“I need some sleep! I’m at the end of my tether now my son is 10 months old. I thought his sleep had started to improve a little (he was ‘only’ waking once or twice a night) but in the past few weeks he’s gone back to being up every hour, and always needing to nurse to settle. I’m just exhausted, and miserable about not getting any time to myself (or with my partner) in the evenings because of this. My health visitor said he shouldn’t need to feed in the middle of the night any more but he seems to think he does!” LLL Member
Response: If he is growing he will definitely need a night feed. Teeth are evil, I know it seems hard but it does get easier! Have you tried all the teething remedies? When things got really bad for my son I gave him ibuprofen for babies. Breast offers food and comfort. Co-sleeping helped us too. Kelly, LLL Stourbridge
Response: I have such empathy for you! At 14 months my son still wakes every couple of hours. I agree that co-sleeping does make things easier. But, if I’m honest, I’m still shattered! The best advice that I’ve come across for gentle, respectful night weaning is Dr Jay Gordon’s work. He does not advocate using his strategy until your child is over one year, but after that, when the situation just can’t be facilitated any more, then his advice is really good. I hope this helps! Amelia, LLL Bath
Response: My son is two years old and still wakes during the night to nurse various times, some nights a few times and some more than a few. He sleeps by my side and that makes everything easier. I got used to it so it no longer makes me tired. Co-sleeping is the key. Makes everyone happy. Violeta, London
Response: I can sympathise! My first son did the same and I found those few hours in the evening the most frustrating as I just wanted some time to relax before I went to bed. I survived the regular night feeds by co-sleeping and my son was very good at latching on without waking me much! They don’t need ‘feeding’ at this time but they may need a drink or comfort which is completely normal. Leah, LLL SE London
Response: My little boy is eight months and he’s doing the same. We were down to one feed between 11pm and 6.30am and then a few months ago he started waking every 2-3 hours again. I was finding it utterly exhausting and struggling to get through the day (with a three year old to entertain too). Two nights ago and having spoken to health visitors about his weight (all fine), I decided to try to gently cut down his night feed times. So, instead of feeding him to sleep in the night (by ‘night’ I mean 11pm to 6am), I gently took him off after five minutes. I placed him in his cot awake (he’s now in his own room) and patted him back to sleep. It went much better than expected. He cried for a couple of minutes the first night and looked a bit baffled, and I still fed him three times in total that night but only five minutes each, not 20 and he was awake when I put him back down each time. Last night I fed him to sleep at 10.30pm but at the next feed (not until 3am) I fed for five minutes and gently patted him back to sleep. He then woke hungry but very happy at 6.30am. That’s the best night we’ve had in a very long time! Hopefully I’ll have a bit more energy for lots of fun with him in the daytime now! Sarah, UK
Response: In terms of ‘me time’ and ‘partner time’ have you thought about having a date night during the day? If your son is more settled during the day and will go to a grandparent/ friend for a couple of hours, you could go for a meal or to the cinema or just have the house to yourselves for a while. I found it hard losing my evenings to feeding because that was always our couple time but by doing something special during the day I didn’t feel so bad about spending the whole evening up in bed. Victoria, LLL Northampton
Response: I can relate totally to your experience. In the early years I was near obsessed with how little sleep I got. Had I known in advance that a breastfeeding baby/ child needs to feed frequently, then I may not have felt tortured! New mums talk about how often their babies wake at night as if there is a medal for the one whose baby sleeps the most. Now I know that it is not good for more than a few hours to lapse between feeds. My son was four before he slept through the night, and we NEVER had an evening without him. We decided to have this ‘together time’ for however long he needed it. When my son was five months old I met a mum whose baby was feeding as frequently as mine. She tore herself up about it and began to resent her baby. The whole baby period was spoilt for her. It was hard for me too but I had made a conscious decision that my baby/ child knew what was best for him. This is still true, aged 20! It helped that I went to my first LLL meeting when he was two and STILL feeding 1-2 hourly. We think that health professionals know best. I thought I did. I am an ex-midwife and I didn’t know about anything about breastfeeding after four weeks. Alison, Bovingdon
Response: My ten month old still wakes for food and comfort, and I don’t worry about it anymore – I can’t make him sleep but I can comfort him. To get time to myself going out for a walk at nap time so they sleep in pushchair is the only way I get peace and quiet! Time with hubby is only quick hugs here and there but we’ve made an effort to do this as we only see each other for a couple of hours a day in between shifts! It’s just a small step to feeling normal and not just mummy! Emma, LLL Northampton
Response: You may never know why your son needs to nurse in the night but if he does it’s because he has a need. Always remember that this will pass and what you need right now is sleep so that you can help him through it. You are doing a wonderful thing by being there for him when he needs you and if your health visitor doesn’t support you in this then maybe you can find someone else to confide in. Can anyone else play with him during the day to let you catch up on sleep or to have some time with your partner at the weekend? I’m assuming that your son sleeps beside you but if he doesn’t then you might consider trying co-sleeping which could make the night feeds less disruptive to your sleep and may help him to wake less. I hope that you find a solution that suits you all and that your son settles into an easier sleep pattern soon. Jane, LLL Staffordshire
Response: My 18 month old baby is still breastfeeding but now only at bedtime. To help both her and me get more sleep, we co-slept until she was about 14 months. I always started her in her cot at bedtime but moved to bed whenever she first woke which was usually around midnight, after 7.30pm bedtime. The time between was ‘me time’ so I’d have long soaks in the bath or did whatever I wanted so you could watch a movie with your partner or cuddle up etc then? If night wakenings don’t calm down, maybe look at your baby’s daytime routine. Is he napping a lot in the day? Are they deep sleeps, going through a complete sleep cycle? Is he feeding well and filling up with lots of the good, fatty milk near bedtime or is he too tired? Bear in mind for most babies total sleep per 24 hours should be at least 12 hours, preferably about 14 (I think) at ten months so don’t hold back on day naps hoping he will be more tired and sleep through, the result is often the opposite of what you’d want. Is he having solid food? If so, try not to give too much and not to replace milk feeds with solids just yet. Milk should be the primary source of nutrition until at least one year old, with solids only for experimentation. Too much solids can cause an upset tummy and may be upsetting his sleep. Hopefully, some of these things will help him achieve a better sleep pattern and give you more of a break. Zoe, LLL Northampton
Response: I nursed my daughter until she was three and I now have a seven month old nursling, so I feel your pain! I found that cosleeping without my top allowed me to get all the sleep I needed and baby can just find the breast when hungry without either of us fully waking. I know it’s hard to miss out on alone time, but it really does end and it does go so fast. You can all just cuddle in bed and watch a movie or something. Tacha, UK
Edited by Emma Gardner.
This Mum to Mum column was originally published in issue 202 of Breastfeeding Matters (July/ Aug 2014).