Friday, July 9, 2010

A Desperate Plea

This has been a long week. Charlotte has picked up some new words, and while this is something I usually applaud, I could do without her latest renditions of "No, no, no!" and "Mine!". Granted, the latter I don't think she quite grasps yet. I think it's just mimicry at this point. It's funny because I was just talking to my friend and told her I was glad Charlotte didn't say "mine" yet, and the NEXT DAY. Boom.

She's been challenging, to say the least. She will not sit in her high chair. I cannot physically get her into it without another person. So, I have given up and let her eat at her toddler table, which usually results in me chasing her around with a spoonful of rice or a plate of tofu. I never thought I would let my kid do that. I have always been such a stickler for orderly mealtimes. But, it's one of the battles I've given up, and at least she's eating.

She refuses to sit in her stroller and grocery carts. She wants to be held or walk around. Since it's not always feasible to let her roam, I am breaking my back carrying her all over town. I wish I had been able to afford that Ergo my friend was selling.

But here's my big problem, and the reason I'm writing even though I don't have the time or energy to be entertaining or creative in any way:

I need to wean Charlotte. And for the record, I'm not doing it because I think it's wrong to nurse past this point. I'm not falling victim to any societal pressures or family pressures or anything like that. I just don't think it's so horrible of me to want to sleep through the night without getting up once or twice to nurse. It's been over fifteen months. I'd like to not have to worry about whether I've had too much coffee or wine. I'd like to not have this weird pain pop up once in a while in my left breast when I nurse.

I'm just so tired. And, I feel like Charlotte and I bond more when we're rolling around on the floor, hugging, kissing, and tickling. I have had extreme highs and lows when it comes to my feelings about nursing, but generally, it's never been something I'm particularly attached to. I am mostly still doing it because it's (usually) a surefire way to get her to go to sleep.

The problem is the guilt. I don't know how to do it without feeling really horrible, because despite a few instances where it seemed she was losing interest, Charlotte still wants and expects to be nursed before a nap or bedtime and especially when she wakes in the middle of the night.

We've let her cry before, and it used to work fine. She'd fuss, settle, and go to sleep. Now, though, she screams and screams, and works herself into a frenzy. So, that's not an option anymore. Maybe I'm just weak-willed, but I can't let her scream like that. It's not like it used to be. Now it's...urgent, and I can't do it.

So, what do I do? She only wants to nurse for sleep-inducing comfort, never during active play or while we're out. She takes a pacifier, but isn't satisfied by it when she wants to nurse.

Am I totally screwed? I need some advice! Theoretical, based on experience, a guess...I don't care. Just help me. Please.


  1. I have no advice about the "how" since I don't remember back that far, but I can say you shouldn't feel guilty. You are entitled to sleep. You need sleep. You deserve sleep. And there's that saying: "If momma's not happy, ain't nobody happy."

    And that's the truth....

  2. Also, I think they go through a phase of tantrums when going to bed around 1 1/2...after a few weeks of doing it and realizing you aren't going to rush in there they do seem to get over it. I felt bad for our neighbors though! Music also seemed to help at night and during nap times.
    Maybe try swapping nursing out with warm milk in a sippy cup? Just a thought...I'm sure it's going to be a process though. Hey be happy she transitioned into a toddler bed already....that was a tough one for us to get through!

  3. When I was looking into night weaning, I read a million different ideas on weaning. In the end I didn't need any of them, so I can't vouch for their effectiveness but here are the ones I remember as suggestions: drop one session at a time. Start with either the one that you want to be rid of the most or (what I woul choose) whichever one you think would be easiest/you'll have the most help with. Make your husband do the sleep process for that session, so mommy isn't available. Leave the house for 30 min or so, so you're really not available. Try giving water in a sippy to mimic the comfort sucking(this always sounds weird to me, but I saw it several places so maybe I'm wrong). Also, check out Accidents post on nightweaning(I'm on my phone or I'd find the link for you) to see if there's anything useable there.
    But above all, you don't have anything to be guilty about. None. I know that doesn't alleviate the guilt to have someone on the Internet tell you that, but seriously, there's no guilt in doing what's best for everyone in your family--including you.

  4. 1) Don't feel guilty.
    2) You can do it.

    I can't relate to the breastfeeding weaning, as you know. But I will share what I have learned about any transition. Toddlers can smell weakness. Particularly stress, anxiety and worry. So my biggest piece of advice is be 100% confident, don't stress, trust yourself and Charlotte that it will be okay and just do it. If she sees that you are in control, it will go much much easier. It will still suck, but less.

    Good luck!!!

  5. Thanks for the encouragement, guys. :) You're all right about me needing to take care of myself and that should help me not feel guilty.

    @Ginger-I totally forgot about Accidents post! I will go check it out. I should have mentioned in this post that my husband works nights, so during the week, I can't rely on him to soothe her during times she usually nurses. Otherwise we totally would. :(

    @Alexis-Yeah, this feels like a tough age as far as sleeping goes. We'll see. We haven't switched to a toddler bed yet, though. I didn't mean to suggest that. She's still in her crib. Though, we will be introducing one soon in addition to the crib just to get her used to it. :)

    @Kathleen- You are so right. I need to be confident. I guess that will help when I have a plan of action!

  6. Hi mama! First, ((hugs)).
    Second, ditch the guilt. It doesn't help anyone.
    Third, if you think she's ready, and you're willing, I believe gradually is the best way, and involving her in the process as much as possible.

    You may not want or need to wean whole-hog - meaning, maybe you just want to start with cutting out the nighttime sessions, and see if that helps sleep. Then its not an all or nothing thing for your daughter (or you). Start cutting out one nursing session at a time, for a few days, then cut out another one.

    Its really important that however you choose to wean, communicating with your child in the process as you go, always works best with any transition - give them some choice, and some say. Even if she can't really talk, she certainly can understand what's going on, so explain it to her as if she can communicate fully, know what I mean? Like, Mommy is really really tired at night, and I know you're such a big girl now, and you want to help mommmy sleep because its good for both of us to get a full nights sleep. In order to do that, we're going to only nurse right before bed, and then again when the sun comes up, but the rest of the night, we're going to stay sleeping in bed because you're so big! If you wake, instead of milkies, we're going to (cuddle, rub your back, hold hands, sing a song, have a drink of water, whatever it is you two decide on), and then you're going to go right back to sleep! I know you can do it because you're SO big!

    FWIW, I helped my kids gently nightwean right at turning two. For daytime weaning, both my children (mostly) weaned themselves (with my gentle encouragement) about a year or two later - just so you know where I'm coming from. :)

    You'll be fine, and so will she. Giving her 15 months of round-the-clock milk is AWESOME! Just take it nice & slowly. All change & new habits take time.

  7. @Kelly- Hi! Thanks so much for your comment. I do want to clarify a few things:

    I think you're giving me more credit than I deserve! Charlotte actually daytime weaned herself a few months ago and has been drinking whole milk during the day. I wasn't even nursing her for naps. It was once at bedtime and once in the middle of the night. Sometimes she'd want to nurse first thing in the morning, but usually she just wanted to start her day! LOL

    Then we moved. She was (and maybe still is) having a rough adjustment period and wanted to nurse much more often. I obliged, and gradually she's been asking for it less again.

    It's just getting harder and harder to put her to sleep, and sometimes nursing doesn't even do the trick. So, it's sort of just turing into a negative experience because it's the middle of the night or past her bedtime, we nurse, and then she wants to stay up. So, I'm thinking I need to find new ways to get her to sleep.

    That's great advice about communicating with her about it. I do it with everything else, why wouldn't I explain this to her?

    Thanks again!

  8. Have you thought about night weaning, but keeping the morning, daytime, and before sleep nursing sessions? Nursing still has so many advantages at this age and it will be so handy when she is sick (2 is the worst year for illness, imo) and those antibodies will really be helpful!

    Extended nursing is also very beneficial to YOU and her when she is having toddler anxiety. I've found it to be a real help with those meltdowns which are bound to start happening pretty soon.

    Good luck in whatever you choose to do. Either way, she is lucky to have been able to nurse this long.


  9. Megan, I love this post because of the way it beautifully captures the toddler experience in a nutshell! Ditto everyone about guilt. No guilt for moms!

    @Kathleen nailed the attitude that (I believe) will help you, and I agree that your confidence is the key. You are right to be sensitive about the effect the move has had on Charlotte. Personally, I don't think you should even CONSIDER a toddler bed yet. Toddlers usually feel much cozier in a crib – and that's what Charlotte knows. What's the rush? It's easy for us to forget how sensitive babies are to transitions of any kind. One at a time is about all most infants and toddlers can handle.

    When toddlers deal with a transition, like a move, or a new baby, or weaning, a trip, anything, our instinct is often to let them slide, to loosen up whatever boundaries we have given them…we feel sorry for them, have guilt, whatever. What I have learned is that they usually need the OPPOSITE. Because they feel more out-of-control in the transition – more at sea -- they need to be more nested, more reined in.

    I'm fascinated by the way you begin this post, because you describe a bunch of different issues, but the way I see it, they are all connected, and they will all affect your ability to wean Charlotte.

    It sounds to me like you’ve allowed the balance of power to go a little too far in Charlotte’s direction. It’s easy to do. Many of us are blindsided when our adorable infant becomes a toddler who needs limits. It’s hard to know when to give choices and when to take charge. And Charlotte sounds like a strong personality (just like my Charlotte, a major handful now 17).

    First, I would not give her food (or drink) unless she sits down. No baby has ever starved because her mom didn’t follow her around coaxing her to eat. I love the small toddler table, but you have to have rules. I wrote all about this and have a short video:

    No matter where Charlotte is, the park, the beach, wherever, make her sit down when she’s eating. It’s healthier, it’s safer, it's good manners and it gives her the boundaries she’s craving.

    Also, make her hold your hand when you are out walking together. Sometimes she can have the choice of being carried (when you feel like it), but sometimes you might have to insist she uses a carrier or stroller. Acknowledge that she doesn’t want to, but take charge! Not in a mean way, but in a firm, matter-of-fact way. She won’t admit it, and she will cry and resist, but she really needs to know that you are calling the shots.

    Once you have established firmer boundaries for Charlotte, she will relax a little and weaning will be easier. You can either do it cold turkey (with LOTS of honest dialogue about it, like @Kelly said) or drop one feeding at a time. Infant expert Magda Gerber used to recommend taking away the feeding you think you need most – the hardest one. Then the others are easy to lose. I would wean straight to a regular cup. Make it a special one that she picks out ahead of time. Make it part of a lovely bedtime ritual with a story, music, etc. If she wakes in the night, go in, but don’t pick her up, just tell her to go back to sleep, maybe stroke her back and then maybe hang out (rest on a sleeping bag or whatever) while she goes back to sleep. Tell her beforehand everything that you will be doing (or not doing) in the night. Honesty and straightforwardness will make all the difference. And allow her to express her displeasure and cry as much as she needs to, while you comfort her.

    Now that I’ve written a novella, I think I’ll shut up. Hope this helps and isn’t too bossy sounding!

  10. I'm in the same boat as K, without much advice to offer, but I was thinking that the move might be responsible for her need for more comfort.

    I have absolutely no idea if this would help, but could you think of nursing as you would another comfort item that she needs to be weaned from? So, if it were a pacifier that she wanted, you probably wouldn't feel guilty telling her no because you know that, in the long run, it's better for her not to have it (or maybe you would feel bad about denying her something, but you'd feel better knowing it's the right move). The same goes for nursing, only it's better for both of you: she'll establish good sleeping habits, learn self-settling, all that good stuff. And obviously, if it's wearing you out (you moved too! STRESS!), it's not good for either of you.

    Maybe also think of it in really stark terms: so, if you could either nurse her at night but not play with her all day, or play all day but not nurse at night, which scenario do you think both of you would prefer? I know it's not that black and white, but it might help you in getting some perspective on where this issue fits in terms of all the stuff you do for C all day long.

  11. I am about done with Blogger and its eating of comments! I'll start over.

    @Kristina- Thanks for you suggestion. I'm sure extended nursing is great for lots of moms and toddlers. But, I believe that it is preventing her from sleeping through the night, it is causing me physical discomfort, and I think nursing Charlotte begrudgingly isn't good for anyone. I know everyone will see it differently. Some will think I've nursed too long already, some will think I haven't nursed long enough, and some will support me no matter what i decide.

    @Janet- You are so not bossy. That it exactly what I needed and asked for. Thank you so much! Chris and I have already started implementing some of your suggestions regarding eating and shopping. You're awesome!

    @Perpetua- That actually does help. I always knew I would not nurse Charlotte forever. I hoped that she would outgrow it before I did (thus no guilt), but since that hasn't happened, I need to look at it as something she will need to be weaned from eventually and keep in mind that she will sleep better (and so will I!)

    You're awesome, too!

  12. Wow. Great advice here on setting toddler limits. And I hope this is all helping you understand that when you make choices for you/your whole family that it is TOTALLY OKAY if they aren't Charlotte's favorite choices. You're not *making* her sad, you're *letting* her be sad in response to things that are necessary, safe, or practical (like sitting in the stroller or not nursing all night). I've been thinking about/working on this a lot with Henry lately. While I don't want to pull a "get used to disappointment, kid" sort of attitude with him, I do think he won't ever understand limits/delays of gratification/different choices if I don't give him the opportunity and help him through.

    The way we can be the best parents to our children is to communicate with them and be consistent. That second part is the way to get them used to something, understand it, and be comfortable with it. I struggle with this one A LOT. And it takes time, but it works.

    So that's all I really have to say about the weaning/sleep thing. Pick a strategy that you are comfortable with in the abstract (ie: before you implement it, because once you do you WILL second guess yourself, but then that will destroy your consistency), whether that involves crying or not. Then JUST DO IT, and do it consistently for a week at least. You may not see results until that week is out because C is resistant to change. Talking about it before hand and then doing the same thing every day will get her comfortable, until it is just part of her routine.

    If Chris is home two nights in a row, then start with those two nights and have him go in and say "it's night night time" or whatever you've chosen to do (or give a sippy cup of water, or rock, or hold, or sing, or whatever). Those first two will be hardest, and you can take yourself out of it (unless Chris is a bigger wimp, of course). Then you take over and do the same thing.

    Also: YOU WILL BE IN DESPAIR. It will seem like it's not working. But it will work, eventually. It will.

  13. @Accidents- Thanks for your comment. You guys are making this so much less stressful for me, which as you've all noted, will make it easier for Charlotte to understand.

    I found the distinction between "making" her unhappy vs. "letting" her be unhappy especially eye-opening.

    And, I think we will start Saturday and Sunday night when Chris is home. Maybe it's for the best that I'll have to take over after two nights. I remember in your post you said that Henry got so used to his dad putting him down that it was difficult for you when it was time to take over. That's what's happened to us with naps. Chris always does it, but when he can't, she wants to nurse, and still doesn't sleep. So, I'm basically screwed.

    I just need to fine tune this plan and get cracking. I can do this...maybe.

  14. Looks like you've gotten some great advice and support already, especially regarding setting limits with your daughter and helping her adjust after the move. I'll apologize in advance for what will probably turn into 2 comments due to Blogger's comment length limit, but I want to address both the breastfeeding and sleep issues.

    Reading your post, what stands out from all the issues you list, is a sense of frustration. It seems like maybe you're trying to change one thing that's frustrating you, that you think you can control - breastfeeding. But it sounds to me like breastfeeding is not the main cause of her sleep issues, and night weaning alone will not solve those problems. In fact, cutting out breastfeeding - a source of comfort and connection to you - with everything else going on, will probably only cause more issues (sleep & otherwise). If you truly want to quit breastfeeding, that's fine - 15 months is a great achievement and you should be proud. But I would urge you to address the other issues separately before you decide to wean, to make sure it's truly the right choice for you and your daughter.

    My 17 month old son is breastfed with no end in sight, and I'm definitely in the camp of "toddler nursing is great!" My personal goal is to acheive "full-term breastfeeding" or 2 years as recommended by the World Heath Org. Even if your daughter only nurses twice a day, she still gets immune protection that she can't get anywhere else. Your milk provides superior nutrition over any other animal milk or other milk substitute. So I would encourage you to consider resuming the daytime nursing and focus on night weaning instead. I think if you offer more during the day, and work on her overall sleep issues, you'll find the night nursing becomes a non-issue, because she'll begin sleeping through the night again. Perhaps that way breastfeeding could be a happy bonding experience again, instead of a stressful, disruptive one, and your daughter can continue to get what she needs from you.

  15. Okay, regardless of what you decide about weaning, I think you will still have to address the sleep issues. Here's what I think about that:

    You are not "weak" to not be able to or want to hear her screaming - you're listening to your mommy instincts which tell you NOT to leave a scared baby alone to cry herself to sleep, and I applaud you for that. At the same time, it sounds like she had good nighttime sleep habits but they were disturbed by the move. As someone said above, you wanted to make her feel more secure, so you loosened the limits, and as toddlers do, she ran with it.

    The good news is, you can get her back to good sleep habits without harsh methods. First of all, assess her day sleep. At her age, she needs at least one long nap per day, probably right after lunch. If she's not getting that, she's probably overtired, which will make all the behavior and nighttime sleep issues worse. For nighttime, I would recommend immediately starting a consistent bedtime routine with an early bedtime between 7-8 PM. You may have to start the routine really early, like 6 PM, as she will fight it the first few nights. One option is to nurse or rock her till she's drowsy, lay her down awake, tuck her in, tell her good night, and leave. Set a timer for 3-5 minutes, wait, and if she's still screaming, go back in, console her (try not to pick her up), wait till she's calm, then leave. Repeat as long as needed until she falls asleep. If she's not screaming, but just whimpering or talking, don't go in. She will be learning how to fall asleep on her own again, forming new sleep associations other than nursing to sleep. Another option is to sit in her room, gradually moving closer to the door. Different kids respond better to different strategies. "The No Cry Sleep Solution" by Elizabeth Pantley is an excellent resource for solving baby & toddler sleep issues. I strongly encourage you to get your partner involved, if possible, since your daughter will not associate him with nursing. It will be hard work for all of you, and may take a week or more, but I truly believe a firm but gentle approach is very important to preserve the bond of trust between you and your daughter.

  16. @Rebecca- Your response obviously took a lot of thought, and I appreciate you taking an interest!

    As far as the sleep issue is concerned, you are absolutely right that weaning won't automatically help her sleep better. In fact, if that were the only reason I was doing it, well...I wouldn't!

    But, the truth is I am ready to stop. It's a hard decision for me because I don't want to take away a source of comfort for her, but at the same time, I'd like to think I've earned the right to take care of MY needs, too.

    I do believe night weaning will help her sleep through the night. But, as for making up those feedings during the day, I don't think I'm up for it.

    Congratulations on 17 months of nursing! That's awesome, and I hope it continues to be a good experience for you two as long as you want to do it.

    And, thanks for all the great sleeping advice. I appreciate it!

  17. I just want to totally disagree with the toddler bed comment. Sorry. Kellen was ready for a toddler bed, nay, a twin bed, at 16 months. His sleep has been INCREDIBLY much better since the transition. He had a hard time sleeping through the night, but now when he wiggles, he doesn't wake up by bonking his head against a wooden slat. I just really dislike blanket statements because they really don't apply to all kids, and the biggest thing is trusting your instinct as a mom and what you think your kid needs.