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Our daughter is just two and a bit. My wife still breastfeeds a lot. Our nights aren't particularly great.

Our arrangement was that usually I sleep in one room and my wife and daughter in the other so that I can get up early after a good night's sleep to do the morning chores and take our daughter to nursery while my wife catches up on sleep.

I take night duty, too. Both when my wife is here and, especially, when she is away on work. My experience is that the first two nights are difficult with the daughter waking up often, sometimes having one crying fit for about 20 minutes asking for mother, and after that she sleeps through from night 3 on. Once my wife is back on duty our daughter wakes 2 (rarely) to 10 (often) times a night to »drink« (it really is more like a cigarette butt hanging from her lips now when she breastfeeds).

Two nights ago we explained that in order to sleep through the night, which was desirable for everyone, she would have to learn to go back to sleep without the breast. We did an enactment with her and she did understand that her mother would hold her tight and cuddle if she woke up, but that the night needed to be over before she could drink again.

The first night went ok, she went back to sleep without breastfeeding once. When she woke up a second time, she cried and yelled until my wife gave in.

The second night she went back to sleep without breastfeeding a few times, but all before midnight. After midnight she woke and cried angrily for over an hour before my wife relented.

Now we are unsure how to continue.

  • Letting her cry for so long does not feel right, but it may be necessary. Is it?
  • Should I take the next night? It seems that our daughter is afraid of losing her mother/her mother's love, so we are unsure whether this would be the right kind of signal
  • Should we regard this as a failed attempt and next time have me start with 4 to 7 nights in a row before my wife tries?
  • Should we try to end co-sleeping first?

We need to get this through soon because the way the nights work at the moment is not sustainable for us (mostly for my wife).

On a different forum (German language) we found a question by someone in a similar situation, but the angry crying fits had already continued for 4 weeks. This would be even less sustainable for us. This question and this as well as that address a similar matter but deal with much younger children.

UPDATE: She slept with me ever since and her sleeping pattern is much better. She wakes twice a night at most, often only once and for a few times not at all. She uses her own bed now and it helps. When she wakes up, she still wants to be with me, but that is ok for now. The biggest progress I think is that on several occasions she managed going back to sleep on her own with me not being there (we both woke, I said I needed a drink of water and asked if it was ok for her to wait and when I came back she was sound asleep again).

Our idea now is to slowly phase in mother nights, first one, then two etc.

  • Does she use a pacifier or have a special stuffed animal / blanket she uses to soothe herself? – Stephie Mar 6 '16 at 16:55
  • Yes @Stephie, she has a doll and sometimes she uses a pacifier, too, but sometimes she doesn't want it. Sorry for the late reply, everybody but me was ill around here keeping me on my toes. – Seul Mar 23 '16 at 9:35
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First of all: It is always hard to stop with breast feeding.

For the night however and for sure at the age of your daughter there is quite quickly no need for any drinking during the night even with breast feeding (for younger kids please ask a specialist when this starts). It is however more likely that sleeping through the night takes longer when breast feeding.

Your issue however seems to be more about habits.

I assume your child falls asleep with mom. Maybe even with or shortly after breastfeeding. This is the setup she needs to fall asleep again also during the night. She is just used to it.

**If you want your daughter to fall asleep during the night without breast feeding or even without your wife or you she has to train on this. And you can help her with this. **

The good news is when they can't talk yet it's easier, they can't really drag you into "discussions".

This book helped us a lot:http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3399317-5-days-to-a-perfect-night-s-sleep-for-your-child

The most important according to me is a good night time routine: Get calmer till the end of the day, do the same things in the same order. The child will naturally understand / know that it's about sleeping time, because it will go to bed after all that.

The falling asleep on their own can be tough in the beginning. However most important again: consistancy. The situation when the child wakes during the night should be very close or the same as when falling asleep, that helps them to fall asleep even on their own. So if you intend not to be there during the night you'd better not be there when your child falls asleep.

All the best!

  • Thanks, @zip. When she goes to bed with her mother it's breastfeeding, when she goes with me, it's a song. For months now she's much faster with me, that's one reason why we thought breastfeeding is not helpful any more for her. It is a very good suggestion to allow her to learn how to fall asleep with mom but without breastfeeding first and then remove it during the night (our initial plan was the other way round, but I think this makes much more sense). – Seul Mar 23 '16 at 9:38

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