How I Reduced Nighttime Breastfeeding Without Completely Night Weaning

January 28th, 2013 by Dionna | 5 Comments
Posted in Breastfeeding/Lactivism, Compassionate Advocacy, Consensual Living, Feed with Love and Respect, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, My Family, natural parenting, Pregnancy and Birth

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Code Name: Mama - 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.

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

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


This post has been edited from one previously published at Hobo Mama.
Photo Credit: ilmungo

5 Responses to:
"How I Reduced Nighttime Breastfeeding Without Completely Night Weaning"

  1. Bianca   thepierogiemama

    This was shared with me for a source on starting to get a little more sleep and gentle night weaning. Though I am not anywhere near wanting to night wean, I saw this as a good way to have some “blocked out” hours for both of us to get some rest.

  2. Annie

    I did completely nightwean while pregnant, just because it seemed like if I was consistent it would be easier for her to adjust. I also did not want mine to wean completely and she did most of her nursing at night – now she probably nurses only at bedtime (occasionally in the a.m.) but at least she is still doing that, and I suspect when I have milk again (no milk now) with our new baby that she’ll pick it up again with more nursing. While she cried (sometimes for up to an hour) I kept calmly trying to soothe her. Mostly she was angry and would scoot away and not let me snuggle or pat her, but eventually would scoot back over and snuggle up to go to sleep. It was hard but this probably only went on for about 2 weeks, and since then she’s slept through the night (after nursing when we first get in bed) and I’m glad we did it well in advance of the new little’s arrival! (We did this right around her 2nd birthday.)

  3. Sante Mama   SanteMama

    I get this question a lot and think that your advice is spot on. It’s especially hard when you are pregnant again and sleep is much needed but at a premium when you have a little one still attached at night. Thank you for the post, it was very informative!

  4. Janine   thejaninefowler

    I am 24 weeks pregnant and very happy with how my toddler has cut back on nursing. I’m not as touched-out as I expected to be when he does nurse, and he is a lot more willing to be done when I need him to be. My milk disappeared a few weeks ago and it’s been pretty wonderful – He isn’t upset and I don’t have to force the issue. The only nursing session we’ve really held onto is our morning one, which is mainly a sleepy snuggle session on the couch. I’m very curious what will happen when my milk does come back in!

  5. Charise@I Thought I Knew Mama   ithoughtiknewma

    I’m featuring this post in tomorrow’s Tuesday Baby Link Up! Thanks for linking up!

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