When Is It Time to Stop Nursing Through The Night?

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  • July 22, 2014


Hi, Kim West, The Sleep Lady. In today’s vlog, I’m going to answer Carly’s question:

“My 14-month-old is still nursing throughout the night. I put him down awake and leave the room and he goes to sleep. He wakes up to nurse throughout the night every 2 hours or so. When I’ve tried to just talk to him from the door so he knows I’m there, he gets angry. What are your thoughts? Thanks.”


So, Carly, here are my thoughts:


Make Sure Your Toddler Gets Enough Sleep


First of all, I’m not sure what time bedtime is, as you didn’t really tell me here but it looks like maybe you’ve done a little sleep coaching previously. Hopefully his bedtime is around 7 or 7:30 p.m., and he’s having two good naps. Remember that he needs about 11 ¼ hours of sleep at night, about 2 ¼ to 2 ½ total hours of sleep during the day over the course of two naps. I want you to make sure that he’s totally awake at bedtime; especially if at some point you did do some sleep coaching and he cried a little bit or protested while learning the skill of putting himself to sleep at bedtime.


Putting Yourself Back to Sleep


p4Then what you have to do is the next piece, which is teaching him the arguably harder skill of putting himself back to sleep which will help him in going back to sleep in the middle of the night just like going back to sleep after too short of a nap.


Night Weaning


I want you to create a nighttime weaning plan, and then I want you to follow through. So, if your plan is to stop feeding him altogether at night, you may want to do so one of two ways:

1. “Cold turkey” which means that you respond to all night awakenings but not with feedings; or

2. Do one feeding per night for three nights and then no feeding on the fourth night and beyond.


Ask For Help


You might want to ask if there’s somebody else in the family like dad or another adult who could help you. that would be wonderful, because your child is old enough to know that dad (or another adult) can’t nurse him and that way you would remove that struggle.
If it means starting next to the crib for the nighttime wakings and going through The Shuffle again, that’s okay. I would encourage you to go ahead and do it and I’m sure within 7 to 10 nights he’ll be sleeping through the night.

Before you being weaning or any sleep coaching, please remember to check with your pediatrician to rule out any underlying medical conditions, as well as to make sure that your baby is eating enough during the day to be weaned at night.

Video filmed by In Focus Studios

If you have experienced a similar situation, please share your stories or questions on The Sleep Lady’s Facebook Page!  Supporting each other makes parenting so much easier!

Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

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