by Anna (Corpus Christi, TX)
I'm in need of some advise on weaning. My daughter is 14 months old and nurses very frequently 24-7.
We have been co-sleeping since she was born and I am VERY ready to have her weaned at least at night from the breast and maybe the bed. That's not just for my sake but hers as well. I think her sleeping patterns may be a hindrance on some level to her. She rarely falls into a deep sleep because she wakes up to eat or when she's wet. She doesn't sleep more than 2 maybe 2 1/2 hours at a time. So neither her nor I have had a “normal” 8 hours nights sleep since she was born.
Also I'm noticing some white stains on her front 4 teeth, close to her gum line. I think because her teeth are being bathed in breast milk all day/night it's causing decay.
Other things to know is she eats a small breakfast lunch and dinner with other snacks like fruit in between meals.
She takes a long 2 1/2 -3 hour nap in the day. I notice she really crashes-out when she's worn out from a long busy day so I attempted to have her just nap 2 hours but that didn't seem to affect her night schedule so I stopped. I also attempted to take nursing out of her bedtime regime starting with her naps and that was awful. She cried and worked up into hysterics.
Then at night I just was really exhausted and gave in. She was more persistent than me. I know it's something that needs tenderness and consistency but I really need more tips on how to approach this.
One more statement then question. My hair hasn't grown back completely. I realize it's normal for hair to fall after having a baby and that degree varies from woman to woman. My hair actually fell out so bad I looked like I had cancer. It's much better but still very thin. Do you think breastfeeding could be the cause considering the extra hormones taking place in my body? Thank you for your help.
It sounds like you're pretty tired – and it sounds like your little lady probably is too! Though many babies and moms do fine nursing frequently at night into toddlerhood, other nursing couples really need more sleep.
I would recommend that you start with just her bedtime routine right now. Don't worry about naps, and don't worry about the middle of the night. Nurse her for a bit close to bedtime, then take her off and maybe give her a short, warm bath and then a cuddle/singing and put her in bed. If you normally put her into your bed you may want to put her into her own bed – you can still have it in your room, but don't put her down in your bed.
You can stay right there beside her if you want to, or putter around the room straightening up, and offer her comfort if she fusses. Now, it's up to you what you feel right about – but with an older baby I am generally OK with them fussing a bit about a new sleep arrangement. I don't like outright hysteria and will pick up and comfort a baby. But an older baby and toddler can learn (even if they're grumpy about it) that bedtime is bedtime, and “now we lie down and go to sleep”.
After you have her nighttime routine going smoothly I would work on her night wakings. Some moms find it works best to start to “stretch out the night” by putting baby to bed and then cutting out one nursing session at a time.
I have found it works best for my baby to put them to bed, then keep the nursing session just before I go to bed (so say, baby goes to bed at 7-8pm, and I go to bed at 10pm, I will nurse the baby then). Then I work on cutting out one nursing at a time after that.
How many nursings I want to take out really depends on the baby. For instance, when I wanted to night-wean Galen, I kept the nursing around 10pm, and another nursing around 5am for a long time – I just helped him drop all the nursings between that time.
How do you drop a nursing time? When baby wakes up and fusses at that time, you can comfort her, but then put her back in bed. If you normally sleep without a shirt on, it may be a good idea to wear a night shirt or night gown for awhile!
I've found that Daddy is often helpful at this point – it's good for him to get up and comfort the little one, then put her back to bed. For some reason this seems to go more smoothly than Mom trying to do it.
Only after you have bedtime going well, and you've gotten the night nursings to a level you want (or have nightweaned completely), should you move on to nap times. Then you can use the same techniques and good habits that worked well at night to help her learn to have a good afternoon nap.
You're the judge on if she still needs a morning nap or not. Most of my babies dropped the morning nap around a year old – but Galen took a morning nap until around 20 months old. He just seemed to need it.
But I would encourage you to help her have a good afternoon nap if possible. I feel it's beneficial to little ones who otherwise get really, really cranky in the evening! Base the time you pick for her nap on when you want her to go to sleep at night.
You can start a regular nap routine even before you're trying to get her to nap on her own – pick a time and stick to it. Don't schedule appointments or run errands during her nap time. Along the same lines, once you pick a bedtime don't go out and about during that time. She'll find it much easier to get used to a new routine if it's that – a routine!
You can pick a time to get her up. I get Galen up at 4pm every afternoon even if he hasn't awakened on his own. I want him to be ready to go to sleep at bedtime 🙂
Teeth and Hair
You might consider giving more protein and fat-rich snacks (cheese, eggs, and fish for an example) that won't cause blood glucose fluctuations like fruits will. Fruit is good on occasion but children can have trouble regulating even the natural sugars in fruit and then they will have highs and crashes.
About your hair – normally it is pregnancy hormones and not nursing hormones that cause issues with hair loss. If you still feel it isn't full, diet may be to blame. Nursing does take a lot from your body nutritionally – after pregnancy already has – so you should be eating well. Getting lots of nutrient-dense proteins is important. Eggs are a really really good source of high-quality nutrients for pregnant and nursing mothers. Two eggs a day are very good for your body and your hair. Also, make sure you're getting fat and protein. This not only makes richer milk for your little lady, it helps your body to be healthier.(Hint: Would you like practical, no-nonsense, really-help-you-get-more sleep tips on handling nap time and bedtime with your little one? Check out the baby sleep crib sheet - no crib required - and get better sleep tonight. Get it here.)