep it brief.
2. Weaning is also a personal issue. I was committed to nursing for one year, but my older son stuck with it until I became pregnant again just after his second birthday. He was losing interest but wasn't willing to give it up entirely. I kept us busy and avoided the situations in which he would nurse. As long as I did not sit on the couch after work, which was hard to do after standing on a construction site all day during my first trimester, he didn't ask for it. My younger son stopped cold turkey at 15 months, which took me (body and soul) by surprise. I cherish the time that I shared with both of them, so I encourage you to enjoy it while you can.
Most importantly, stop judging yourself. Follow your instincts about what is best for your daughter and your family. Good luck. :-)
G.A. answers from San Francisco on May 14, 2009
Wow, I really feel for you. My husband and I have had sleep issues with our 3yr old so I know the sleep deprivation and frustration. I would recommend to you the book, if you haven't already read it, "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. He gives alot of great information on how important sleep is for our children, starting at birth on. He has alot of stories given by parents on their sleep struggles with their kids and how they were solved. He has studies and such but what I liked about the book is the no guilt factor. He just lays out alot of information for you to choose from. I think as parents, we get so emotionally attached and feel guilty about so much with our kids, we forget how important certain things are for them - like a good night sleep. If you guys aren't sleeping good, neither is she. That's not fair for any of you. I breast fed our daughter til 15 months and she weaned herself - thank God. She was in her crib by 7months though because she was crawling out of her co-sleeper and into our bed and I was afraid she would fall out and break her arm. She never liked sleeping with us but liked sleeping next to us. We chose to do the cry it out method. It really does work if you can get yourself through the crying. It takes about 3 nights but it really does work. We got the camera/monitor system so we could see her at all times for our own soothing because if I couldn't see her, I got freaked out. In fact, I still have the camera in with her at night and the monitor with us so we can see her. I show her the green light and say " see the green light, mommy and daddy are watching you" and she loves to know we can see her. I think that helps her. Don't feel guilty about anything but do what is best for you and your family. LOL
L.B. answers from Stockton on May 14, 2009
Wow H.! Here I thought I was the only one! This is my fourth and I didn't have this issue with the others. Everyone (including my dr.) told me I'd end up nursing this one the longest since it's my last. I was like, oh no, I never had a problem weaning my others. Duh! We co-slept with all of our kids. Mostly they would start off in their own beds and end up in ours at some point during the night. This last one? Never starts in his own bed. I usually get him down in my bed and then go back out to join my husband in the family room for the rest of the evening. Yes, my husband is a bit tired of having a body between us every night. As far as weaning? Just not working out yet. I do however have an easier time at night because when he asks for it in the middle of the night I tell him "it's" sleeping, shhhhhh. Strange yes, but when you're desperate for sleep who cares? Let me know if you get any "miracle" cures!! Hang in there!
T.Z. answers from San Francisco on May 14, 2009
H.- i just want to say that you post makes me feel confident and and relieved that there are mothers out there who are still listening to their instincts and doing things regardless of what society tells them. This is a BIG issue you have brought to the table, and I don't have time to go into it too much, but I really want to commend you and your husband both for tending to your daughters needs, even if you didn't plan to do it that way. Isn't that what parenthood is all about? I'm pretty sure this is just the beginning. I co-sleep and continue to nurse my 2 year old after much deliberation and trial of different things.
Once I stopped listening to other people about how I should do thing, I was able to listen to her, and to us. I figure, before long she won't want to be near me in any way shape or form, so the cuddles and sweet intimate time I get with her by co-sleeping and breastfeeding to me is worth it. It's a bit of a self-sacrifice, but one I finally decided feels right for us. When/ if you find it is time to really make a change, you will. Trust yourselves and keep communication open between all three of you. Talk to her and to your husband about what is working and what you'd like to try doing differently. She will really respond to your needs if you continue to talk to her like her opinion counts, but that you are the parent and you want to try sleeping through the night, or whatever.
Remind her that sleep is important for your bodies and helps her grow strong and smart just like her mama and daddy! Also reading this book: Mothering your nursing toddler: http://www.amazon.com/Mothering-Nursing-Toddler-Norma-Bum... really validated a lot of the feelings I was having around nursing my toddler and gave me a sense of confidence and ownership over it.
H.J. answers from San Francisco on May 14, 2009
You are SO not alone! And you are definitely not a failure! Think about it from your daughter's point of view--she is much more secure sleeping with Mama and Daddy than in a crib in a room all by herself. We co-sleep with our 2 year-old and our 7 month-old. To get kids asleep before I go to bed is as simple as laying down with them and nursing them to sleep (both at once, often as not), & then getting back up. (If I fall asleep, too, I just figure I must need it--it happened last night). The nursing in the middle of the night, I can't help you with, but you'll probably get some advice from other Mamas. I haven't really tried to do anything about it, because my 7 month-old still nurses in the middle of the night, of course, & I have been trying hard not to have nursing become any more of a jealousy point than it just has to.
I have heard several people say that a 2 year-old will nurse like a newborn if you let them. It's probably because little ones go through a lot of changes right around this time. I have known kids that nursed till they self-weaned, though, so I have faith that mine will, too! Right now, she only nurses at naptime & bedtime & when she wakes in the middle of the night. If she asks otherwise, I just remind her when the next time for "mem" is.
Does my 2 year-old sleep in her own bed? Not usually (she has a bed in our room & sleeps in it sometimes) Is she weaned? Not a chance! BUT she is potty trained, she has none of the oddball fears little kids often have, she is not attached to blanket, binky, doll, etc, she is outgoing, confident, and never afraid to try something new--she rides carnival rides, goes down the big kid slides at the playground, pets horses at the farm, etc. If these are the benefits of co-sleeping, it's more than worth it! I can nurse and sleep at the same time.
By the way "healthy sleep habits" are whatever gets your family the most sleep! Even if it's letting your toddler nurse herself back to sleep when she wakes in the middle of the night. Realistically, what takes longer & involves more lost sleep--nursing a co-sleeping girlie (for us, this takes about 5-10 minutes), or waking up enough to get out of bed, walk to another room, soothe a crying kid, stumble back to your room, crawl back into bed, and then get back to sleep?
J.A. answers from San Francisco on May 14, 2009
There is hope in all of this! We co-sleep, and did it with all three of our children. My little one still does, and she is 26 months old. I would take her up and stay with her until she slept, and then let her sleep alone until I was ready to sleep myself. She was breast feeding up until last month. Let me tell you, she didn't sleep through the night either, and I was tired, and she was even more tired than we were. It took us three days to completely wean her from breast feeding. My husband had to help with this because every time she saw me, she wanted to nurse. We made sure to have a cup with water beside the bed, and every time she cried to nurse we gave her the water. Eventually she realized that this was all she was going to get. It was heartbreaking, but she was OK. Your baby will be OK and she will sleep better for you once you stop nursing. In 3 days she started sleeping through the night, and I couldn't believe it. I would keep waking up just to make sure she was okay. Best of Luck to you and your family.