I co-sleep with my 8 month old and it has turned into an all night breast feeding session. That’s what it seems like. I think she gets about 50% of nutrients at night by breastfeeding and I would like to shift that to the day time. How do I do that without tears?
Congratulations on breastfeeding your baby for 8 months and wanting to continue on! There are many factors that could be keeping your baby up at night. Finding out what it is will help you cope with it. However, keep in mind that it’s not unusual for a baby, especially one who’s breastfeeding, to wake up at night to eat for the first year of life. Their lives are full of excitement, discovery and learning. Babies tend to wake up and nurse more frequently before or after reaching a developmental milestone. At your baby’s age, these milestones include saying mama, dada, passing object from hand to hand, crawling, standing while holding onto something, etc. Even though she is mesmerized by the world surrounding her and wants to explore, she will always come back to you to be reassured that you are there for her and to receive the comfort and security that nursing gives her. All these new activities and exploration of the word around her take most of her attention and you may find that sometimes she forgets to nurse. She will, however, make up for this at night when she’s in a dark, quiet, less stimulated environment. Another important factor to take into consideration is separation anxiety. At about nine months, babies begin to realize the importance of their parents and that, at times, they have to leave home. However, babies are still unaware that they will return. Waking up at night around her age is not uncommon. Even if you co-sleep with her, she will wake up to make sure you are nearby. Teething and dreaming can also disrupt her sleeping. This is a normal part of babies’ development. As she gets older, the new experiences she faces will result in changes to her nursing behavior. Some babies will increase the frequency and duration of nursing just to find the reassurance and security that she can only receive through nursing. Remember, breastfeeding is more than just nourishment; it’s about nurturing as well. Take comfort in the fact that you are raising a confident and independent child as the security and comfort you’re giving her right now are building her confidence to become an independent child eventually. Keep in mind that even adults wake up in the middle of night. The difference between adults and babies is that the adults are able to go back to sleep mostly unassisted while babies need help from the caregiver. Solid foods could be another factor to take into consideration. If you suspect that the food is causing her tummy to ache, consider avoiding or decreasing solids in the evening.
Things that you can try are:
Offer the breast more frequently during the day. Never force it on her, just offer it. This will increase her milk intake during the day.
When is time to nurse her, go to a quiet room/place. Close the door and keep the distractions to a minimum. Distractions can make her lose focus on the nursing and getting the milk she needs. Therefore, she will make up for it at night.
Breastfeed more often in the hours prior to her bedtime; every hour or so, if possible. This will allow her to fill up and go longer stretches of uninterrupted sleep at night.
Breastfeed her right before you get in bed, even if she is asleep. Some babies will not even open their eyes at this point, but will get a good nursing session in, allowing for a longer period without waking up.
For help with separation anxiety:
Play games with your baby that teach her about leaving and returning such as: peek-a-boo, where is the baby?, hide and find object.
You want to teach your baby the meaning of the words hello and bye-bye. Start by telling her you will be leaving and will be back soon. Then say bye bye. If she starts crying, reassure her you will be back soon. Use an affectionate and clear tone of voice and make it brief. Go to the other room and come back in a few minutes with a big smile and say hello. With a bit of practice, your baby will understand that it’s okay when you leave because you will always return to her.
I hope this helps and congratulations again on giving your baby the opportunity to experience the comfort, love and security that breastfeeding can offer.