Mom Seeking Help Transitioning from Co-sleeping

Updated on May 11, 2009
C.A. asks from Portland, OR
11 answers

I am a single mom who has co-slept with her baby since he was born. He is now 16 months old and wakes 5-6 times a night to nurse. I would like to transition him in hopes that we will both sleep better in a different environment. I just dont know how? Any suggestions or ideas would be greatly appreciated.

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answers from Portland on

Hi C. -

I have night nursed 4 of my 5 children through their second year and I know it is a challenge at times (even though it is one of my favorite mothering tools!). They go through spurts of nursing more (as your baby is). You have two choices: 1) either continue to nurse at night and wait it out to see when your child will naturally sleep w/o nursing as much, or 2) night wean (as Betty suggested in her post). As far as how to go about doing that, there is a wonderful article on weaning toddlers from night nursing and I wanted to share that with you.

You can try offering a sippy cup to your child in place of nursing, but that typically hasn't worked for my kids until they were weaned because the nursing is more of a comfort than the drinking. :)


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answers from Portland on

What about laying a mattress on the floor next to your bed; nurse him to sleep in it, then get back into your own bed...maybe this little distance will prevent him from waking so frequently?

If you need to nightwean, I also recommend Dr Jay Gordon's post (link given by a previous poster).

You can also talk with him during the day about how the "nursies/nummies/whatever you guys call it" want to sleep at night when it is dark.

talk talk talk with him about the possible transitions, and listen to him as well. you'll figure out what works best for both of you.

if you can, go to the monthly toddler LLL meetings for more support and advice. or you can always call a leader.

good luck, and way to go mama, you're doing great!

p.s. I just wanted to add: there is no "should" regarding baby's and when they sleep through the night. Lots of toddlers still nursing will nurse through the night. This is perfectly normal and natural. But if you find that it is draining on you, or you want it to change, then you can gently transition him. He will eventually do this on his own (my 2-year-old just started falling asleep by herself, so I have seen the light at the end of the tunnel!) but he might need a gentle nudge from mama to get him going in that direction. good luck!

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answers from Seattle on


Unless your baby has some health issues you didn't mention he should be sleeping through the night now and only nursing before bed and in the morning. Because you are co-sleeping this may be why he still wakes up to nurse so often. You may find that when you put him in his crib he will sleep better and not want to nurse. At this point his nursing is just a habit.

You both will sleep better and you will feel more rested. Unfortunatly you are going to a some difficult nights making the change, but he is old enough. Just be strong and it will all work out.

Good luck.

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answers from Portland on

I co-slept(actually still do, she will be 3 this month:)and nursed my daughter for two years. Just wanted to let you know that by 8 months old, babies do not need to eat or nurse at night for nutritious reasons any longer. My midwife and and Ped both told me this, plus I read about it in "The Nursing Mother's Companion" by Kathleen Huggins. I actually did not learn this until my daughter was about 1 year old. I chose then to wean her from night feedings, and to teach her to self-soothe and find comfort in my closeness alone. It took several nights of letting her cry about the transition, while I cuddled her and told her that she was very close to me and I am still her comfort. It only took about five nights of this, and the most she cried any night was about 15 minutes. On the last night I did turn my back on her because she was insistent on nursing, but was still very close to her in the bed space. I also made sure to nurse her full BEFORE bedtime, but not to fall asleep to. If she did fall asleep during nursing near bedtime, I gently woke her so she could fall asleep without nursing. Now she is almost 3, and in the past few months I have been weaning her from sleeping on my arm at night. I have explained to her that she is growing big, and I need more space to sleep at night now. Most of the time she is fine with sleeping on the pillow close to me, and sometimes she asks to sleep on my arm. Depending on how I personally feel, I might or might not let her sleep on my arm. We talk alot about compromises and being considerate of each others space and how they might feel that day. If I know she had a really hard day, sometimes I offer her my arm:)
Oh, also what really is important is to create a routine that replaces the nursing to bed routine. It is important that the routine be consistent and under 15 minutes, as per "Teaching Your Child to Sleep" by the Millford Pond Sleep Clinic. I chose to announce that in 2 minutes we will be getting ready for bed. We then change into jammies, brush teeth, take our vitamins and hop into bed. When in bed we turn of all the lights and with my flashlight we say good-night to everything in the room and make shadow puppets while doing so. I then tell her the schedule for the next day.(how long she will be in school, who will pick her up, what we will do after school)I then let her turn off the flashlight while we say goodnight, and I have made it clear from the start that when the light is off it is quiet time. I think letting her turn the light off is what made the routine so successful, because two years later at age three the routine still works.
The co-sleeping time is so short! Just the other day she told me she wanted her own bed like so and so:) I think once the co sleeping method is started, it is totally worth it to continue as long as you can, as long as parent and child are both willing of course. I am hoping that I am laying the foundation for my child to expect and create healthy relationships in her adult life. I hope the experience is teaching her about being aware of others needs while balancing her own.
Hope my insight helps, good luck!

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answers from Yakima on

I would start by decreasing the # of times you nurse him during the night. After you take out 2 or 3 of those feedings he'll probably sleep in longer stretches. If you are not of fan of the cry it out method, you could let him fall asleep with you then move him to his bed. Good luck, this is one of the biggest challenges I've had with my daughter.



answers from Portland on

There is not a Normal age for sleeping thought the night. It is different for each child and each Doctor you talk to. The same with nursing during the night. This web site might give you ideas:



answers from Yakima on

You already got some good advice (I like the idea about the mattress on the floor- we put ours in the nursery rather than next to our bed), so I really just wanted to give you some encouragement. You aren't doing anything wrong by responding to your son's needs at night. You are following your instincts! By the same token, it won't hurt him to start night weaning so you can get some more sleep. My guess is that because you have been such a responsive mother, your son will be secure enough to handle the transition really well. Offer him other forms of comfort from you and don't be as quick to respond to his nursing requests. He'll start sleeping better and better and you will find you are spending less and less time sleeping next to him. Good luck and hang in there!



answers from Spokane on

The main thing is that YOU have to be ready and SURE that you are ready for the transition. Any ambivalence on your part and all is lost. You may have a couple of long nights of broken hearted crying ( both of you) but you will both be better off. But unless you believe it is for the best and are willing to go through a couple of crying nights ala nanny 911 then don't do it. You will only reinforce to your cutie " if I cry long enough she will give in" and it will be so much harder the next time you try
I mean sleeping in a separate bed you may still nurse once a night but not 5 or 6 times ,no way, that comes from proximity

Good Luck
( mother of four)



answers from Anchorage on

I would start by night weening. A baby no longer needs night feedings after the first 2 weeks of life. (via my doctor) They do it because we give it to them to placate them back to sleep in stead of allowing them to learn to go to sleep on their own. I only co-slept for 3 months with my boys, then bassinet for a couple of weeks, then bassinet in their room, them crib. Put the baby to bed a wake so they can get used to there environment and to not nursing to sleep. Since the child is so old this will be a harder transition, but be consistent and they will adjust.



answers from Seattle on

Get a bassinet, or put the crib next to your bed, and put him in there. Try to keep him in there longer and longer each night. Next to your bed is good, because then, if you have to get up you don't have to walk as far.

Then when he's able to sleep consistently there, then move the crib into his room.



answers from Portland on

I too was a single mom that co-slept. I found it really hard to night-wean because I didn't have any help. Your son really is old enough to night wean, but it will take a couple of night of crying and fussing, so be prepared. You'll need to slowly cut out one feeding a night until he's down to none (takes a week or two). You'll probably have to wake up and rock him back to sleep until he gets used to not nursing at night. It takes strong diligence and at least a week. After he's used to not nursing you should be able to put him in his own bed. I put my son in a toddler bed next to mine, which worked well for us.

Also, after you do this you can NEVER accidentally nurse at night when you're tired or it will start over again. I learned this the hard way...

The commenter below is also correct. There is no age for when a child SHOULD be sleeping through the night. Your son is still within a very normal range. I feel that most people just start lying to their doctors when their babies aren't sleeping through the night by 12 months, etc. My son didn't sleep through the night until 2.5 and is still a very light sleeper. My best friend's son is 14 months and still wakes up 3-6 times to nurse. I truly felt that my son needed to nurse at night until at least 18 months. He would wake up 2 times and drain both breasts fully. I think 8 months is WAY too young to take away any feedings. They still don't understand and really might NEED to eat. Your baby is NORMAL! :)

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