I turn to other mothers (and fathers, too if you want) for your opinions. My son is six months old and we are still breastfeeding. Now that we have settled into a somewhat predictable routine I notice there are times when I believe he wants to nurse only for comfort and not because he is hungry. For example, the other night his diaper leaked and he woke up, I changed him and then he wanted to nurse. I know he does not need to eat at night anymore, he is usually very good at sleeping through (about 11-12 hours). He does not need to be nursed in order to go to sleep on his own at night or at naps, (although it does settle him down) he does fine when I put him to bed drowsy and the times he is at daycare.
When he had his 6 month checkup earlier this week I mentioned this to his pediatrician, and he suggested I not allow him to nurse only for comfort, as this would ‘make things more difficult’ later on, and he would come to expect it. When I do my own research online I get different opinions, but sometimes it is hard to tell what is reasonable information and what is fanatical, you know? I can find support for everything from ‘cut him off’ to ‘let him nurse as much as he wants until he is 5.’
So I look to you for real and reasonable advice. Am I setting us up for difficulty later if I let him comfort nurse once in a while? I make sure not to always nurse him to sleep, like I said he is good at going to sleep on his own usually. If I do let him nurse at night sometimes will he start to expect it whenever he wakes up?
Share your experiences.
I breastfed my youngest almost exclusively until he was 9 months old. He took bottles at daycare, but at home it was the boob or nothing and I fed on demand. A lot of times I knew he was nursing for comfort, which never bothered me. I was actually looking forward to extended breastfeeding with him but at about 9 months he became much more interested in solid foods and started boycotting the breast. I still miss it some.
If I were you, I’d worry more about setting up a middle-of-the-night wake up pattern than a nursing-for-comfort pattern. If a child gets used to a calorie infusion at a certain time, their bodies can come to expect it and it could disrupt his sleep pattern.
First of all, I’m SOOOO jealous that your little one is sleeping through the night. My first was sleeping through at 6 weeks, but Baby Girl Dax (4.5 months) still wakes up to nurse a couple of times at night.
I BF’d my son for 15 months, until he weaned himself, and there was plenty of “comfort nursing” along the way. Sometimes he was just upset and needed soothing, sometimes he just wanted mommy after a long day at daycare. My daughter likes to comfort nurse a lot lately because she has a tooth coming in. My take on it is that comfort nursing, even though it may not be due to hunger, still fulfills my child’s need and to me is almost as important as “real” nursing.
If you’re concerned about establishing a pattern when he wakes at night, you might try varying what you do to settle him–maybe nurse sometimes, or rock or give a paci if he’ll take one. If you want him to fall asleep on his own every time, you might read “No Cry Sleep Solution” by Elizabeth Pantley–lots of great tips for teaching your child to fall asleep on their own with no trauma or crying.
When my son was a baby I was so obsessed with making sure I was doing everything right, but now I wish I had just followed his cues more often. As hard as it is right now, I know when my baby is done nursing I’m going to miss the quiet, snuggly middle-of-the-night cuddles with her
I think your ped is full of crap and I agree with the variation stated by the above poster.
I agree that you’ve got two issues here: nursing for comfort (fine) and waking in the middle of the night and not wanting to go back to sleep (not-so-fine). What I tell my moms is that when they wake up in the middle of the night, it’s diaper time, comfort and/or feeding time, but it’s most definitely **not **playtime. It’s not talking time, singing time, rocking time or anything fun time. If he wants to nurse, fine. But he can nurse in the dark, quietly. In most cases, he’ll get bored with this really quickly and decide he might as well sleep.
As for nursing for comfort being bad - bah! Nutrition is only one of the many benefits of breastfeeding - comfort is one of the others. At six months, you really do not need to worry about him getting “too attached.” (Really, would you want him to be “not attached”? That would worry me more.) If he passes 24 months, or whenever you decide it’s weaning time, and still doesn’t seem to be wanting to wean, I’ll be highly surprised.
Most babies in our culture decide somewhere between 18 and 24 months that they’re done. Face it, food tastes good, it’s fun to play with, and you can take it with you while you’re exploring the world! It’s rare that weaning is something a baby has to be talked into. Far more women I know are at least a little upset because Baby decides to wean before Mom’s ready.
Even after weaning, there’s times he may want to nurse again. It’s normal, especially after a stressful day. One good friend of mine has a wonderful answer for her toddler daughter, who’s been weaned for 6 months, but still occasionally asks to nurse. “But you drank it all! Mommy’s all out of milk!” In the same tone as “There’s no more applesauce! You ate it all!”
I totally agree that there are two separate things going here. If you haven’t been doing night feedings, then I wouldn’t nurse at night.
Comfort nursing, however, will not make your life hard later. Both my kids pretty much decided they were done with nursing when they were about two. I didn’t wean either of them, they just tapered off and stopped. And both were allowed to nurse whenever they wanted (within reason, of course. By the time they were 6mos the snack bar was closed at night, and about the same age, maybe a little older, if we were out on an errand I wouldn’t stop to nurse unless it would be a while before we got home. Tiny babies need to eat when they’re hungry, and when they were smaller I fed them whenever and wherever they needed it, of course.) Anyway, lots of comfort nursing went on, and I have no problems to report.
My daughter never asked to nurse after she was done. My son, on the other hand, about a year after he stopped nursing started occasionally asking if he could. I usually obliged him. It seemed more out of nostalgia than anything–he would put his mouth up to my breast for a moment and then say he was done and that was that. It went on for a year or so and then stopped. No sweat.
My daughter is 20 months old and nurses as when I am home and she feels like it. The only time is seems to be really for hunger is in the morning before breakfast is ready. She has days when she nurses less and these are becoming more common. I am hoping she weans soon she has a chipped tooth that is sometimes very sharp. I very seldom comfort nurse her in the middle of the night. My husband gets up if she wakes at night because I have a job out of the house. I also don’t nurse her in public now. She understands “not now” and will accept that answer most of the time, including the middle of the night.
The big thing at 6 months is his getting up in the middle of the night and not him comfort nursing. Focus on that. If nursing gets him and you to sleep more quickly, I’d go for that.
Thanks all, I thought maybe my ped was focusing on the middle of the night waking as a potential problem and not the nursing for comfort too. Like I said, he is usually very good at going to sleep and lasting through the night now. It is usually only when something else is disrupting him, like the leaking diaper or when he is coughing from a cold, that he wants / needs to nurse to go back to sleep.
I know he wakes sometimes during the night as part of a normal sleep cycle and is able to get himself back to sleep on his own. He has a toy aquarium on the side of his crib that makes water noises when you hit a button, and I hear him turn it on sometimes during the night so I know he is awake and he does go back to sleep by himself. It seems to only be when he is upset that he wants to nurse, and my gut says this is not a big deal since it does not seem to be a pattern.
My husband was also concerned that it is not a good idea to nurse him at night anymore - but it really is the quickest way to get us both back to sleep on those occasions when he does want to. I told him it sounds like a good plan to soothe him in other ways now, but at 3 AM my plans go out the window :). I have gotten him back to sleep once when he wanted to nurse without nursing but it took forever and there were lots of tears, it is just quicker to let him nurse for a few minutes, he goes right back to sleep that way. He does not take a pacifier, I offer it to him now and then and he uses it as a chew toy but not as a comfort item.
I just wondered what others have experienced since this is my first child and really no one else in my family or group of friends has breastfed this long, and my pediatrician is great with the baby but does not seem very vocal about breastfeeding one way or the other. Breastfeeding past 12 weeks or so does not seem very common around here yet, many don’t do it at all, and I have heard comments about not letting him ‘use me as a pacifier.’ I do think it is ridiculous how many people think a 6 month old baby can get too attached or spoiled, but of course I want him to develop independance too.
I do enjoy breastfeeding though and I will miss it when he is done. Ironic since a few months ago I was desperately trying to get him to take a bottle (he never did!) since I work part time. Now I am almost glad he refused a bottle because he basically forced me to keep breastfeeding him, I don’t know if I would have if he had taken a bottle easily. It would have been easy to switch over to bottles completely, especially since I didn’t have anyone really encouraging me to continue. Now I am glad to still be breastfeeding and plan to continue until he is at least a year, but it is good to hear from experience.
Babies go through developmental stages as they age. Just because he slept through the night once, doesn’t mean he’s destined to continue doing this until he’s an adult. It could very well be that he’s going through a time right now when his body wakes him up in the middle of the night.
So the waking may not be due to anybody doing anything - and it will eventually stop. Whatever you do prior to that will get the credit, but probably without being truely responsible.
I nursed 3 kids till they weaned themselves (18 mo, 2 and 3 years). I quickly figured out that you can never go wrong by offering the breast. And agree with other contributors to this list that a need for nurturing is no less important than that of nutrition.
My pediatrician wasn’t supportive of breastfeeding at all. She referred to non-nutritive nursing as “sport” nursing and told me I didn’t have to put up with it. I’d smile and then do what I was planning all along when I left the office.
Velma, if nursing him back to sleep the few times he wakes up works for you, then by all means do so. It’s easy for the pediatrician to spout theories about when you should or shouldn’t nurse, but every baby and every family is different. The one rule, as Long Time First Time has said, is that you can pretty much never go wrong offering the breast. Other than that, do what makes you and baby happy.
It sounds like you’re doing great. Right now, baby is supposed to be attached to you! And as long as he feels secure, and knows that he can explore and be independant when he’s ready, he’ll be fine. Smile and nod at the pediatrician on this one issue. And keep up the good work!
I nursed both my kids until about 17 months, and had no problems weaning them. I never even paid attention to the difference between comfort nursing and hunger nursing…it was all cuddle time, and made my life so much easier. So nurse as long as it makes you and your little one happy. It my opinion 6 months is still too young to wean!
I did have one girlfriend whose daughter became very demanding of comfort nursing…pulling her mom’s shirt up in public, loudly crying “Milk, Mommy, milk!” well into her two’s. That was tough to watch. But they had all sorts of other behavior issues, too, so don’t fret. And don’t listen to your pediatrician unless she’s been a nursing mom herself.
Oh mercy me. Doctors who give parenting advice, especially unasked, are one of my peeves. My oldest slept through all on her own, from 8 weeks until 7 months. Then she started waking again - teething, I think it was - and did so until about 22 months. One of my twins always slept through (but she was on 24/7 tube feedings so never woke hungry). The other twin didn’t sleep through until 27 months old. The littlest wakes once or twice most nights, and yes, she wants to nurse. She’s 18 months. This is not a problem for me, so it isn’t a problem. If your baby waking at night is a problem for you, then your response will have to be different than if it’s merely an irritant.
I nursed my kids until 5 (oldest), 3.5 (one twin), provided breastmilk until 21 months (other twin) and littlest is still going strong, 3-5 times a day. Our doctor sees no medical problem, so it’s not something she brings up. Our dentist did try to get me to wean my one twin at 3 due to cavities, but he didn’t mention stopping cow’s milk or juice…face it, the kid just has bad teeth. Nursing isn’t her problem, and she still gets a lot more cavities than any of her siblings.
Honestly. If it’s not a problem for you, then why is it a problem? He’ll go back to sleeping through eventually. They always do.
If he doesn’t particularly want a pacifier, don’t give it to him. It will save tears in the long run.
Wifecat told Kidcat on her 2nd birthday that there was no more milk in her boobies (I so love that word)…Kidcat just asked for Sunar (a local formula/enriched milk mix) instead. NO trauma at all. She still pulls up her shirt occasionally to try and get a comfort thing going, but Wifecat just calmly stops her.
They did a partial weaning starting 6 months before - only mornings and night, no feeding during the day. I think that helped.
As to the above post, we heartily agree. We used pacifiers only rarely (like, once a month or two when we went out and Kidcat started to fuss). When breastfeeding stopped, so did any use of pacifiers.
I supplemented with formula only a month or so. When the formula stopped so did the bottles. We never used a sippy cup. We always have a cup of water for her to drink and were ready to give her some. By the time she was 18 months old she could drink out of a half full adult sized glass tumbler by herself. She also can get her own water from the bottled water dispenser. I taught her to drink form a straw when she was about 9 months old. We were at IKEA and had a bottle of water and no cups. I demonstrated and she got it right away.
Breast milk is less bad for teeth than formula or just about anything else than water. The reason is that it is antibacterial. We limit juice. I prefer her to eat her calories rather than drink them. Fruit has fiber that she needs that juice lacks, so she eats that instead. I do give her cows milk now, but her beverage of choice is water.
It sounds like you have done a great job getting him to sleep through and get back to sleep. I would not sweat it if he only wants to nurse in the middle of the night after a disruption like you said.
Mmmm … the breastfeeding olympics!
Thanks for sharing your experiences, you all pretty much reinforce what I was thinking. I am still trying to learn to go with my own instincts and not automatically do what a Dr. or others (especially my mother) say. Not that I don’t do my own research, (in fact I think I research too much sometimes), but it is hard to go against what a Dr. advises. To be fair, I did directly ask him for his opinion on this one, and he didn’t come out and tell me not to do it, just that it might make things more difficult later on.
It’s funny how different people and regions are so different about breastfeeding. Around here people seem shocked that I would nurse until age 1, much less consider breastfeeding a toddler. People just seem icked out by it, in fact people have said ‘if he’s old enough to ask for it, or old enough to lift your shirt, walk, talk, ect. then he’s too old to breastfeed.’ It is viewed somewhat as a necessary inconvenience for nutrition if it is done at all, to be over with as soon as possible. The idea of comfort nursing doesn’t go along with that mindset, I get the feeling that people think that if it is not necessary for nutrition, it must have some kind of sexual meaning or something?
Personally I find formula kind of gross, we do supplement once in a while now using a cup when I am not there, but the first time I smelled formula I just about gagged. I can’t believe he likes it. I don’t look down on those who bottle feed at all and I would never negatively comment to a parent about it though. I understand it is a choice with many factors to consider. Sometimes I am glad to be breastfeeding just to avoid the expense!
I don’t think a pacifier will be an issue, he just doesn’t like artificial nipples of any kind, hence the bottle rejection. It’s nothing but natural for this kid.
Has your son started eating other foods, like cereal or baby food yet?
This discussion brings to mind a phenomenon I’ve noticed, especially in regards to breastfeeding and cosleeping. New parents will guiltily admit to comfort nursing, or cosleeping, or not letting their baby cry it out, or whatever, as though the Great Parenting Overlord has declared incontrovertably that these things are bad for children. Really, these issues come down to what works for the family in question.
If you can’t function when you’re up and down all night, crying it out might be a useful tool, whereas if CIO causes you intense emotional pain, and you’d rather get up in the night, then that choice is better for you. If you, your spouse, and your kid sleep better together, then that is the right thing to do, but if one or all of you are restless in the same bed, then it is the wrong thing. If nursing settles your baby, and is quicker and easier for you, great. If nursing in the middle of the night for a problem sets up a habit of waking up for interaction that drives you crazy, you probably want to do something different.
And I think too many pediatricians believe in the Great Parenting Overlord and consider themselves His prophets. I took Chloe to a pediatrician, who out of the blue offered dictates regarding night waking and temper tantrums, and frankly I think he was out of line - maybe if I’d asked, OK, but I didn’t. We’re going back to our Family Doctor (who had her baby at the same freestanding birth center I did, and never tells me how to parent my kid).
He started cereal about a month ago and just this week I started offering it to him in the morning as well as his evening meal. He has also tried a few fruits, and peas. He usually will eat ok but he isn’t crazy about cereal like some babies, he doesn’t open his mouth wide when he sees the spoon, he likes to grab the spoon and suck the cereal off his hands. He likes it a bit better when I give him a little fruit with it. At this point I think he could still take it or leave it, though, he does not consistently eat a whole serving.
I think the kid is just crazy about nursing. He latched on like a pro a few minutes after he was born, I never had a moment’s problem with it. He is able to drink from a cup now but won’t take a full breast milk or formula feeding that way, a few ounces at the most.