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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Weaning the human pacifier, night one

Toyin and I had a long talk tonight and we have decided, or rather, I decided and he agreed to go along with it, that enough is enough. It is time for me to reclaim some consistent me time.

I have read plenty about regular weaning and night weaning, but I haven't ever read much about what to do when your toddler is addicted to suckling your breast while she sleeps.

I have no inclination to night wean yet. But for some reason, that seemed to be the only option, until I realized what it was that I wanted the most was not so much to not get woken up in the middle of the night, but to be able to sleep next to my child WITHOUT my boob in her mouth. And most of all, what I want is to be able to put Annika to sleep and then get up and be an adult for a few hours.

When this all started around six months of age, I thought it was a phase. That's what everyone told me. "Oh, it will only last while she's teething. She'll hit her developmental milestone and she'll go back to sleeping the way she used to."

Well, here it is nine months later and she's teethed and not teethed, milestones have come and gone, and she's still doing it.

It is a habit now, a habit I need to break.

Over the past few months in particular I have spent a lot of time thinking about this. When she was coming up on a year, I figured I could wait it out. Everyone said that babies start sleeping better after they start to walk and after they turn a year old.

Maybe some babies do, but mine hasn't.

We decided to start the process tomorrow night, which is a Friday. But tonight, as I laid down with her, she fell asleep and I was able to get up. Five minutes later she was crying. I knew what I was in for. She was going to take my breast in her mouth, latch on, wrap her hand around my breast, sling her leg over mine and settle in for the night.

NOOOO, my brain screamed. NOT AGAIN! I MUST BE FREE!

So I went in, nursed her and sang for a few minutes and then pulled her off my breast. She protested with a screech and stiff body, then settled back to my breast waiting for what she usually happens. Me offering the breast.

This time I said no.

I picked her up and began to sway and sing.

Oh no, no mother. She wanted none of that. For a few minutes she screamed, arching her back, pushing away from me all at the same time leaning her head in toward my breast. This went on for a few minutes. Then we left the room to clean her snotty nose and give her a drink of water.

I did this four times before she finally gave in and nursed all the way to sleep. The last round of it, she threw herself around the bed, stiffening up and screaming and running for the door several times before she finally allowed me to take her in my arms once more and give her the comfort she was looking for.

The whole process took about and hour and half. I'm hoping it's less tomorrow.


  1. Oh, how I feel for you. I nurse my son (14 mos) to sleep and night nurse too. If I don't give him my breast immediately during the night he cries. I do and he falls back asleep. I do call myself the human pacifier. Tonight he was crawling around the bed after I nursed him, not ready to fall asleep. I din't want to nurse until he fell asleep, so he cried a bit and went back to crawling around. Finally he pooped out.

  2. LOVE the idea for this blog and will follow it closely. This is a real problem for us too. Our son is 20 months and still nursing... he's in his own room, since we moved to a new house at 18 months (the transition from cosleeping was a breeze -- he asked to sleep in the new room!). But he still calls to me 3, 4, 5 times a night "mamamamma" to go nurse. He is pretty good at rolling over when I use my finger to delatch, but he just cannot seem to fall asleep without nursing. One day we were riding on a bus, and a little girl, maybe 4 or 5 years old, closed her eyes sleepily on her mother's shoulder. My son looked at her and raised his hand and gave me the milk sign. Sleep, milk -- they're totally linked in his mind!

  3. I'm so glad that you all are enjoying the blog. Sharing stories with people who are in the same boat often makes it easier to deal with.

  4. I can totally relate. I night nurse my 17 month old and wish he would sleep longer on his own. He'll fall asleep nursing and I can put him in his crib for 2 or 3 hours. But then we've habituated him to come and sleep in our bed...partly because it was the only way I got decent sleep. Now we are trying to get him to go back to his crib. But at the first waking, he fakes falling asleep on the rocker and then the second I put him in his crib again, he pops up like a little weasle - arms in the air and a pick-me-up stance. Human pacifier needs more uninterrupted sleep! uh, baby is crying now. Maria

  5. oh my god. what a lovely post to come across. i found this a bit late... and it is a bit scary... we are at five months and i was hoping to get through this whole human pacifier thing soon... but you guys have sort of prepared me for the long haul now. yikes!!

  6. Hey Emily,

    Glad you found us. Annika is 21 months now, and most nights I can easily pop her off and get up after she's gone to bed. I know that sounds like a long way off. I won't lie. It is. But I think you will find that you'll go through phases of loving it and hating it. Motherhood is bittersweet sometimes. The only advice/consolation I can offer, is try to enjoy it as much as you can and when you can't, find another way to ease your baby toward what you are needing.

    Happy reading!


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