Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Reducing nighttime breastfeeding without night weaning

This is one in a series of guest posts by other bloggers. Read to the end for a longer biographical note on today's guest blogger, Dionna from Code Name: Mama. Dionna, who is nursing through her second pregnancy, offers the gentle steps she's taken to minimize access to the breast during the night while protecting the breastfeeding relationship with her son.

Guest post by Dionna from Code Name: Mama

Many women understandably night wean during pregnancy to give themselves a break from daytime feeds, to get more rest, to prepare for the new baby, etc. But because Kieran only nurses at night, I knew that if I night weaned when I got pregnant, I'd likely end up weaning Kieran prematurely. On the other hand, I've been craving more space for myself at night - both because of my growing belly, and because of the nursing "heebie jeebies" many pregnant mothers experience.

I was nervous — how could I reduce Kieran's nighttime nursing habits (which are, admittedly, more for comfort than for nutrition, especially now that my milk is gone) without inadvertently weaning him? Here are some of the gentle ways I reduced Kieran's access to the breast at night. So far, so good — he still nurses to sleep, and he still occasionally (though not nearly as often) wants to nurse throughout the night — but he is not night weaned.

  1. I Ended the Falling-Asleep-Aid Twiddling Habit: Kieran has been a twiddler for years, and as a result, he's come to associate twiddling as part of his falling asleep routine. Helping Kieran learn better nursing habits was painful (there was crying involved, and it took about two weeks of concentrated effort), but the rewards have been infinitely worth it. Not only has it helped relieve my nipple pain and nursing aversion, but it's also resulted in Kieran not waking as much during the night (and consequently nursing back down). For gentle tips on how to help your older nursling relearn good nursing habits, see "Twiddle Me That."
  2. I Removed Easy Access: I used to keep both sides of my nursing tank top down all night. Now when he's nursed to sleep, I pull them up (without hooking them). When he stirs at night, he sometimes roots around, but when he doesn't immediately find a breast he gives up and rolls over. The drawback is that if he really does need to nurse, it will take him an extra minute to settle, but it's been worth it in order to help reassure me that he can truly settle himself more often than I would have suspected.
  3. I Give Him Verbal Reassurance: Before I do pull down my tank top so that he can nurse back down, I usually try to verbally calm him and get him back to sleep. Saying something like "roll over, baby, let's go back to sleep" often does the trick — along with my snuggling up behind him. Or if I'm in a particularly cranky mood, I've also said "no mama milk right now, roll over and go back to sleep." He might fuss for a few seconds, but he often settles himself down. If he doesn't settle down, I give up and nurse him.

If you need a break at night but are reluctant to night wean, there are gentle ways to reduce the number of times your nursling nurses. For more ideas on gently decreasing night feedings (and on ultimately night weaning, if you're so inclined), here are a few resources:

Did you reduce night feedings or night wean? Share your gentle tips in the comments!

Dionna is a lawyer turned work at home mama of her amazing son, Kieran. You can normally find Dionna over at Code Name: Mama where she shares information, resources, and her thoughts on natural parenting and life with a toddler/preschooler. Dionna is due with baby number two at the end of November, and she is continually thankful that Lauren had her second child first!

Photo Credit: Dionna of Code Name: Mama


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Momma Jorje said...

And aren't I doubly lucky that you two have had the 2nd baby before me! Alright, sounds wrong. This will be my 4th birth, but this will be the first time I've had two LITTLE ones at the same time.

Anyway, thanks for these pointers. I actually sleep topless, so I'm all kinds of available! I recently noticed that Sasha CAN sleep for longer stretches without nursing.

I imagine this may be especially helpful as I get further along.

Lauren Wayne said...

I'm so glad to host this article. Thank you, Dionna! Going through pregnancy breastfeeding, and now tandem nursing, I've become ever more tolerant and aware of the ways mamas sometimes need to limit nursing. It helps relieve some of the guilt and ambivalence when we can talk it all over with each other and find that we're not alone in needing to set limits during times in our lives when breastfeeding a toddler or preschooler gets hard. It's reassuring to know there are these gentle ways to encourage alternatives to connecting that are still attachment oriented.

I am so glad I had broken the twiddling habit before my pregnancy discomfort started! I'm not looking forward to that stage starting up again with Alrik…

One thing that helped me with a compassionate, verbal preschool-age nursling was to be upfront about how my breasts were feeling. "My nummies are sore right now. You can have nummies for just a little bit." Mikko caught on to that right away and was more willing then to limit the sessions as I needed to.

If you have kids who are waking to night nurse because they're actually hungry or thirsty, you might also keep a small snack and a glass of water on the night stand so you have something easy to offer. This might be more the case with younger toddler nurslings like Sasha, Jorje, who are used to getting a lot of nighttime nutrition from nursing.

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

Lauren - one of the FB readers suggested a glass of water as well, and I agree that could be a help for some kids!
It's so true that knowing other mamas have gone through this is so helpful. The breastfeeding community is phenomenal. I felt so loved when I posted about my fears of losing my milk and Kieran weaning prematurely - so many women commented or emailed to share their own fears and worries - it really helps to voice them to supportive ears!

Thanks for allowing me to guest post on Hobo Mama :)

Janine @ Alternative Housewife said...

Thank you for this! Mine is 10 months old and I am nowhere near weaning but could definitely do with more time to myself at night, especially with the twiddling. (Off to read the twiddle post now!)

Unknown said...

These tips are so gentle, loving, and sensitive of the nursling's needs. I really appreciate that, Dionna!

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

@Janine: I hope the other post helps! I know that younger nurslings may actually twiddle to help stimulate milk flow, which was why I didn't stop it when Kieran was younger. But I have to admit, I felt so much better after he stopped recently.

@Amy: Thank you :)

EarthMamasWorld said...

I SO needed this tonight. I am tired and cranky....even googled the term 'night time weaning'. I should have come here first. First up: replacing the twiddling. Thank you so much <3

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