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My wife and I are just finishing up a 4 week trip home to visit the grandparents (we live in Australia, they in North America). We have introduced the unfortunate habit in our 10 month old daughter of allowing her to nurse when she wakes up at night. At first, it seemed like the easiest way to get her to sleep again without waking up the entire house (due to crying) but now we are realizing that we have created a monster. The last 2 nights, she has woken up more than 4 times and will cry until she is allowed to nurse. This has left my wife exhausted and we know that it needs to end.

Now that we are returning home, we realize that we need to figure out how to get her out of this habit and I was hoping some people could share their experiences with this kind of dependency and tell us what worked. Our current plan is to re-establish her schedule that has been badly broken while travelling and to have me (the father) rather than her mother comfort her at night when she wakes up. It is hoped that since I am unable to offer her anything to nurse on, she will cry for a while but realize she isn't getting her way and go back to sleep.

The little one is now eating primarily solids though she does get to nurse after each meal. We are doing our best to fill her up prior to bed to ensure that she doesn't wake up hungry. We just need to sort out how to get her to comfort herself rather than relying on us all the time!

Thanks!

UPDATE: We realized that our problem was more related to the co-sleeping rather than the feeding. After several nights where we fought to get our daughter down in her own bed, she has now become accustomed to falling asleep in her cot rather than her bed. Because she is physically separate from us (though still in the same room), she now seems to comfort herself except for a single time each night (usually between 3am - 5am) where she wants to nurse. Since she is actually nursing (i.e. she doesn't fall back asleep after 45 seconds) and it is only one night a week, my wife is happy to do it. Thanks for the help.

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I think your plan is a good one. Good luck. And enjoy your sleeplessness. :) –  Lennart Regebro Jul 20 '11 at 20:30

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Only two things worked for us.

  1. Fill the baby up as much as we can before bedtime, which you are doing and its great
  2. Get used to crying

With the crying there was no way around it, either it was nursing or a pacifier that took a little bit to get used to for our kids. After a few days it worked well, we did the rocking while the pacifier was there, with Mom holding the baby close so he had the Mommy smell and the sucking of the pacifier - being full neither one noticed they were not getting milk. A few times we needed a bottle, but at that point either one of us could have done it, so Mommy could get some sleep.

Sometimes when we take a step back to accomodate conditions we end up going back many steps in the kids development, that's just normal and you need to take it in stride.

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Our tactic with all three of ours was to introduce bottled formula milk as the last feed before bed at night.

Benefits:

  • This always settled them for much longer
  • I got to do it, which let my wife get to bed early and gave me some baby time
  • Babysitters could also do it when necessary

Much more relaxing for everyone.

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