How I Reduced Nighttime Breastfeeding Without Completely Night Weaning
Many women understandably night wean during pregnancy to give themselves a break from daytime feeds, to get more rest, or to prepare for the new baby.
When I was pregnant with Ailia, I was ready for Kieran to nurse less at night. But because he had almost completely day weaned, I knew that night weaning would mean weaning completely. So while I was not ready to be done nursing, I did crave 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 were, admittedly, more for comfort than for nutrition, especially after I lost my milk) without inadvertently weaning him? Here are some of the gentle ways I reduced Kieran’s access to the breast at night. And now that we are on the other side, I can say with confidence that these worked for us; not only to give me some space during pregnancy, but also to prepare Kieran for the eventual complete night weaning that occurred after Ailia was born.
- I Ended the Falling-Asleep-Aid Twiddling Habit: Kieran has been a twiddler for years, and as a result, he had 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 were infinitely worth it. Not only did it help relieve my nipple pain and nursing aversion, but it 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.”
- I Removed Easy Access: I used to keep both sides of my nursing tank top down all night. But to discourage night nursing, I pulled them up without hooking them after he’d nursed to sleep. When he stirred at night, he sometimes rooted around, but when he did not immediately find a breast he gave up and rolled over. The drawback was that if he really did need to nurse, it took him an extra minute to settle, but it was worth it in order to help reassure me that he could truly settle himself more often than I would have suspected.
- I Gave Him Verbal Reassurance: Before I pulled down my tank top so that he could nurse back down, I usually tried to verbally calm him and get him back to sleep. Saying something like “roll over baby, let’s go back to sleep” often did the trick – along with me snuggling up behind him. Or if I was in a particularly cranky mood, I also said “no mama milk right now, roll over and go back to sleep.” He sometimes fussed for a few seconds, but he often settled himself down. If he did not settle down, I gave up and nursed 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 ultimately on night weaning, if you’re so inclined), here are a few resources:
- Gently Night Weaning the Breastfed, Cosleeping Toddler at NaturalParentsNetwork.com
- Night Weaning at kellymom.com
- Night Weaning: 12 Alternatives for the All-Night Nurser at AskDrSears.com
- Weaning Video Series #3 (see the resource list at the end of the post)
Did you reduce night feedings or night wean? Share your gentle tips in the comments!
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"How I Reduced Nighttime Breastfeeding Without Completely Night Weaning"
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