Operation Bad Mama

This week was my baby’s 18-month check-up, which comes with two shots, tears and screaching, and this time also a gentle lecture from his pediatrician.

Is he learning new words? Oh, good.

Is he eating well? Nice.

How is he dealing with daycare? Yes, that’s normal.

And how’s he sleeping? Oh. Really? Two or three times a night?

And here she began:

– This isn’t good for you. You need your sleep.

– But I’m sleeping just fine. I just roll over and comfort him. And if that doesn’t work, he breastfeeds for a bit.

She gave me the little pursed-lips look. The one that says, oh dear girl. Breastfeeding at night, apparently that’s a big no-no. My baby can get nursing cavities.

I thought that was just for bottle-fed babies who fall asleep with the rubber nipple in their mouth. A lactation consultant assured me that nursing a baby to sleep does not cause cavities, though many in the medical field have confused everything together. Now I don’t know who to believe about that. Oh, I hate conflicting opinions!

In any case, the doctor encouraged me to wean him at night. Really, I didn’t mind her opinion. I’m willing to hear anyone’s advice, just in case it might help. But she didn’t offer anything that I hadn’t tried before. No big revelation like, look there’s a special technique, sort of like the Vulcan sleep hold. Just the usual “remove the nipple before he falls asleep.” Tried it. It helped a little but didn’t go far.

I was ready to dismiss the whole thing, except she added this: “It’s important for him to learn to fall back asleep on his own and to be in his own bed. Otherwise, if he wakes 2 or 3 times a night, he’s not getting the sleep that he needs. And he’s not going to learn on his own. It won’t magically happen unless you help him.”

Anyone want to know my Achilles’ heel? It’s mom-guilt.

So now I’m working on Operation Bad Mama. Still not sure how or when would be best, but I’m working on a plan. I still like the “don’t offer, don’t refuse” technique. It’s been working well and he’s been nursing less and less and for shorter periods. So, what’s next? Should I wean completely? Will it actually help him sleep all night? Or will it somehow backfire in spectacular fashion?

The strategy begins…


Filed under Co-sleeping, My Personal Experience

15 responses to “Operation Bad Mama

  1. First, I’d like to add, I am not big on doctors. “Nursing Cavities” sounds like such BS….really??? You know no matter HOW HARD you try, those baby teeth are gonna fall out…. Plus, he’s probably only hanging onto you for most of that (not actually getting milk), but whatever…. 🙂 I’d find a more “natural doctor” (someone pro breastfeeding, maybe homeopathic or something who knows…not that natural docs aren’t whack too) That being said, My daughter began the weaning process herself around 12 months. She got more and more interested in food and weaning her was relatively easy. Since he’s eating real food now, I’d make a point to really try to overfeed him close to his bedtime. Feed him enough (food food, breastmilk, both) right before bed, so at least he won’t wake up bc he’s hungry. If he wakes up again and you KNOW he isn’t hungry, I’d just try holding him for a bit and getting him to go back to sleep. It will probably be a nightmarish 1 – 2 weeks but he’ll get over it. For my daughter, I took away all her breastfeeding except for the pre bed one. Eventually I gave her a bottle full of warm cows milk, then later I did a sippy cup of warm milk, then I did a sippy cup of cold milk, then no more anything. (PS I used one of those soft nipple sippies).

    • Just curious….do you co sleep with him?

      • Yes, ma’am! Best way so far to get more sleep so I can go to work the next day. Of course, that’s a factor, right? Well, every choice comes with a consequence.

    • Yeah, that sounded so silly! “Nursing cavities,” c’mon! That’s just not helpful at all.
      On the other hand, your advice is very sound. He really isn’t hungry in the middle of the night. As I explained to Jess, my son eats ALL DAY. And when he’s done with his meal, he eats off my plate too. He’s definitely robust, in the 75th percentile for weight and height, which makes me so proud. So when he wakes up in the night, I’m pretty sure it’s not because he’s hungry. My theory is that he’s thirsty. I’ve tried the sippy cup of water. That was swatted away and I was firmly “told” that was an insult. And therein lies the problem. My son is very… strong-willed. It’s the main reason that traditional sleep training and night weaning hasn’t worked. I’ll keep trying though!

  2. My wife and I have twins, a boy and a girl. They will be 18 months later this month. My daughter pretty much lost interest in breast feeding as she was the better sleeper (still is) and didn’t wake up for more. He, however is the one who wakes up and looks for momma’s milk in the night. My wife has slowly weaned him completely. The first step was to fill him up before bed with breast and cow milk along with other foods as the previous comment said. That helped a lot. Now when he wakes looking for mom, she will cuddle him but no breast feeding. Sometimes we will keep a sip cup of milk by the bed in case he’s actually hungry, but usually he just wants mom. A little cuddle and he smells her, feels her heartbeat and he’s out like a light. Hang in there. He will get the idea. Getting him to sleep on his own as much as possible, even with naps, etc. will help a lot. Self soothing is something he will figure out quickly and take any pressures of of you. Best wishes to you both.

    • Hmmmm… I wonder what it is about boys? Could it be that they will be hungry forever? I imagine our sons as teenagers chugging milk from the carton and emptying our fridges at alarming speed. Hahaha!
      I’m hoping that cuddles will soon be comfort enough. That’s certainly what I try every night. I won’t give up, but I’m sure there will be a right time when he finally gets it.
      Thank you for your commenting. I love hearing about techniques from other parents. You certainly seem to be a fountain of experience!

  3. Jess

    Ohhhhh Karla, if you figure this one out, please let me know. My son’s doctor has been telling me to night-wean since he was six months old. That was two years ago, and I have heard it at every checkup since.

    I don’t believe that it would be healthy for my son if I were to force him to wean when he so persistently asks to nurse. I feel like trying to do something that goes against my maternal instincts isn’t right. But you nailed it when you said “mom guilt”. It’s that nagging thing in the back of my mind that says, “What if the doctor is right and I’m wrong?”

    I keep reverting back to the idea that there was a point in time when people didn’t have pediatricians, parenting magazines, television or the internet. What would I have done then? Why, I would have followed my instincts, of course. Because I wouldn’t have known to do otherwise.

    And so I’m trying to quell the “mom guilt” and do what I instinctively feel is best. Really, I’d rather do it my way and be wrong than do it “their” way and wonder if I would have been better off trusting myself.

    Best wishes to you. I hope the mom guilt eases up so that you feel confident with whatever you choose to do. You’re not alone!

    • As usual Jess, you instantly make me feel better! I’m so glad I’m not the only one hearing advice from the pediatrician to night-wean. And you’re absolutely right. What did moms do before the parenting industry? They just knew from their heart what was best.
      As soon as the mom guilt eased off my shoulders, I knew that I should wait until a better time. We’re both getting over the flu, so of course he needs more snuggles. And he’s so hungry all the time. He eats like a construction worker at the end of a long day. Feeding him is like shoveling coal. I’m told that he even steals food from the other kids at daycare and asks for “mo’ pease”.
      Yeah, the stars will align themselves soon. Just not yet and I can wait, no matter what anyone says. Thanks for your support!

  4. Argh. Doctor or not, I hate it when people say things like, “You need to make [x] happen” but don’t tell you how. Obviously that’s something you’re striving toward.

    As I was preparing to leave the hospital with newborn Li’l D, the lactation consultant assigned to me kept saying, “If he doesn’t nurse soon, we have a problem!” But no matter how I asked her, she didn’t tell me what I could do to address that problem. It was clear there already was one, and if she–whose specialty was supposed to help establish nursing relationships–wasn’t able to help me, what the heck was I supposed to do?

    I spent the next few weeks in agony, groggy but trying to stumble through nursing site after nursing site for help. Finding a lactation consultant who got things going and could provide insight into things like sleep and creating structure (not in a stifling sense, but in a let’s-help-mama-and-baby-with-a-baseline sense) was such a blessing.

    How’s it gone in the couple days since you posted this?

    • Since posting this, I’ve been feeling rebellious again. What does this doctor know about my situation? It really feels like I keep having to excuse myself for still breastfeeding and co-sleeping with my baby. There’s no doubt that he benefits from both, but the whole world (it seems) is horrified. Thank goodness for the kind words and encouragement from fellow bloggers, like you and Jess. It took a while to pick myself up from the crushing guilt, but I’m back to trusting that my instincts are right about my parenting style.
      I also had a hard time breastfeeding at first. I was shocked that the hospital staff had the expertise to deliver a baby into the world, but had a 2-month waiting list for a lactation consultant. Sure we can help you birth a baby, but feeding him? You’re on your own. No wonder so many moms turn to formula. Once I hired a private breastfeeding expert, and with a lot of practice, we got the hang of it. Sadly, practical advice is so often elusive to new parents, but, like you said, they sure hear plenty of “what should be happening.”

  5. Pingback: Parenting in Nature: Co-sleeping kittehs | Sapphire and Rain

  6. The whole world is not horrified, I for one think you’re doing fine. To me the night waking doesn’t sound like a medical problem so I’d lean away from following the dr’s advice and just do what works for you and your babe.

    Have you checked out your local LLL chapter? Often they have evening meetings to accommodate working moms. You’d find many like minded moms there I’m sure.

    • Hi Jennifer! Thanks for dropping by! I’m glad I can share my frustrations on this blog, and see my comment box fill up with sympathetic and encouraging messages. I appreciate your words! And I’m looking forward to reading your blog too.

  7. Catherine

    Breastfeeding and co-sleeping are wonderful! You are doing the right thing for your baby, it is clear.

    If you do decide you want to night-wean, I found the advice in The Sleep-Easy Solution helpful (the cry-it-out part of the book, not so much!). Basically, you figure out what times your baby usually wakes up to eat, and wake him to nurse about an hour earlier than those times. And each night, shorten the feeding periods. It helped me because then when my baby woke in the night, I knew it wasn’t from hunger. And she got used to getting her calories during the day.

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