How to Break the Nursing Habbit at Night

Updated on October 01, 2009
J.F. asks from Raeford, NC
11 answers

I'm weaning my toddler and the hardest time to say "no" to her is at night when she wakes up. She won't take a bottle or a sippy cup. I've had some very sleepless nights recently and wondered if you've had a similar experience and what you did. Thanks!

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answers from Louisville on

she should have been sleeping through the night LONG ago. Im wondering why she still gets up at night. go in pat her back but dont cave she will get the hint. shes way too old to be up at night to eat

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answers from Nashville on

I've just cut out the early-morning nursing with my 17-month-old because it wasn't helping her getting back to sleep. She pretty much weaned herself from overnight ones. All I did was not put us in the same position (literally) that we'd be in to nurse. Instead of taking her onto the spare bed and letting her nurse lying beside me, I'd simply rock with her (and maybe sing/hum/shush) until she fell back asleep. Plus I wore a really heavy bathrobe to reduce the milk smell and send the message that she wouldn't be nursing. It took a couple of weeks, and we've had some relapses of overnight waking, but she's more likely to sleep in a little bit now because she knows that she's not getting "mama's milk" while it's still dark. Now, even if she does wake up, I can usually just pat her bottom in her crib until she goes back to sleep.

So my recommendations to you would be to a) put you and your baby in a different spot than you would be to nurse, b) minimize the skin-to-skin contact in the chest area, and c) not offer her anything to drink besides water. If she refuses the water, then so be it. It'll take some time for her to get the hint, but she will. I'm not a big fan of CIO at this age because it doesn't really work for DD anymore, so maybe these will be gentler weaning solutions for you. Good luck!

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answers from Charlotte on

I am just starting the same thing with my daughter who is almost 2. I just wanted to offer support by saying, good for you for nursing! What a special and amazing bond it is. I know it's tough at night, but try to be patient and it will happen - even if it's not quite as soon as you'd like. Best of luck!



answers from Wheeling on

Just let her nurse for a little shorter time each night and/or (as someone else said) keep pushing the time later and later in the a.m.), and she'll probably outgrow the need. Put a sippy cup of water in her bed (never anything but water), and she'll learn to 'self-satisfy' her urge to drink.



answers from Raleigh on

it's gonna be tough, but you're gonna have to put on your mommy britches and do it :) we had a similar issue with getting my son to sleep. I sat outside his door and cried as much as he did :) but it only lasted about a day or two and has been smooth sailing ever since.

With the weaning, when she wakes up, go in and comfort her but tell her gently that "we're not going to eat right now". If a fit happens (listen to me "if", silly!) WHEN the fit happens, gently tell her that you're not going to stay if she's going to throw a fit.

Now heres' the hard part - you have to do it. If she continues, you have to be willing to get up and leave. She will scream for several minutes. After about 5, go in and comfort her again and explain that we're not nursing right now. Leave again, if she is still screaming, wait a little longer, - maybe 10 min and extend the time each time you leave.

Like i said, it will probably take a day or two so maybe try this over a weekend or a "down time" when you don't have to be up early or can get extra help in the morning.

It is rough, but she won't be traumatized if you tell her no. It's hard to leave them in the dark crying and you may need to go in another room and cry too :) that's ok. She will eventually be as worn out as you are :)

Good luck!!!!



answers from Raleigh on

IS it a middle of the night feeding?
If possible, have daddy comfort her back to sleep. When she realizes you are not coming in, she will give up quickly.

It sounds like she just wants the comfort of nursing. It is healthiest for her (and you) for her to learn how to put herself to sleep.

You did not mention her age, but if she is over 18-24 months, then she will be fine to let cry a little. Have daddy go in & tell her it is nite nite time. Dont cuddle, dont speak, but sit in a chair in the room without engaging her.

Remember, this phase will pass. Hang in there.

P. : )



answers from Knoxville on

Hi! My daughter, now 21 months, weaned from night nursing about a 6 or 8 weeks ago. Granted I was pregnant, but my milk hadn't begun to dry up at all and she loved nurisng at night. At that point she was nursing before nap, before bed and throughout the night...anywhere from once to 6 times...usually towards the higher. Anyway, the pain and my exhaustion finally got me to consider weaning her at night. It went so much better than I anticipated. I also cosleep though...that did help. The biggest thing I found was not to tell her no or make anything up about them being gone, etc. When she asked to nurse in the night I was just curl her up next to me and hold her tight...and sing, rub her back, etc...the first nihgt was tough on me...not her though...she never even cried...wimpered less than 20 seconds...and that was that. She asked that first night...and maybe the second...I forget...but then she didn't even ask for a week or so...after about two weeks she never even mentioned it...and now sleeps through the is amazing. It just amazes me at how well she adapted. We gave up nursing before bed...about three or four weeks ago...and are just now trying to drop the nap time nursing...the hardest one for her by far. Anyway...wanted to let you know it can be done...without letting them cry...and that there are lots of people that nurse through the night well past two years, so all those that say they are just using you for comfort...yup..they might be...they are also reaping the huge benfits of a little extra milk...and realizing that their mama is doing what she feels best for them.



answers from Nashville on

When I started the weaning process I cut out the nighttime feedings first. I was trying to get him to sleep through the night. I started out with making them shorter and shorter. I would shorten them every few nights. Then I had my husband do the wakings for a while. That was really helpful. He didn't get too upset since it wasn't me.

After that I started cutting out the feedings before naps and bedtime so that he wasn't associating nursing with going to sleep. For a few days, if your husband can be the one to put her to bed, that will make it easier. I read the book No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley, and even though your question is about weaning and not sleep issues, it might help since it's a night time feeding that you are having trouble with.



answers from Raleigh on

I am not a fan of crying it out and I never forced my child to be alone to learn how to go to sleep. However when my son was about 9 months old I was done nursing at night. He was eating well in the day and there was no reason for him to need that nourishment at night. He was very upset with me and he would cry and hit me but I just calmly held him and talked to him softly or sang to him. We cut out one feeding at a time and I would have a time limit no feedings before 3 am say that moved up every few nights until now when he eats at around 7 am. It was very hard for a few nights but once I decided not to feed him anymore I stuck to it and eventually they get the message. If you work maybe you could take a few days off since you will be sleep deprived. Otherwise just take it easy and know that they don't need those nighttime feedings after 5-6 months of age. It just becomes a bad habit. Good Luck. It will happen just stay calm and be firm.



answers from Memphis on

I gave in a lot, because it was easier (and I got more sleep) to just hurry up and nurse him so he'd go back to sleep. And then (since my husband started complaining, and stopped supporting my nursing), I weaned cold turkey. It was hard, and I regret some of the things about it. My son did not like it, and did not understand why all of a sudden I wouldn't let him nurse, and it was a rough week or two, and then he was over it. But that's what I did.



answers from Raleigh on

Did you guys co-sleep? Is she waking up from another room? Did you recently cut out other feedings?

I thought I would be nursing my son until he was 3 at the rate our weaning went. We weaned off the day first and ONLY nursed at night. He crib was right next to our bed, set up like a co-sleeper. I virtually didn't have to "wake up" cause we nursed in our sleep. After 3 months of not nursing during the day I started to break the night feedings (2-3).

My biggest trick was to pump him full of liquids right before bed. I started by letting him drink 4 oz before nursing him until he was taking all cup. I did find that chocolate almond, soy, or rice milk was in his eyes a treat and I had no probs making the switch. Over the next few weeks he was waking up less and less. If he woke up early in the morning looking to nurse we just got out of bed and had an early breakfast with lots to drink afterwards. By removing him from the room he connected nursing with it wasn't so tough.

At 21 months I nursed for the last time and I'm glad I didn't push to hard. Each child and mom wean differently and we took it at a nice pace. With letting my son drop the feedings he didn't shed tears and we didn't have a boob battle in our house. Hope this helps you.

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