Nighttime Parenting and Nursing: I really just want to sleep!

July 25, 2010

Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe’s Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today’s post is about nighttime parenting and nursing. Please read the other blogs in today’s carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st!

I have not had 8 hours of sleep in a row for FOUR years.  I am not lying.  I probably wouldn’t know what to do with myself with that much sleep! For us, and on some nights, nighttime parenting has been just as busy as daytime parenting-at least from a nursing perspective.

We are kind of a part-time co-sleeping family.  We co-slept with our son until he was about 4 months old, had a month of bliss when he was actually sleeping for 6 hour stretches in his own bed and then it all went to pot again and he has refused to sleep by himself ever since. (A reminder to you all–he is 3.5 years old)  I nursed him to sleep from the beginning and according to all the ‘books’  that was my first mistake.  I also kept nursing him throughout the night well into his second year, much to the dismay of people who kept telling me he really didn’t ‘need’ to nurse at night anymore.  My husband and I switched roles at times so that he could take over all night-time parenting, and we would try to night-wean our son. This would work for a few days or weeks, but then something would always bring us back to nursing and sleeping with him.  I read book after book on how to get my child to sleep (well, everything short of Ferber that is–I refused to do any form of Cry It Out strategies).  I probably gave up on all the different strategies too soon, but damn it I really just wanted to SLEEP!  And so to make everyone happy, I would nurse him and we would all go back to sleep.

He is still not a great sleeper.  He gets scared in his room all by himself and wants one of us to come and sleep with him.  And we do it, and I will tell you why.

He is THREE years old!  He is our child and he needs us-to comfort him, to feel safe and to snuggle.  I am not so naive to think that these feelings and needs are going to last forever (I can just picture the DO NOT ENTER sign on his teenage bedroom door in the future) and neither my husband nor I want to look back on these years and say, ‘Man, I wish I had just been with him more when he needed me.”

My daughter is now 22 months old and is a better sleeper. We did not technically co-sleep with her IN our bed, but rather beside it in her bassinet.  I did learn to let her self soothe a bit more than I did with my son and it shows.  She can be put down in her bed awake and will fall into a nice slumber all on her own.  But…she is still up at least once or twice a night.  She calls for me in the dark and I can’t deny her that extra hug, that few seconds on the breast that lets her know that I am only a few steps away.  I know that nursing her at night has no real nutritional value for her, but I nurse my kids for a whole lot more than just nutrition. I nurse them to comfort them, to nurture them, to soothe them and to help them sleep.  And you know what, I’m OK with that.

I am not having any more kids.  These two little humans are my only babies and I will keep them close to me for as long as possible, nurse them as long as they need to and do it NIGHT and day if need be.  That is all folks.

Sleep well ;)

P.S.  I did NOT sleep well last night and neither did DS-up grand total of 5 times–it is not always what I want, but life is what it is.  Time for COFFEE!!

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5 Responses to Nighttime Parenting and Nursing: I really just want to sleep!

  1. Heidi Cheung on July 25, 2010 at 7:23 AM

    >I have always been a bit of a sleep dictator. To me, sleep is as important to a kid as food or love, and I am doing them a great disservice by denying them that.Both my kids are great sleepers, but they not start out that way. Avery nursed every 2 hours round the clock until she was 10 mons old, and would be awake for long periods of time every night. I was exhausted, and heading back to work F/T.Oliver nursed every 1.5 hours round the clock until he was 9 mons old. By 2 months old, he was 15 lbs. He weighed 24 lbs @ 6 mons! Neither kid ever took a bottle so there was no relief for me.When Oliver reached the point where he nursed more at night than during the day at 9 mons old, I needed an intervention.Lawrence "sleep trained" both of our kids. I have no idea what he did, but I am sure it involved SOME crying. With Avery, it took 3 nights. With Oliver, it took 5. Now both of them happily and confidently go to bed in their own beds at 6:30 PM every night, and sleep until 6:30-7 AM the next morning. Most nights.We never miss a nap or prolong a bedtime. When they are sick or teething, all the rules go out the window and they get nursed or cuddled or sleep in our bed or whatever they need. But when they are well again, they go back to their bed happily.I do not feel as though I am missing anything at this stage. At first the night wakings were wonderful, and I relished every moment of them. And then….I started to resent being woken up every hour and waking around in a fog every day, even with coffee. I had no reserve to deal with anything else that happens in life. Mommy needed some sleep!My whole point is here, after this rambling comment (maybe I should blog?), is that different things work for each family. If your family is happy with the current situation, then don't try to change it. We weren't happy as a family, and so we changed it. Bad sleepers CAN become good sleepers. Oh…and my 2.5 yo is still in a crib, because that is where she is happiest. When she is ready for a big girl bed, she will tell me. We are in no hurry :)

  2. Anonymous on July 25, 2010 at 9:16 AM

    >I just wanted to say, thanks. I am facing the same criticism from family about nursing and at his one year check up – i was told he doesn not need to nurse anymore and you should wean him. I am going back to work soon and he is going to be really scared and upset, so I plan on nursing him a little longer so he is at least comfortable at night, even if his days aren't so comfy right now. 6 hours sleep in a row would be a blessing, lol, but he is only a baby for a short period of time – and then I will have a second child and he won't be the baby anymore.

  3. Sleep. « Natural Urban Mamas on June 16, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    […] during the day and I did not teach him to self-sooth. Natural Urban Dad and I became the experts at nighttime parenting, as in we were UP all night ‘parenting’ our […]

  4. […] This too I attributed primarily to having a newborn and a 22 month old, tandem nursing and kids that needed a lot of night-time parenting and later to me just doing too much and staying up way too late trying to get it all […]

  5. […] This too I attributed primarily to having a newborn and a 22 month old, tandem nursing and kids that needed a lot of night-time parenting and later to me just doing too much and staying up way too late trying to get it all […]

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