Infant – Toddler Sleep & Breastfeeding

Dear yayas,

My daughter is a little over a year and still gets up 5 times a night on average. I’m hoping the yayamamas will have some tips on how to teach her to fall back asleep on her own, especially during this teething period. We would prefer not to use the cry it out method or move her crib from our room. We have heard mixed opinions about night feedings and want to break her from the habit since mommies supply is falling short and she is so reliant on milk to fall back asleep. Thank you so much for your help!! 

– Tired Mommy and Daddy

A teething one year old is going to wake up in the night…and that’s okay. They can’t help it. They are growing so fast, major connections are being formed in their brain, and teething downright hurts. I support your choice not to use CIO and would encourage you to keep the crib in your room. You can keep up with the night feedings, our milk supply is heavily affected at night or you can start researching gentle night weaning, if the time feels right. (My 15 month old still wakes up 2-3 times on average to nurse). I’ve found a lot of peace in not holding on to other people’s expectations of what my kids’ sleep “should” look like. You do you, mama. “Sleeping through the night” is this catch all phrase that society likes to tell us “should” be our goal. But what does that mean? It turns out it means a lot of different things to different people…they just aren’t talking about the details. My one girlfriend considers waking to nurse and then going back to sleep quickly “sleeping through the night.” When my kids do that, I call it waking in the night. Who is right? Both of us. Why? Because we’re both okay with and focus on what our nighttime coping mechanisms look like more than a label that’s all over the map. I don’t know a lot of parents whose babies actually sleep the entire night with zero wakings every single night. There are so many factors when it comes to babies and toddlers–rapid growth, growth spurts, teething, hunger, thirst, being afraid, needing snuggles, etc.–and that’s all okay. All of it is okay…and normal. My best sleep advice is to try out many things and find what works for YOU all while remaining calm and knowing that it’s normal. Don’t try things with the judgment of others in your head (i.e. “I’m going to nurse her to sleep, but maybe I shouldn’t because so and so said it was bad…”). Just try nursing her to sleep! Know that many other moms do that and our kids are all okay. And what works today might not work tomorrow because of all the normal factors listed above. Kids grow and change so fast…right when we think we’ve got it figured out, they change again. Take the pressure off yourself. It is so freeing to just try different things without worrying about what other people think. There are so many opinions about nighttime sleep, even among “professionals,” that I would just try different things and see what works for you. In our house, we bed share (I follow the safety recommendations & it works best for us), my husband and I don’t sleep in the same bed (a lot of couples don’t with nurslings), I nurse through the night until I’m ready to night wean my kids at close to age two, and we make sleep a priority. We go to bed early knowing we have to wake up early. We don’t try to be perfect, we just aim for rest, safety, and happiness. You do you, mama. Lots of trial and error. Lots of compassion for yourself and your kiddo. Best of luck! – Lori Beth

Teething is never fun for anyone involved and can seem never-ending. Each child has a unique experience with it and it sounds like your daughter needs some extra cuddles to get through it. It’s definitely exhausting, and I can offer solidarity as we went through this in our house. My best advice is to do what’s best for you and your family. If you and your daughter are functioning fine with your current arrangement, then keep doing that. If your own happiness and well-being is being negatively affected by your lack of sleep, then you’ll want to consider other ideas because your own health is important too. I did not do CIO, though I did come to realize that I needed to pause before responding to my kiddos’ first noise. Also, for us, we actually found that once my kids got used to taking naps in their own room, they slept more soundly both for naps and then at night. These are ideas that worked for us, though I know you’ll figure out what works best for you! – Diana

Does she take a late nap? Also, some babies can’t eat as much at one time and need this through the night. I don’t believe in letting them cry either. This time will by quickly pass by and you will get more sleep eventually and look back and treasure this time. – Grama Claire Bear

Hello Tired! I wish I had a miracle answer for you, but, alas, all I can truly say is “Solidarity Momma”. My oldest did not “sleep through the night” regularly until age 3. I personally considered 5-6 hour stretches a win! What I did to keep my sanity was bedshare so that nursing back to sleep was easier and my husband would try to let me sleep in on Saturdays. There were periods of time that he slept in another room so that at least one of us were getting sleep. Bedsharing and side lying nursing helped so very much, but we were still getting woken up quite a bit. I was never comfortable with CIO and I commend you for wanting to avoid that technique. Hang in there momma-as someone who has been through the no sleep routine, I can say that when sleep comes, it is so very welcomed! Also, my child is now a wonderful 11-12 hour a night sleeper so you are not destined to have a troubled sleeper forever. Hugs! – Cortney

I agree with Grama Claire…when she wakes up talk with her right away (I used to tell my daughter “Mama’s right here” and that would make her stop crying! And have a lullaby that you hum every time, it will help you fall back asleep, too! Massaging her earlobe (this works for ear infection pain but it calmed my daughter for teething, too) or try a foot massage with lavender oil. In the daytime, see if she likes crushed ice to help with teething—put it on her high chair tray and let her play with it and if she eats it. Take care. – Taren

Hello Tired Mommy (and Daddy), I remember the days when my three boys were teething. Just when you think they have some sort of sleep schedule figured out, here comes a tooth! All I can share with you is what worked for us, but knowing that every family is different. In our house our children have always had their crib, which is in a different room from ours, but very close to us. Close enough to hear every cry but not so close we hear every night waking. I nursed all of them until they were almost 1, including in the middle of the night. I had a very comfortable upholstered rocking chair and ottoman and it wasn’t uncommon for me to doze off at night nursing them. When they were teething, particularly as they got old enough to take ibuprofen or Tylenol, we would give them a dose if their teeth were bothering them during the night. My thinking being, if I had a major toothache, I would not be able to get a good night’s sleep. Teething usually only lasts a couple of rough nights (per tooth), but again, my thinking was that if my children were that inconsolable they must be in a lot of pain and I personally didn’t feel right not helping them through it with medicine that would help them to feel better. Ibuprofen also helps reduce the inflammation in the gums around the new tooth. I think every child experiences teething differently, as I said, there were times where mine were just inconsolable. So, whatever it is you need to do to help your young child through this, whether it’s night nursing, co-sleeping, or pain medication at night, please don’t feel guilty about it. Also, I personally wouldn’t use cry it out with any child who is sick or in any kind of pain or genuinely afraid. My youngest is 5 and periodically gets night terrors, I still go in and lay down with him until he falls back asleep, as I would with my 8 year old or almost 12 year old if they had a bad nightmare. I hope you are able to find the right answers for your family to help you get through this stage…and it is a stage. Someday you will get some much needed rest! – Lorelei

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