Question for those nursing a toddler to sleep/co-sleeping

[deleted account] ( 27 moms have responded )

I am looking for other mom's experiences on the subject, because at this stage I'm just not sure anymore if my daughter's sleep-pattern is normal.
I know she has a strong sleep-association with my boobs and my arms and that's fine with me. I don't mind nursing her to sleep or nursing her back to sleep frequently. I don't even mind having to nap with her every day - I like a nap too after all! I should also add that my daughter has always been very alert and getting her to sleep was a nightmare for a long, long time. I used to have to rock her to sleep standing on the mattress (more bounce) while nursing and singing to her for an hour - now at 22 months we are just nursing to sleep, so we've really come a long way. Still though, nursing to sleep at night takes around an hour unless she refused to nap, though that messes with night-sleep even more. She had gotten to a point where she'd 'only' wake every two hours, but that has changed again recently. When she wakes it sometimes takes me well over an hour to settle her again. I know she wants to sleep, I can tell. She uses one boob, then roots for the other so we swap sides all the while she is twirling the other nipple with her fingers. This can go on back and forth countless times, sometimes she even starts crying.
I guess it's the length of time it takes to nurse her to sleep that worries me and the fact that she clearly wants to relax but can't. I've read all there is about sleep, I am doing my best to maximise her sleep, she gets a lot of fresh air and activity during the day, we have quiet time too, particularly before bedtime, she eats healthy, no TV - I just don't get it.
Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

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Maria - posted on 07/30/2011

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I have a 17 month old who nurses too. He nurses to sleep still at nap time (in about 7 min.) and he nurses as part of his bedtime routine for anywhere from 7-20 minutes. He is never asleep at night time when he is finished nursing, so I tell him night night and put him to bed. He plays a while and then goes to sleep... He does wake up and nurse several times a night, but he goes right back to sleep. And unless he is sick or teething it's only 2-3 times...

My older child was another story, she slept through the night early, but took forever to fall asleep and wouldn't nap more than 20-30 minutes at a time.

EVERY kid is different, so be careful comparing yours to others, that shouldn't be what makes you feel better. Is your child getting enough sleep for your child? Are you willing to continue on as is?.... etc...?



A couple of things no one has mentioned...

The average 1-3 year old needs 12-14 hours of sleep (night and naps combined). Many don't get that, but that doesn't mean they don't need that much. There is some research out there that links problems like ADHD and later obesity to not getting enough sleep as a child. I am no expert, but what I've read is enough to make me think twice...



The other thing to try is an earlier bed time. (Maybe radically earlier for a while... depending on when bedtime is now...) That might also mean adjusting nap time to fit better... There is a book out there by a pediatrician all about healthy sleep habits. Someone else already mentioned it, Healthy Sleep HAbits, Happy Child by MArc Weissbluth. It has given me a great idea of what to shoot for in the sleep realm.



I don't want anyone to take this the wrong way, but "normal" might not be the thing to shoot for. Keeping in mind every child is different, shoot for the best you can do for your child...

Patricia - posted on 07/25/2011

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My experience after 3 children and nursing them all. I bought a book: All Children can learn to sleep and sleep through the night too. This book really helped me a lot. I told me how to handle my 6months old baby to sleep through the night without waking up and seeking the breast. As a mom and we can't say NO to our babies - when they are healthy and growing normally - they can sleep through the night as from 6months on. It sound hard, but it worked with my first two children. I had them all in my bed during the first few months and breastfeed them during the night. At the age when they managed to stand up in their beds and started crawling I moved them to their own room and bed. They can be 6-7 months old. This is the time I took them off the NIGHT breast. I breastfeed them at 10h00 the last time (or before I went to bed myself). This is the last time they drank anything..no bottle of tee of milk..nothing! At the beginning it was hard for them, but the technique they had in the book worked like a bomb. When they start crying - go to them and tell them you are present - don't pick them up. Stay for a 2 min and walk out. Stay away for 2 min. If still crying, go back in and stay for 2 min. Speak to him - no picking up. Go back out. Stay away for 3 min. Increase time out when still crying. He will fall a sleep after a while...can take 30min or longer. Do this every evening till he understands that he can't have your breast for sleep - he CAN DO IT alone! If it doesn't work after day 3 - leave all and restart after a week of two. I want to stress - he must be healthy and eating something already in the evening or at least the night cap breast. We can teach them - you must be willing to teach :oD Good Luck

Verine - posted on 07/24/2011

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Wow! There are other moms out there going through the same thing as me!!! I have a 2.5yr old and she is a boobaholic too! She co-sleeps with us and is on every hour till 1am and then I push her off with a lot of effort she fusses, then gives me hugs and a high five and then she settles herself for about 3 hours and then she repeats. I probably get about 5 hours of sleep. But of course around nap time we go down together and I get an extra 1.5/2 hrs of sleep. Oh yeah, she likes to play as well and goes from one side to the other, she pulls and prods and twists, ouch! A couple of times she has tried to bite, but as you can guess that did not go down well. There have been times that she simply just falls asleep on top of my boob and I have just been too tired to push her off. I wish she would just take a pacifier so she has something else to suckle on. But she won't have it.

Anyway I have managed to stretch out her nursing times where before it was every hour now it's every couple of hours or sometimes she will go 4/5 hours without anything. So just keep perserving and sometimes saying "no" and just giving her a hug and telling her she can hug on you to go to sleep and let her cry it out on you, this has worked with mine and finally she gets it and falls asleep. Other times I have just given in. So she has won that battle.

Christa - posted on 07/23/2011

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Thanks for asking that question. My story is similar with both my kids and I sometimes wondered if we were normal as I don't know anyone but myself who has continued nursing past 1 year. My oldest is now 3.5 and has become a fantastic sleeper. He still nurses to sleep, but it only take a few minutes and he rarely wakes during the night. My youngest is 1 and is pretty demanding. Juggling the two has been difficult, but things are starting to more smoothly. Great work Mom - I think! Keep on keepin on.......

[deleted account]

She's a stronger boobie addict than my son was! ;)

My son was taking an hour and a half or more to nurse to sleep at 9 months. I couldn't physically/emotionally handle that anymore, so I had to let him scream. NOT alone though. I stayed w/ him the entire time trying to comfort him in other ways.... just didn't give him what he wanted. It was an hour of torture for both of us, but he learned that he didn't HAVE to nurse to sleep. I still nursed him every night til he weaned (at 3.25 years), but if he didn't nurse to sleep.... he still went to bed w/out much hassle.

That method probably wouldn't work at her age... or would take longer than it's worth since she's much older and way more stubborn by now (I'm sure).

My son also didn't start sleeping through the night til he was 2, but I started talking to him around 18 months telling him that he was a big boy and he didn't need 'baboo' at night anymore. He used to laugh at me when I'd say that. lol But eventually it started to sink in until he was actually READY to sleep through the night. There were some nights that he would wake... I'd tell him it wasn't morning and to go back to sleep. Some nights he'd go right back to sleep. Some nights he'd whine for a couple of minutes first. And some nights he'd start to freak out. On the freak out nights... I'd just nurse him right away and eventually the freak out nights stopped.

I'm not sure if you can take anything from that or not, but it's how we did it.

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Diana - posted on 04/15/2013

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Have you tried a regular sleep schedule? I read an amazing book lately called "The Happiest Baby guide to Great Sleep" ad Dr. Harvey Karp talks about that a toddlers sleep at night depends on their schedule all day and that they thrive on regularity and sleep patterns. Something you might want to pick up. Or not. Great read though! :) HTH.

Keri - posted on 08/01/2011

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What you have said completely reminds me of my second son. I think what it finally came down to for him is that there just wasn't enough milk there, so he would get frustrated on one side and want the other, but there wasn't any milk there either. I finally started giving him a sippy cup of milk before we sat down to nurse, so he would already be full. He would also take up to an hour to fall and sleep and wake several times a night. He finally started doing better when I weaned him off completely at 30 months.

Try giving your daughter a sippy cup and then offer the boob. My daughter is a creature of habit and will only nurse during the day in my desk chair or my recliner and at night only in my recliner.

Roxana - posted on 07/31/2011

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thx, ive got a few books :) I know exactly what you mean bout driving you insane ...I constantly have a lil voice in my head: "yes, my name is Igglepiggle.."

Rebecca - posted on 07/29/2011

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Mine's a little older, (26m) and weaned, and what I'm hearing from moms with little ones her age is that none of them want to sleep, so its just a stage. Mine (who has been weaned 3 months now) has decided she must go to sleep with her head on my breast, but there must not be a shirt in between. This too shall pass ;)

Dobrina - posted on 07/29/2011

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Thank you for the thread :) I too needed to read about other moms to verify we are not abnormal, even normal is very wide...
My son is almost 20 months old and we are at the point when he signals he wants to sleep, nurses, and on the good nights, lets go and falls asleep next to me. On the bad nights, he seems to want to nurse forever, and sometimes I have to tell him I cannot give him the boob anymore and that he will have to fall asleep just like that. There are some protests, but a little after he turned one, this has actually worked fine. Before that it was a nightmare that I would really like to forget.

Krista - posted on 07/27/2011

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I enjoyed this whole thread--thank you! So comforting to read about the experiences of other moms nursing toddlers and co-sleeping! I have a friend who nurses her son, who is almost 8 months older than mine, but they don't co-sleep. So these are topics I generally don't discuss with anyone in real life because I know it isn't usually received well by others--either there's disapproval or at a minimum they have nothing useful to respond with. Simply having read all of your posts, though, I've already changed my view of my situation, now seeing that there's no problem. We're fine. :) When I do get frustrated with the situation at times I tell myself that he won't be nursing in high school, and on the other side, that this level of closeness is so sweet and time-limited, and thus so very treasurable.

Rebecca - posted on 07/25/2011

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Hi. My boobaholic bub didn't seem to taper off until after 2 years but feed till she was 4 years when she self weaned. Between 2 and 4 years she went to childcare and stayed with grandparents and during this time learnt other sleep associations. She is now 20 years and have a 3 year old that is just the same. Sounds like you are doing a great job.

Lisa - posted on 07/25/2011

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Kudos to you for having so much patience. I'm still nursing my 18-month-old, but about 8 months ago I stopped nursing him to sleep and rocking him because it was getting too difficult. He'd fall asleep in my arms and then wake up when I put him into the crib, and when I rocked him, it was killing my back because he was getting so heavy. I'm so thankful I don't have to rock him now - my back would really be shot. I have a routine of bath, pajamas, books, teethbrushing and saying good night to things on the way to the crib and then I put him in the crib. He still cries before going to sleep, but I have a video monitor and I watch him, and when he stops crying, he lies down and he talks to himself until he falls asleep. Some nights are shorter and some nights are longer, but it works. They have to know how to fall asleep by themselves eventually, and I think it only gets harder as they get older. I was nursing just in the morning, but lately my son asks for it before bedtime, so I nurse at that time. Sometimes I find that he's very thirsty before bedtime, so I'll offer him some water, and that works well. Anyway, good luck!

Gemma - posted on 07/24/2011

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Sounds like your doing an amazing job and your baby seems like your average high demand baby but that's not to say it isn't normal ! My boy is 10 months old and has the same traits just not as extreme but still difficult :) I highly recommend a book called "Dream Baby Guide" by Sheyne Rowley the Australian baby whisperer. I have read only a small portion of this book and already I am seeing results it is unlike any other book. It does not address the problems you occur at night rather she teaches you how to manage your day to impact on night time sleep positively and it's more than just day nap advice and using activitys to tire them out as that can sometimes have a negative impact on night sleep. It's up to you if you read this book which is a little expensive and a long read but I guarantee you will see results and it will make settling your baby so much easier and also will help baby understand what you want from them in order to help themselves. The book is available at most book stores or online. Good luck and congrats on bf successfully for so long.

[deleted account]

Thanks again everyone! It can be difficult if you don't have a point of reference. Most people I know already think I'm strange for still nursing, never mind co-sleeping, so it's all down to instinct - and we all know how easily that's doubted at times!
On a side-note: Roxana, did you know that 'In the Night Garden' also has lots of books and a CD? My daughter LOVES all of it. I'm not totally anti-TV, but it does impact on her sleep negatively - tried and tested. My daughter was a real handful at that age too, and the CD helped at times (it might drive you insane though...).

Olivia - posted on 07/24/2011

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It sounds like you are doing great. My daughter is 18 months and doesn't wake up as often but if she doesn't get her nap or we don't follow her scheduled right (never really been for much of a scheduled but i found when having a new baby it helps to get them to sleep around the same time) There is times that I know she wants to sleep and it still takes me sometimes 3 hours of nursing her and holding her in my arms even have to add a little cry time cause I just have colostrum right now and not enough to nurse her for 3 straight hours, till she actually falls asleep. Then sometimes she out in less then 15 min. Now from I believe i read online somewhere that it isn't completely normal for a toddler to wake up more then 2 times but in my opinion every child is different. As a mother we have a PHD on our own children so you are the one who knows best on how to handle things.

It sounds like to me she is very attached to you and you will probably have her in your bed with you for a while but as long as it doesn't pose a problem on you keep up the progress so she doesn't regress and before you know it she will be sleeping on her own and wont need you to go to sleep anymore. Enjoy this time while you have it. Good luck

Merry - posted on 07/24/2011

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It takes Eric an average of 30-45 minutes to fall asleep.
He fiddles with a cloth prefold diaper as his 'rag', he doesn't nurse to sleep anymore but he only stoped because when Fierna was born he started refusing to fall asleep so I ended up leaving him in his bed while I tended to her and I would return if he cried. So he usually takes a while to fall asleep. An hour isn't unusual. Here and there he will shock us with falling asleep in 15 minutes but usually it's an hour or more.
My verdict?
Normal
If you need it to change do so gently but if you are fine with it there's no reason to worry.
I promise you no one will see a difference in her when she's 15, except maybe she will be the teen who trusts her mom unconditionally

Roxana - posted on 07/24/2011

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forgot to say..she does fall asleep without the show, of course, but it takes a lot longer...

Roxana - posted on 07/24/2011

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I was very much against the tv as well but my husband kept putting on kids shows around my DD(now 10 months).I have to mention first that she is very active and demanding ..most of the time she either wonders around crawling so I have to run after her or wants one of us to walk with her around the house all the time (she's just started walking)....but anyway... soon realised she has 2 favourite shows:"in the night garden" and "play school"...1st one is great if I need to catch up on house work and no metter what everyone says I believe its better doing this than having a messy place to live in for your baby and 2nd one(more likely the songs in it) gets her very drowsy ...I was recording and watching them while holding her , she soon had a favourite one , because of the songs, of course...so now I sort of rock her in an upright position or just hold her while we watch that show , I sing along the songs and fast forward the talking...in 5-10 min she's ready for sleep(or asleep if really tired) and than I nurse her for another 5-10. she still wakes at night 2-4 times or more when theething. its up to you but really...I dont think 1/2 hour of tv a day would do much harm...

Anna - posted on 07/23/2011

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It sounds to me that she just needs you to go back to sleep...which is understandable. That's all she's known so far. I have four children, and sleep trained three of them (I claim ignorance with my first). I just read "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" By Marc Weissbluth. It saved me, and I have done that with all my kids. It just teaches them to go back to sleep on their own instead of depend on you. It's nice to be able to put my baby to bed...and him just wave bye-bye with a huge grin on his face while I close the door. He rocks himself to sleep happily. It's a lifesaver...I'm tellin yah!

Cynthia - posted on 07/23/2011

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Yes it's quite normal! I tandem nursed my DD til she was 3 1/2 and DS was one when I weaned DD. I'm still nursing DS and he is now 3 1/2. It got to a point with both of them that I needed to semi night wean them because of similar reasons: taking too long to fall asleep, waking in the middle of the night and basically wanting to be attached most of the night. It was physically and mentally exhausting. I decided to night wean each of them by basically telling them they could nurse a little before they fell asleep but then we would just cuddle until they fell asleep. And then they could nirse again when the sun came up. They were both boobyholics. It worked pretty well for both. DD was easier than DS though. He cried and cried but I just cuddled with him rubbed his back etc. And you know what? They slept much better when they learned to fall asleep on their own. I'm not a CIO person at all but I felt this was the most gentle way of doing it. They weren't just left alone to cry.

Lisbeth - posted on 07/23/2011

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OK so to me it sounds normal specially b/c around that age they start getting their 2 year old molars in but you should also play with the heat in the room if it is to hot my daughter who is now almost 3 gets up at night to nurse b/c she is thursty and it is hard for her to settle down after, try keeping the room cool but not to cold so as she gets stuffy the next day it will be a trial and error thing for to get the right temp. I find that if I have my shirt off and it is comfy for me it is usually good for her.

Erin - posted on 07/23/2011

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At 22 months, I think that's pretty normal. I'm glad to read that you can enjoy most of it. :) It might be teething making the nursing to sleep take so long?, but it really sounds like you're trying all the right things - no tv, lots of activity... so kudos on following her lead! It will get easier and easier, but as with all things related to kids' schedules - two steps forward, one step back. :) Hugs!

Mandy - posted on 07/23/2011

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My little girl night nursed until 2 weeks after her brother was born, so she was 28 months old when she self weaned. And some nights it only took a few minutes, but others it took hours, and if she woke up in the middle of the night it would take great patience to get her back to sleep. I agree the staying calm trick works, but maybe find a small comfort toy for the hand that is used for twirling.. Slowly intrgrate it at nap time, then bedtime, that way she has another comfort object for when she is ready to wean. And when you are both ready for that step, remember bedtime cuddles will be all the more important, as she is a co-sleeper, and is used to that contact. Even if story time is in mommy's lap. Cheers and good luck, hope some of my advise helps.

[deleted account]

Thanks guys, that helps a lot! I think I was more worried that 'normal' toddlers drift off in just a few minutes and that there might be something wrong with mine that I was missing. I had considered night-weaning, but as Teresa said, it would be a LOT of work now and would probably just upset us both (plus I'm kind of lazy...). I will start talking to her about it though, that seems like a really good idea. Funny thing is, we do actually have quite a nice routine and she totally loves it. Runs to the bedroom shouting 'Sleepies sleepies, Nina pick a book!'. Ah well, as long as she's healthy...

Mandy - posted on 07/23/2011

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That pattern sounds very simialr to what I went through with my daughter, who is now 3 & 1/2, I found she would also comfort nurse more both at night and during the day when teething or going through a growth spurt. And if she was in pain and able to comfort nurse during the day, even though she usually only nursed at night by 18 months, the night time nurse and sleep went so much more smoothly. My dr kept saying, even if you want to wean her, remember nursing has 3 purposes, bonding, comfort, and of course nutrition.

Holly - posted on 07/23/2011

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This sounds all normal. Try a routine, relaxing bath, a book and off to nurse. I would try to lay down with her in a quiet room and nurse there :) My 20 month old is almost this same way. He nurses to sleep around 10-11 and then is up at 1-2 then comfort nurses the rest of the night. :) Good luck and try to remain calm. The calmer you are the easier she will sleep :)

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