Have you ever been scared that your LO would bite you during nursing? Today I try to help a mum, who wants to night-wean her co-sleeping 15-month old daughter because of this very reason.
Hello everyone. It's Anna, thank you so much for tuning in today. You are listening to The Baby Sleep Project Show: the place to learn about baby sleep and sleep coaching.
Today's question is about night weaning. The question goes like this: I'm trying to night wean my 15-month-old daughter. She grazed me several times, but last night she bit and drew blood. I do not feel relaxed or enjoying nursing anymore, looking for advice.
Okay. So let me just tell you that this is my worst nightmare come true. When I was pregnant, I swore to myself that I would wean my little one as soon as she gets teeth. And... it didn't happen. Okay? So she started teething quite late, but I actually nursed her until she was like two years old. Yeah, that's right. Two years old. But she never bit me! So that was okay. My son on the other hand, weaned himself at around one year of age and he did bit a little bit. What I did was that I just firmly said no, and I, like made a googly eye and tried to look like very firm and even a little bit frightening when he did that. And it only happened once and it wasn't that bad. And he stopped afterwards. So I guess that worked and I didn't wean him at that time, but he weaned himself later.
Okay. So I totally understand that this, that this could have been a really inconvenient and bad experience for you and you kind of lost your confidence or trust in your little one, but I also see that you're really looking forward to weaning your child anyway. So if you just let a few days pass and you still have this feeling about wanting to wean, and it's not just because of this bad experience then just go ahead and do it. And anyway, a 15-month-old doesn't have to nurse at night, so you can very, very safely night wean. And if you want to wean altogether, that's fine too. I mean, it's recommended that you breastfeed your baby as long as at least until one year of age, you have already done that. So good job! And you don't have to worry about weaning.
Okay. The main question is how to do it. I can see from the comments of your question that you are co-sleeping with your baby and that she falls asleep independently. That's good news! If she falls asleep independently, that means that she doesn't have the sleep association of nursing to sleep. So you will have an easy job doing this... easier job, I mean, easier than if she had this sleep association. Okay. So you don't have to deal with bedtime sleep training in this case. So the problem is only night weaning. So I assume that you sleep together, and when the baby wakes up in the middle of the night, she starts to nurse until she falls back asleep.
Okay. So there are two factors at play here. One is nursing can still be a sleep association because it is possible to have a different sleep association for night and for bedtime. So even though she falls asleep independently and she doesn't have this sleep association at bedtime with nursing, but it is possible that for nighttime sleep, she does have this sleep association. So that's one thing.
The other thing is learnt hunger. Okay. So learnt hunger is basically a habit. It means that she will get hungry at night simply because she eats at night usually. Okay? So she has this habit of eating at night and she kind of factors this in when she takes her calories during the day. So for a 15-month-old, it is absolutely possible to go without eating at night, but since she does eat at night, it means that she will need some time to get used to not eating at night. So how to do this? First of all, try to give her more food, a little bit more food, like an extra meal during the day to make up for the lost calories that she will, she's going to lose by missing night feedings. So an extra, an extra dinner, or maybe just before bedtime, or maybe an extra snack during the day. Make it her favorite so that there's no fight about it. I would do it for a day or two to see if it reduces night feedings. If it does, then, that's a good sign. It means that a sleep association might not be that strong, but chances are, she will still wake up. Okay? Maybe she will wake up less often, but she would still, but she will still wake up at night.
And then there's the other thing, the sleep association. So without breastfeeding, she won't know how to go back to sleep. So that's where consistency comes into play. So if she's 15 months old, I'm not sure how verbal she is, but you can try to explain it in very, very simple words that you won't nurse at night anymore. Try to wear some night gown or something that is quite closed. So there's no temptation for her to just... to grab your boob and nurse. So try to explain... Some, some moms like to say that boobies go to sleep and it's nighttime, I don't nurse at night, boobies are sleeping, don't wake them up, Or something like that. And then you just keep at it! I mean, you just discuss, I mean, in so many words, but discuss it with your daughter and then you just stop feeding at night. And there will be some resistance, of course, there will be some difficulty going back to sleep, but whatever you decide to do, don't give up on this and don't feed her at night.
So you can try any other methods to help her fall asleep. First of all, you can give her a sippy cup with water, make sure not to put anything else in the sippy cup, just water, because if she already has teeth - and it seems that she does - it can lead to decay. So don't put juice or something in the sippy cup. So, water will help with thirst if she's thirsty at night, and it will also help a little bit with sleep associations because she's used to suck on something before falling asleep and also drink something, and so this will be a similar experience for her. Second of all, you can try anything else to help her go back to sleep like patting her back, stroking her hair, just make sure that you should, that you are not too stimulating. So I wouldn't, talk to her too much. Don't switch on the light. Just be boring and pretend to sleep. And that will help her go back to sleep too. So if you co-sleep, she won't be afraid, she won't feel like she's abandoned. You don't have to worry about any of these things. There's only one thing you won't do and that's breastfeeding. And I think at 15 months old, this should be very easy to do.