Q&A: The All Night Nurser

Q: Lily  just turned 8 months, and is still up several times during the night to comfort nurse (I think).  I am not great at letting her cry, so I just end up letting her use me as a pacifier, so I don’t really get much sleep.  I am used to it, but I am sure I would be better off with some extended sleep one of these days! Do you have any advice about how I can help her sleep on her own — I have been trying to up her solids during the day, but she is more interested in nursing still.
A, Mom of 2 boys, 1 girl
A:  Hi A!  I am so psyched that yours is my first question!
Firstly, hooray for breastfeeding for 8 months and wanting to continue.  Lily is a lucky gal.  And sorry to hear that your sleep is suffering.  I hope some of the following thoughts will help.
Your question says “comfort nursing” but she could very well be hungry, so let’s tackle that first. I bet she is increasingly interested in and distracted by her brothers and not concentrating on daytime feedings, right? Offering high-calorie, nutritious table foods is wonderful, but it is totally age appropriate that she continues to prefer breastmilk and she may until 12 months or later.  Sooooo, keep presenting solids while you nurse on demand.  Not at the same time, ha, you know what I mean. And if you can at all manage it see if you can arrange some nursing sessions with no competing stimuli.
I’d start offering a top-off when YOU go to bed, even if its 10 or 11pm and she’s been down for hours.  This can buy you 6 hours on a good night!
If you don’t already, I’d encourage you to cosleep and get good at feeding in the side lying position.  Wear a loose nightgown or t-shirt.  I hear all the time that once a child can help himself, Mom can nearly sleep through it.  And because sometimes it just helps to know you’re not alone, most cosleeping babies do wake at least once a night until 12 months or later.
Keep yourself healthy so that interrupted sleep doesn’t completely wreck your days-  sunshine, good whole foods, probiotics, vitamins, water.  Don’t over commit or pack your calendar. Cut stress from your life whenever you can.  Accept family help with big kids or hire a cheap teenaged mother’s helper so you can occasionally nap with baby. Lastly and most important, hold on to your sense of humor and realize how quickly she will grow up.  Personally I think I’m going to like these bumpy nights more than I’ll like being awake and waiting for a 17 year old’s car in the driveway.
Will you let me know how it goes? And please, if Lily and her tired parents are looking for gentle night weaning thoughts down the road, email again!
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2 thoughts on “Q&A: The All Night Nurser”

  1. My son is almost 7 months old and I am in the same boat. My hubby doesn’t want to co-sleep, but I often nap with my son in our bed and even sleep there with him until my hubby comes to bed, then I move my son to his crib. He just started in his crib in June. I am also lucky that I can see him in his crib from my bed 🙂 …. we have a small home. Our nursing relationship has had its ups and downs, but I just bought a glider to make night time nursing more comfy for me 🙂 We sometimes sleep on the floor together after his last night nursing around 430 AM until he wakes up around 7 or so. Sleep is important to us, but breastfeeding is more important…. I try to remind myself of this when I am tired. I am lucky I don’t have a full time job right now so I can deal with less sleep and stil function 🙂 Take one day at a time Momma 🙂 Before we know it they will be 1, then 2, then 3!

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