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When Your Co-Sleeping, Breastfed Child Wakes Up 800 Times a Night: What to Do

Katesurfsbabywakes

When my daughter was five months old, she started waking almost every hour looking for boob to put her back to sleep and I was beside myself. She had been sleeping so well up until then, but now her sleeping was fitful and feverish. I knew that all babies woke a little at night, but were they supposed to wake every hour for days and weeks and months in a row?! It wasn’t just developmental stuff or teething, it had to be something else…

This story may sound familiar to many mothers, especially if you are the co-sleeping and breastfeeding on demand type. I was (and still am) totally against using ‘cry it out‘ or sleep training in any way and I wasn’t about to stop co-sleeping or breastfeeding. But, I had to search for some sort of solution because waking up every hour just didn’t seem natural. Years later, after doing lots of research and reading, after doing natural parenting workshops, and after having other babies, and after some very nice nights of sleep, I have a list. Here is how to help get a co-sleeping, breastfed child to sleep better, while still keeping the very important, night-time connection and support that a child needs. I did not come up with this list from thin air, it’s all through my experience through researching and talking to other mothers.

1. Don’t Give Up on Co-sleeping or Breastfeeding!
Night time parenting is just as important as daytime parenting. If people are pressuring you to stop co-sleeping because you’re complaining of lack of sleep… just stop complaining to them, and complain to someone else who will listen with an open mind. Co-sleeping and breastfeeding on demand are topics that not everyone agrees on, so if you bring your problems to the wrong person, they may influence you to do something that you will regret later. Your child is only little once. Children gain a huge amount of security and trust by having a parent on call at night. You can leave your complaints with me if you have to. If co-sleeping is causing you anxiety, that’s different and maybe you should consider room sharing or some other situation.

(Numbers 2-5 are all very linked together!)

2. Feeding with Awareness
I discovered that every time my daughter would wake, I would quickly shove the boob back in her mouth to put her to sleep. I thought it was the only way to get her back to sleep! I felt like I had to change something, so I started doing a few things: 1) I started offering a cuddle for every other time she woke, instead of the boob every single time. Cutting down on feeds was a big relief to me! (note, a very young baby needs to feed frequently at night, so this is not advice for the wee little ones) 2) I shortened the length of the feed. This one was mainly because I was doing elimination communication at night, and I didn’t want to have her drinking too much, otherwise I would have to keep taking her to the potty all night! It seemed natural to do this, as I don’t think the cave people would have wanted to get out of bed three times a night to take their baby to the bushes to pee. 3) I started really paying attention to when she was truly in need of a feed… like, if she just had boobs an hour ago, did she really need them again?

3. Watch for Control Patterns
A control pattern is anything that a child does to repress an emotion. For example, sucking a thumb, using a dummy/pacifier, or constantly on the boob, even if they are not really hungry. Often a child uses a control pattern to help them fall asleep or in a situation when they are upset, nervous, or feel like they want to cry. What happens with night wakings and control patterns, is that every time a child wakes at night, they need their control habit to get them back to sleep without crying. It’s not that thumb sucking, using a dummy/pacifier or breastfeeding to sleep is bad, but if it’s used primarily to get them to sleep, then it is certainly a control pattern. To help with control patterns, here’s the next point.

4. Make Sure Your Child is Allowed to Freely Express Their Negative Emotions Throughout the Day
Almost every baby gets cranky at some point during the day for no apparent reason. Or, if the child is older, they might hurt themselves or get upset. The most automatic reaction we have is to stop them from crying. We either use distractions, words or motion (rocking, bouncing) to make them stop crying. Or, we give them some food, a dummy/pacifier, etc. And, we try sticking the boob in their mouth to stop them from crying. Distracting or stopping a child from expressing his or her emotions is something that works short term, but can back fire later on in the form of restlessness, aggression or relentless whining. Crying is a natural process and helps children to release the stress that occurs from day to day living. Unfortunately, in our society, we portray crying as bad or as something being ‘wrong‘, but this is not the case with emotional crying. Emotional crying is an amazing built-in healing mechanism for relieving stress. Some babies and toddlers need to cry more than others.

Of course, we want to lessen the chances of our babies getting frustrated, but nobody lives in a perfect world and upsets happen. If you have done everything possible to keep your baby or toddler happy and they are still border line tantrum, let them have the tantrum!!! You might find that they cry much harder and longer than necessary (for example, crying because you give them the wrong cup). The tantrum ‘over nothing‘ is an excuse for them to get their emotions out. You know how you feel after a good cry? Your baby or toddler will feel the same. Even young babies benefit from a cry in a pair of loving arms. Be sure to support their crying and never make them feel bad for releasing their emotions in a natural way. Releasing their negative emotions during the day, will help them to have a more peaceful sleep at night.

5. Don’t Think You Always Have to Feed To Sleep
I remember sitting there for AGES while my little one sucked and sucked so that I could get her to sleep and I started feeling quite a bit of resentment because of it. When I stopped associating boobs with falling asleep, she slept tremendously better. Countless other mothers report the same thing. Boobs can be for boobs and boobs don’t always have to be for falling asleep on. It really saved my sanity to do it that way. It’s not to say that you should never feed to sleep as a strict rule! If it happens easily, then great. But, if it’s not happening easily, it could mean that they are in need of a big stress release in the form of a cry in your arms. Be relaxed about it and your child will also feel relaxed about it. It was nice when I stopped worrying if my kids would fall asleep on the boob or not.

If your child is used to having boobs to bed, they are probably going to cry if you don’t offer them for sleep. This crying should be supported and will help them to release their pent up emotions of the day. You might find that they cry a lot and this is a very normal process of releasing stress for them. It’s important not to abandon your child while they are crying. If you feel that you can’t handle the emotional releasing, then maybe it’s not time for you to give up the feed to sleep, maybe try it when they’re older. I always found that on the nights my kids DID NOT fall asleep on the boob, and instead had a big cry in my arms, they always slept considerable better, as in 10x better. I fed them just before bed time instead.

5. Exercise
How much exercise does a child need? A LOT! Never underestimate how much exercise they need. Even babies need a fair amount of exercise, they can get this just by kicking, rolling around on the floor, climbing and crawling, etc. Older toddlers need to really run and climb a fair bit. If you’re stuck inside a lot, see if you can find ways to give your child of plenty of exercise indoors, playing games, dancing, rolling balls, etc. On days when my kids have had an enormous amount of exercise, they almost always sleep like a rock.

7. Keep them Dry
One big reason why babies wake at night is simply because they are wet. Even disposables can’t always mask the coldness that goes along with being wet. I practiced night time elimination communication with my kids and found that they always would stir right before they had to pee. Of course, not everyone is going to jump out of bed to take their kid to the potty in the middle of the night, but it’s something to keep in mind as to why they are waking. Another reason to reduce the frequency and duration of feeds at night is to also reduce the amount of pees that they do!

8. Watch the Diet
You don’t need to go crazy with it, but see if there are certain foods that make your child stay awake. My younger daughter is extremely sensitive to raw cacao! When she was a baby and she was heavily breastfed, even if I ate the cacoa, she was up squirming all night because it was being transferred through my breastmilk! Now that she’s older, if she eats it at night, we almost always have a restless night.

9. Ask Your Partner for Help
Sometimes it’s all just too much for us to handle. I sometimes would feed my babies and hand them over to my husband for him to cuddle them to sleep. Man, oh man, would they cry! But, they were in dad’s loving arms, and I knew they were safe. The crying was releasing a huge amount of stress from their system and afterwards, they always slept peacefully for a long time.

10. Consider Age Appropriate Night Weaning
A gradual approach to night weaning is best. I started around 8 months and finished night time feeding around 20-22 months. Night weaning simply means you stop feeding at night. And, night weaning may mean different things for different people. It may happen at different ages too, whenever you feel that it is right (with the exception of young babies who need to feed at night). Often, babies and toddlers start sleeping much better at night when they are partially or fully night weaned. This one can be tricky though if you are a working mother and you don’t get the chance to feed many times during the day. So, be mindful of your situation.

11. Avoid TV and screen time right before bed
Screen time, especially TV is not really recommended for children under the age of two anyway, but sometimes it happens! Make sure that the last thing they are doing before bed is not in front of a screen, it stimulates their nervous system too much and can make it difficult for them to sleep.

12. Self Care
Be sure to take care of yourself. Don’t go to bed too late, eat proper food, get a little exercise each day and get some kid-free time off at least once a week or so, even if it’s only an hour. Night wakings are always worse when you’re not taking care of yourself!

I hope these ideas work for you!

Disclaimer: I am not a lactation consultant. All baby’s needs should be taken into consideration, especially if they are sick or have special needs. Very young babies should never be night weaned and should be fed on demand, with awareness.

263 Responses »

  1. Hi Kate! I’m glad I came across this post but I’m still not really sure what to do with my baby as I don’t know if he is too young to not be nursing him to sleep. My son is 4.5 months old and we co sleep for the most part. I don’t sleep good at all with him in our bed so I sometimes try to gently transfer him into his crib (literally 6 inches from my side of the bed) when he seems to be sound asleep. But he tends to wake up at the end of each sleep cycle (about every 45 minutes) and will only fall back asleep if I nurse him to sleep.

    He is starting to get tired and wanting to go to sleep around 6pm every night which is before my husband even gets home from work (so I basically never spend time with my husband anymore and some nights I don’t even get the chance to have supper). I am in bed trying to get my baby to sleep usually for about 2-4 hours as he fights going to sleep sooo hard even though he’s so tired! I’ve tried rocking, bouncing, laying him in his crib to try to fall asleep on his own (not crying it out though), and I’ve tried just holding him and cuddling him but he just looks wide awake when I try that. I’ve tried having a bedtime routine for him and it doesn’t seem to make a difference, I want so badly for my baby to be able to sleep in his crib next to our bed and to be able to fall back asleep without having to be nursed, I just don’t know if it’s too early for that or not. I also would really like my evenings back as I can’t seem to leave him once he’s asleep because I have to put him back to sleep every 45 minutes.

    He also won’t nap without being attached to my boob and he naps after being awake for an hour and a half, so I basically spend my entire day in bed, since each nap is anywhere from 45 minutes to 2.5 hours. I tried waking him up once to try and make his naps the same length and at the same time each day and he was MAD! It did not work at all!

    I want so badly to do the right thing for my baby and for him to be a good napper and night sleeper, I’m just not sure I know how to do that anymore. So I am wondering if you have any suggestions? How/when do I start?

    Reply
    • Oh mama! I hear you… So… if he’s taking that long to go to sleep, he’s probably not that tired… or he needs a big release of accumulated emotions. Even newborns need to release their emotions! They get frustrated and stressed just like adults. Do you have a baby carrier? I would highly recommend having one. That way, you can put him in there and get your evenings back. If he’s tired enough, he can fall asleep in there and you can eat dinner with your husband while he sleeps on you! That’s at the bare minimum… But yeah, unless you think somethings physically wrong, it’s emotional. Waking after every sleep cycle would be accumulated emotions. I highly recommend reading ‘Tears and Tantrums’ by Aletha Solter. There’s no minimum age where a baby can fall asleep without nursing. If it happens easily, then it’s fine. But, if it’s taking 2-4 hours to get him to sleep, then he needs a big cry in arms (not alone, not cry it out). He may cry for a long time and at first, it may not seem to work, as it stirs up a lot of emotions. But, after a few big cries, I think he will start sleeping more peacefully. Let me know how it goes.

      Reply
      • Okay, so tonite I followed your advice and my baby cried on and off while I held him him and hugged him for about half an hour and then when he seemed calm I decided to try and nurse him because I wasn’t sure if he got enough to eat when I initially fed him because he was so frustrated and worked up. He was grunting and shaking his head side to side so that was when I decided to try just hugging him and letting him release those emotions. Once e calmed down and I nursed him the second time he nursed for about 2 minutes and then unlatched and laid his little head down on my boob and fell asleep! He did wake up once and immediately latched back on for a few minutes but that was pretty much it. Then I put him in his crib and he woke up after about 5 minutes and I imagine it was once he cooled off from my body heat leaving him. So then my husband picked him up and just held him and he fell back asleep in about a minute! My husband hates the crib (haha) so he laid our son down next to him and now we will see how the rest of the night goes! (We are in Canada so it’s 10:15pm here..). Thanks for your help! I am hoping the rest of tonite will go smoothly.

        OH! And yes, I have a carrier… well..a wrap… and my son loves it but he won’t sleep in it anymore now that he’s too big for the newborn hold! (My 4.5 month old is a big boy! He’s 18lbs!). And I am considering getting a better carrier with more support as he gets very heavy, very quickly in the wrap now that he’s so big.

      • Oh, I wonder if you might like an Ergo? Or some sort of structured baby carrier, with buckles. The only one I would avoid would be a baby bjorn. Let me know how the sleep goes!

  2. Ya, I think I would like to give one a try, thanks for the recommendation. Last night didn’t go so great! My son went to sleep around 6:30pm, which I thought was great. But then he woke up at 7:20pm and was awake (but tired and kind of whining) until close to 11pm! All night he wouldn’t sleep unless he was attached to my boob. I tried just cuddling him and he was not havin it! Then he was awake at 7:30am and wouldn’t go back to sleep. It always seems like the first night that I try anything new with him it works wonderfully, and then every other night doing the same thing it just doesn’t work! Do you think I should give up? Or keep trying?

    Reply
    • Aw, sometimes when the crying starts, it stirs up a lot of big emotions! I like to say it’s like cleaning out a dusty room. Gets messier first before it gets clean. But, do read that book and see what you think, there’s so much more useful information in there.

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  3. Okay, I will give it a shot! Thanks 🙂

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    • Hi Jas, i’m in the exact same situation here, my son is 5mo, how is it going? im trying pretty much the same things.

      Reply
      • Hi martianase, things have gotten quite a bit better lately. My son now seems to only be waking up about 3 times a night now which is a huge improvement. He seems to need a good cry in my arms for a couple minutes before going to sleep initially at night but then seems to fall asleep much easier. Although some night the cry and nursing don’t seem to work and I have to stand and rock and bounce him which is getting super hard because my boy is so big! I am still having to nurse him to sleep each time he wakes in the night for the most part. Some nights he will randomly wake up not long after I finished nursing him and then I just put my hand on him and say “shhhh” for a minute and snuggle up close to him and he seems to go right back to sleep. I still have to stay right next to him once he’s asleep though. So my bedtime is pretty much 6:30 everynight! And he won’t sleep in a carrier anymore because life is just too exciting haha! I hope things improve for you and your son!

  4. Hi, loved reading your article.
    My son is 14 months and I am very ready to start night weaning. Our typical night looks like this…bedtime routine ending with a nurse/cuddle and sometimes a rocking depending on how much he’s trying to avoid sleep 😝. Asleep between 6:30 and 7:30…different every night depending on when the second nap ended. I put him to sleep in his crib and most of the time he stays asleep for 4 hours before he gets up and calls out to me at which point I come into his room (that also has a double bed in it), and nurse him back to sleep and we co- sleep the rest of the night. (we can’t co sleep in our room as my husband is a very loud snorer and restless). The rest of the night he wakes sometimes as often as every two hours looking for help back to sleep… When he was younger I would put in the effort to rock him instead of nursing but after 14 months of sleep deprivation I do what’s easiest and allows me to stay in a sleepy state. So my concern now is the frequency of the waking, it’s taking it’s toll on me, and his restlessness. I have read countless websites on baby sleep and I understand fully that he has sleep associations (that I’ve created) and also that it’s normal for babies to do some tossing and turning. I’m wondering though if you have any suggestions on how to stop the night nursing altogether (I’ve been working on cutting some and I just repeat lie down its bedtime in a very calm voice until he does) but continue to co sleep or room share at least. The first four hours of the night when he is in his crib he is only tossing and turning between sleep cycles and it is normal. When he co sleeps the rest of the night he is more restless and for longer but when I try to put him back in the crib because I believe he would sleep better he gets very upset. I’m so torn because I am a firm believer in attachment parenting but I truly believe I may be hindering a better night sleep for my son (and myself). I understand why he wants to be so close to me at night, I like it too, but if it’s robbing us both of sleep what am I to do? Any advice?
    Last side note, of my long winded message… I used to sidecar co sleep with him when he was younger because he wasn’t crawling, walking, climbing, etc and he seemed to really like that. ( I attached his crib with one side off with clamps to my bed, very very secure) I stopped it once he became more mobile because I was afraid when he woke he would get onto my bed and then onto the floor. He gets off furniture on his own very well and I figure he would just get out of bed if I were to do the side car scenario again and it would then take longer to get him back to sleep….. Otherwise I think side car would be my best option, cause he would be close to me but we would both still have our own space) Any experience with this?
    Thank you so much for any advice you can give and for your time. It’s nice to hear from experienced moms with similar parenting beliefs instead of from ppl who just want you to do sleep training.

    Reply
    • Hi! I totally hear you on so much of what you said! so… usually, restless sleep is a sigh of pent up emotions… that’s what we would say in aware parenting (I’m a certified aware parent instructor). So, crying (in arms or in the presence of a carer, not cry it out), is a very good way of getting those pent up emotions out. The feeding to sleep has most likely caused a control pattern, which means that he’s looking for that every time he wakes. Of course, you probably would have come across that already. So… I highly recommend reading the book ‘Tears and Tantrums’ by Aletha Solter! you can still continue to have that very important night time connection, without giving up sleep. The book goes into great detail about suppression mechanisms (feeding to sleep, etc.) and how to help a child release those pent up emotions. You may want to pick a day when you’re feeling more rested to deal with the night weaning, because he will most likely cry when you won’t let him have the boob. And, you can do it gradually. My son is 13 months right now and my sort of rule is we can do one nurse at night and if he wakes more than that, I cuddle him and he does cry a little, but then goes back to sleep. I hope some of that helps… oh, and one more thing I thought of is possibly moving your bed on the floor for a temporary solution? Or, I used to have a bed rail when the floor wasn’t an option. Let me know how it goes and if any of that resonates.

      Reply
      • Hi Kate,
        Thank you so much for getting back to me and for your thoughts. I have ordered a copy of that book you suggested.
        I had already taken away my bedframe so that my mattress and box spring are right on the ground. I do have a bedrail waiting in the closet for when the time was right… I think I may pull that out and attach it to the foot of my bed if I decide to try the sidecar crib again, that way I don’t have to go to bed at 7….although maybe I should 😝.
        Looking forward to getting that book and reading some more on these things.
        Thanks again for getting back to me.

      • Oh, I hope things improve. Let me know how it goes!

  5. Hi I’ve tried to allow my 15 month old son to cry in my arms, but he will just scream and scream! He literally would scream for hours like he’s being hurt. Every time I move out of bed he’ll wake up screaming even if he’s fast asleep. Do you have any suggestions?

    Reply
    • I highly recommend reading the book, “Tears and Tantrums’ by Aletha Solter. She goes into so much detail about the crying. Sometimes children have a lot of crying to do! And, the book will help you differentiate between the crying for pain and crying for emotions. I hope that helps!

      Reply
  6. This is such a helpful article. I have a 7.5 month old baby girl, who I have co slept with every night, EBF and on demand ans also nurses to sleep. I am really starting to struggle. I have loved every moment up until the past few weeks. I’m now struggling to get her to sleep, then when she is asleep she wakes up and crawls all over the bed. Since she learnt to crawl she just won’t stop? She is teething too and also had her first coldsore, she has also stopped eating solids full stop. Last night I felt like it was every 10 minutes! So so restless! Before all this she was waking around 3 times a night for a couple of minutes…no issue at all! We all had great sleep! Is this a phase or do I need to step in and make some adjustments somewhere?

    Reply
    • I highly recommend reading the book, “Tears and Tantrums’ by Aletha Solter! Usually, when babies wake up all night long like that, it’s more than developmental, there is usually some sort of repression of emotions. I hope that helps!

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  7. Hi Kate. I was searching for a solution online to our night troubles and came across your blog. My daughter is just about 11 1/2 months old. She has never been the “greatest” sleeper and usually would wake 3 times a night. We don’t habitually co-sleep, but she is in a crib right by our bed. Sometimes I will bring her to bed with me just out of the need to sleep when she seems like she is getting into the habit/pattern of waking 4+ times a night. Up until a few weeks ago, if she would wake, I could nurse her and she would fall back asleep for a least a few hours. I could then put her back into her crib and go back to sleep.

    In a side note, she will not use a pacifier at all, no matter how often I offer it to her. I have tried different shapes/sizes/styles, she insists on using me as her pacifier. She did use a pacifier for a brief stint when she was about 3 months old, but has refused that or her thumb since around 5 or 6 months.

    The issue is she has been waking much more frequently throughout the night to nurse. I have noticed she is only feeding maybe once a night each time she wakes: the other 3 times are for suckling for comfort. She seems like she is refusing to sleep without my boob in her mouth! We have tried letting her put herself back to sleep a few times, and the success was short-lived. Just last night she cried for an hour and a half straight until I finally brought her to bed with me. If she is in bed with me, again, she can’t handle not having my boob in her mouth, even if she isn’t eating.

    I have tried rocking her and holding her until she falls asleep, but this only agitates her more because she can’t nurse. She will cry louder, push away from me, and arch her back. She refuses to give in until she can suckle.

    I’m not sure what to do. I was an advocate of comfort nursing, but I feel like she is taking it to a whole new level! I don’t want her to get to the point where she will only sleep if she is nursing. She eats plenty of foods during the day, and I nurse her before she goes to bed at night.

    I do have a carrier that she can be in during the day. She didn’t like it when she was younger but I have used it more recently while trying to make dinner, and she seems content in it. Should I try wearing her more frequently? If I do use the carrier I have to put her on my back because otherwise I can’t get much else done with her in front.

    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • Hi Rachael! What you’re describing is what I’ve heard from countless other mothers and what I’ve experienced myself! I highly recommend reading the book, “Tears and Tantrums’ by Aletha Solter. Often, what happens, when a baby uses a repression mechanism (sucking usually, in this case, your boob), they often wake up frequently and can’t go back to sleep without it. There’s an accumulation of emotions and they’re looking for a way to come out… or they get repressed. So, lots of crying (in arms) might be needed to get those emotions out and to help her have a more peaceful sleep. If you can handle a night when you’re up for some crying, you can wait until those nights to deal with it, and hold her, while she cries. She will definitely push away and arch her back, etc. That’s really normal. Otherwise, it might be ok to keep using the boob, so that way you can at least get some sleep and wait for the days/nights when you have the energy to deal with some crying in arms. I hope that helps! Let me know how you go, or if you have any more questions.

      Reply
  8. Hi Kate!

    I hope you can help me out. My son is 8 months old and a healthy, happy boy! He eats loads of solids (2 pieces of fruit, some bread and dinner, usually containing a potato or some rice/pasta, big portion of veggies and a slice of chicken or fish or egg) but he breastfeeds even more. I work 4 days a week and he stays with Dad one day and goes to daycare the other 3 days and I know it’s a tough time on my sweet little guy, because he misses me tremendously (I stayed home until he was 6 months and he has a hard time getting used to not being number one at the daycare 😉 ). Anyhow, I don’t really feed my son to sleep often, I put him in his crib and he goes to sleep. However, when he wakes around 11pm, I go up to sleep and take him into bed with me, where I feed him to sleep. So he’s slept like 3.5 hours, sometimes straight, sometimes he woke a couple of times and we go up to stroke his hair and he goes back to sleep.
    And then it starts. He’s literally waking every hour of the night (did this for a while when he was 4 months also, it then stopped on its own eventually, so I’m positive it will eventually even out again; it’s a phaaaaaaaaase 😛 ) and I am worn out. I want to try night weaning because he is now 8 months old, BUT, I work 4 days a week and can pump only once during the day so my son gets supplemented with formula at daycare (at home he gets breastmilk when I’m away). I don’t want to ruin my supply, I want to feed until he’s one year old! What do I do? How many night feedings should I keep to maintain a healthy supply? Is the waking every hour and breastfeedimg his way of maintaining my supply? But I need a break.

    Everyone around me tells me to stop breastfeeding/put him in his own bed and things will solve themselves, but I would never! I’d rather not sleep at all because when I see the look of complete satisfaction, feeling safe, trust and love on my son’s face, I know that I’m definitely not ready for a night time separation.

    But I would like to get, say, at least 3 hours straight before he comes for another feed. Would that maintain my supply enough to make it to a year? Could I go for 4 hours? I’m a bit scared to experiment with this, what do you think?

    Reply
    • Hi Lily! How nice to hear that you want to maintain that close connection with your son at night! The first thing I suggest, is to make sure that you go to bed early enough. If you go to bed well before 10 (more like 8:30 or 9), do you think that would make things easier and allow you to feel more rested? They do say that the hours of sleep you get before midnight are worth more than the ones after midnight. And, again, I think you already know… because you’re away during those 4 days, and you want to continue breastfeeding until at least 1, I would also be weary of night weaning completely. Although he is technically old enough… what if you did at least one feed at night? Like around 11 or something? And then when he wakes in the morning, 5 or 6 or whenever. It’s so hard to say, and I’m not a lactation consultant! But, I think at least one feed at night, maybe even two? and then again early in the morning, and then maybe right before you leave for work (not sure if you could squeeze that one in?), that should keep your supply going. It’s so different with mamas who work because if you want to keep that supply up, yes, night feeds can be an easy ticket. Good luck! Speak with a lactation consultant too, I think they’ll know more than I would.

      Also, I highly recommend reading the book, “Tears and Tantrums’ by Aletha Solter, she will talk about the night wakings. It has to do with stress and accumulated emotions. Xxx

      Reply
  9. This is ME! That picture is US. I love you. Thanks. I needed this

    Reply
  10. Hi.
    I have many questions regarding this.
    My daughter is crying like nothing else when in the car seat, I guess because I can’t pick her up as a always do when she is crying.
    I’m always by her side driving or sitting in back when my husband is driving but it never stops and it’s so hard for me to handle….
    Should I just let her cry like that? She really shakes and it feels so bad letting her do that if we don’t stop and pick her up it goes on forever:(

    🙏🏽Sara

    Reply
    • Hi Sara, I so understand what you’re saying.. how old is your daughter?

      Reply
      • Hi Kate.
        She is 7,5 months old now…

      • Ah, yeah, so crying in the car… It’s hard because it triggers so much in us! So, at that age, she can hear your voice and understand you’re near her, with newborns it can be a little different. So, in aware parenting, we would say that babies release a lot of stress and tension through crying. But, if they don’t get to release their emotions during the day (for example, if we feed them, or give them a soother/pacifier/dummy, then they don’t get to release their emotions. So… then in the car it tends to all come out! Other people would say that being in a carseat reminds a baby of being in the womb, and could also be a release of painful feelings emotions. Of course, this is after you’re sure she doesn’t have a physical need, for example, if she’s already been fed, she’s dry, etc. and she still cries in the car, then it’s a sign it’s a big emotional release. I wonder if any of that resonates with you? There’s a fantastic book called ‘Tears and Tantrums’ by Aletha Solter that I highly recommend and she talks in so much more detail about the crying thing.

    • I’m no expert, but I experienced similar things with my daughter while in the car. For us personally, when I moved to the front seat while in the car, she was more calmer. She would even babble all the way to the place we were going. We do have a mirror that attaches to the headrest so that we can see her, and she can see us, and herself.

      Reply
      • Thank you🙏🏽

        I ordered the book yesterday! That’s how I came across your site:)

        I think why she’s crying is because I always since she was born have picked her up, fed her or had her in the wrap as soon she’s been upset so now in the car she won’t get what she’s used to by me, so yes that resonates totally.
        It’s so stupid cuz I know expressing your true feelings is so important but I been focusing so much listening to baby’s needs and I guess been scared of her being sad/not happy. And I really hate cry it out I don’t believe in that.

        What to do now? She’s a terrible sleeper as well (more than ever at the moment) she wakes up as soon as I try to lay her down or take the breast out of her mouth. It feels like I’ve been digging my own grave a bit here:(

        She will never really cry when she’s in my arms most of the time she’s happy there accept if I just hold here at night without breastfeeding.

        If I don’t breastfeed at night she gets crazy, should I just let her go crazy?
        Cry in my arms. Is it ok to let her go for it inthe crib by sitting next to her or should you always pick her up and hold her until she falls asleep?

        Sorry for all these questions,
        I start working in 1,5 months so I start get a bit desperate 😅

      • Ah, so in aware parenting, we would never recommend doing any sort of cry it out… do you have a partner who would be able to listen to her cry? Sometimes they won’t Cry with us, but will do it with another person who is able to listen. Also, sometimes, if you hold her in a different position, she will cry! And.. really… the car is a good place to allow her to release it, if you can listen to it and verbally tell her you’re listening.

  11. Hi, it’s pretty funny that I’ve just realised I wrote a few years ago when my first daughter woke 10-15 times per night and would hold onto the boob for dear life, until I night weaned her at 22 months. She started sleeping through (for the first time!!!) 3/4 months after her second birthday and now sleeps like a rock! Thank goodness because here I am with a similar story with my nearly six month old, second daughter, who is exactly the bl**dy same and clings on like a limpet (what is that anyway?!) every hour of every night, I don’t have evenings. I read Tears and Tantrums when my eldest wasn’t sleeping well and although it didn’t work for her, I was kind of hoping it would work for my youngest. How silly I was because now of course we all cosleep and I can’t let one cry in my arms while the other is trying to sleep. We live in a tiny flat so going elsewhere is not an option. Plus, my eldest won’t (still!!!) let her dad out her to bed. Poor man he tries and he’s apologetic, but our three year old is not up for being held, physically or not. I feel quite alone and completely overwhelmed. I’m an introvert and desperately need my space, something which I’ve had barely a second of in over three years now. Please just remind me that there’s light at the end?!!!

    Reply
    • Oh mama… big hugs. It does change, but there definitely things you can do in the meantime!! What was it about tears and Tantrums that didn’t work?

      Reply
      • My eldest is highly sensitive. I came across the term high-need baby on the Dr Sears website and that explained some of her behaviour, but Elaine Aron uses the term HSP or HSC (highly sensitive child). It means that only mama will do and crying to sleep in my arms instead of boob resulted in many hours of crying, seriously she once went four hours), vomiting and the exhausting days got far worse for us in that period. Believe it or not it saved our sanity to allow her to feed every half an hour all through the night for more than two years. We managed. Now she’s three and her behaviour is similar, very challenging. And yet one could argue she’s just being a threenager!

        We just tried letting our youngest cry with my husband and it only lasted ten mins before she fell asleep. Huzzah! This is possibly my first evening in six months 😊😊😊😊

      • Oh wow! Happy to hear it worked so easily with the second. I have a fellow aware parent instructor who is much more experienced than I am, and she knows a lot about highly sensitive children. You can ask her about it. On facebook, she is Marion Rose PhD. From my understanding, some children will cry an lot more than others, and that crying to the point of vomiting is a result of too much pent up emotions. This has happened with my middle child a few times and only because I was very comfortable with the process did allow the crying to continue (the crying wasn’t because she wanted boob). Anyway, you may want to follow Marion Rose and ask her any questions about highly sensitive children! She’s really knowledgable.

  12. Love it thanks for the help. So here is my situation. It’s exactly like yours, my 16month old wakes up about 6 times looking dor the boob I quickly put it in her mouth, she goes back to sleep almost right away so do I. Thats not the big problem. Im pregnant 😉 baby #2 is coming in four months….. what am I supposed to do with two!! What im currently trying is… i bought her a mattress/teepee bed so I can be in it with her till she falls at sleep and the I go back to my bed. Hoping she will one day not wake up 3 hrs later screaming for me and go back to her bed and spend the rest of the night there because she wont let g of thw boob fr the rest of the night… pretty much im sleeping in her bed with her. Not very comfortable, im getting less sleep… i was hoping to get her use to her own bed which is right next to mine before the new baby comes so I can co-sleep/breastfeed him/her……

    Reply
    • Oh mama… Well, you still have some time if that helps? I would highly suggest night weaning. At this age, she can make it through the night (and maybe your milk has dried up anyway)? She will sleep so much better. And, if she cries at night because of it, then she will be night weaned by the time the baby comes? I’ve co-slept with all of my children and even when I had newborns, the older ones slept in the same room. They get used to the noise! But, I had them night weaned before the next baby comes, just to save my sanity. I also highly recommend reading the book “Tears and Tantrums” by aletha Solter, she explains so much about night waking and control patters (booking to sleep excessively). I hope that helps.

      Reply
  13. Hi! Thank you so much for this information! I have 4 kids, my older ones were all pretty easy to get to sleep and they had great sleep habits as babies. My youngest is 15 months old, co sleeps and has been exclusively breastfed. I am really struggling to get our night time situation in better standing. He wakes to nurse about twice a night and is very restless in between. He is used to falling asleep at the boob, so my husband and I have been working on rocking him at bedtime and I’ve also been handing him off during the night when he is very restless. It seems to help him get back to sleep when I step away.. but I really appreciate the reminder to not associate boob with sleep. I suppose it just kind of happened for us because.. hey, it works! Lol and missing sleep with having multiple other kids is just so hard. It’s 4am and I’m not sure if I had any real questions or not, but I just wanted to say thanks!

    Reply
    • Oh, I so hear you! Sometimes boob to sleep seems so easy, but then it happens that they end up accumulating emotions and thus the restlessness. I highly recommend reading that book “Tears and Tantrums” So much value in there, and would be for your older children as well. Often, when they’re restless at night, it’s because of pent up emotions. And when we set a loving limit “Say, no boobies” then they cry and then they release the emotion… then they sleep better. Big hugs, and I hope you get better sleep soon!

      Reply
  14. Hi Kate, I started reading “Tears and Tantrums” and noted that Dr. Solter states that the important things to give a crying baby are close physical contact as well as eye contact, verbal encouragement and reassurance, etc… Does this apply to night waking? Must I really turn on a light so that baby and I can make eye-contact while she cries at 3 am? I think this will make it more difficult for everyone to fall back asleep (we are bed-sharing). I have been nursing my 13-month-old daughter on-demand since giving birth, and have been nursing her to fall asleep. She used to be an amazing sleeper until about 6 months, and now wakes more frequently than a newborn. I am desperate for sleep and would like to night-wean. Thank you in advance for any clarification you provide.

    Reply
    • HI Anna! No, I wouldn’t recommend turning on the light! It would be very disturbing. Close contact at night should suffice. And, during the day, you can do the eye contact, talking (if you feel the need), etc. Does that help? And, probably you’ve read more of the book since you left this comment a few days ago now.

      Reply
  15. This is interesting. I’ve never heard of aware parenting before. I’m struggling with my six month old. My first nursed to sleep, then we’d transfer to the crib no problem. Very little crying. He went through a phase of waking every 45 minutes but we managed to get him back on track. We never co-slept, it never occurred to us! Our six month old is a whole other story. Right from birth he wouldn’t nurse to sleep and loved sleeping on us. My husband and I took turns and it worked out well for awhile. Then he got heavy so we moved him to a crib in our room. We had a good routine where my husband would walk around with him for a couple hours and bam asleep! THEN at 5 months all he’ll broke loose and every time we’d try to put him to sleep he’d cry. He’d cry if we walked with him, cried if we rocked him, he’d fall asleep nursing but would cry on the transfer. He’s up multiple times a night crying for hours, cries often during the day. I’ve always assumed I was doing something wrong. I find it very stressful. I’m going to look into the book you’ve reccomeneded. We’re taught to make our baby happy all the time. Everyone’s always asking me “is he a good baby? Is he a happy baby?” And when I say no not really, I feel such shame. I’ve left him in his crib a few times to “cry it out” because so many family members have said “he needs to learn how to sleep on his own”.

    Reply
    • Oh, it must be so hard, especially after you first experience of having that ‘perfect’ baby everyone talks about. Yes, please do read that book. Without knowing anything about your son and his personality and the background, birth, pregnancy, etc. It’s almost certain he has a lot of pent up emotions.

      Reply
  16. So glad I came across your page, thanks for these words they have really helped x

    Reply
  17. Lindsay McCollum

    Hi, Kate!

    Thanks so much for writing this. I am currently struggling with my 5 month old. He is EBF and we co-sleep. He is currently “rousing” every hour. He doesn’t really wake up, he just starts squirming, kicking, rolling about. If left alone, he works himself up to the point of crying out and waking. If put in his bed or rock and play he will sometimes settle with a swaddle but still wakes an hour or 1.5 later. He will settle if I pick him up and rock him or if I offer him my breast, but always wakes an hour later. During the night he will eat a little but isn’t voracious like he can be in the daytime. Towards the end of the night, he doesn’t really want to eat as I know he isn’t hungry! He used to do this when his belly would hurt, and so I have been trying to bicycle and massage his belly but most of the time he doesn’t pass any gas.

    He is just getting over some illness as he caught a cold in late December, then caught the flu, then got an inner ear infection so we are now off of antibiotics and (mostly) well. He started a new daycare last week and his daytime sleep is much better than where he was; at home he typically sleeps 4ish hours of naps but at daycare he sleeps about 3. I give you all this info because it’s been hard for me to figure out what is causing his sleep problems; growth spurt, sickness, teething??

    He went through a period, before he got sick, where he slept a 4-5 hour stretch at the beginning of the night and then woke once or twice at most until morning. I feel like this is appropriate for his age, and by no means do I expect him to sleep through the night as is so often people’s goal. I know he is teething because of the hypersalivation and chewing during the day, but he isn’t overly fussy in the daytime as if it’s hurting him badly. I tried giving a dose of Tylenol before bed the other night to see if pain relief would help but there was no difference. I have increased my dairy a little since he is older but am planning to cut that out again in case it’s bothering his belly. Have you seen anything like my situation before? If so, has it been a phase, and how long typically does it last? I can get through it if I know there is an ending days, or even weeks ahead! My main concern is that I am not negatively impacting his sleep patterns or giving him sleep associations that will be continue to interrupt his sleep.

    Thanks so much!
    Lindsay

    Reply
    • Hi Lindsay! I highly recommend reading the book, “Tears and Tantrums’ by Aletha Solter. I think so many of your questions about frequent night waking will be answered there. Keep co-sleeping, as night time connection is important! And, you can read more about crying and feeding in that book. I hope that helps.

      Reply
  18. You have explained this beautifully, many moms have this issue in the initial months.

    Reply
  19. Hi Kate,thank you for this post, I’m experiencing the same with my seven month old. When you say “offer a cuddle instead” or “don’t feed to sleep” , for us this results in a lot of screaming and protesting. It’s like rocking or cuddling a feral cat to sleep! I could cope with this in the early evening, but it wouldn’t work in the middle of the night while co-sleeping , none of us would get any sleep… any suggestions?

    Reply
    • Oh yes, I understand. We all share a family bed. I was surprised that 95% of the time, my other children slept through screaming! But, obviously, that might not happen in your bedroom, so then try getting the cries out during the day. Or, you can possibly go in another room. A seven month old may still need a feed or two at night time, so I’m not sure if the night waking you’re experiencing is excessive? Or just a few times at night?

      Reply
  20. Hi Kate I really love your article. I am a mother of twins, which are now 8 month old.
    They are both breastfed and I still feed a lot during the day and all night.
    But I am keen to go back to work soon, possible one to two nights per week. I was looking for tips to make this transition as easy as possible for them and find all your tips really useful!!
    Thank you!!
    Katja

    Reply
    • Hi Katja! Great to hear from you! I don’t have experience working nights and with twins! But… I think an approach to take could be just ‘see how it goes’. Would the babies be staying home with dad? They ‘technically’ should be old enough that they don’t need more than one feed at night. But, of course, that’s different for everyone. Maybe the would take a bottle and you could express? Are you on a facebook page for working mothers with twins? They might have an idea?? I guess it depends what their routine is like now. But, babies are so adaptable, I think they always surprise us and usually do better than we think they will. Also, you should read the book ‘Tears and Tantrums’ that way, if they are upset by you working for a night or two, you would be able to understand how to help them release their feelings. Good luck!

      Reply
  21. Hi Kate. I was just advised by my doctor to stop nursing throughout the night. My baby is up every hour of the night to nurse. It has taken a toll on my mental health. I haven’t slept at a stretch for three hours since she was born, she is now 8 months old. My sleep patterns have been effected because of the sleeplessness. The problem is she wants only me during nights, she doesn’t want to be touched by anyone else, not dad, not grandma or grandpa. She cries if my breast in not offered each time she is up. Being a first time parent, I feel so helpless. My husband is firmly trying the ‘no mom’s breast at night time’. This has been hppening since she was a new born, and now she is 8 months old. Please share your suggestions.

    Reply
    • I understand how frustrating that must be. I strongly suggest that you read the book “Tears and Tantrums’ by Aletha Solter. Or, we can always organise a Skype consultation and I can help you that way.

      Reply
  22. Hi Kate, Thanks so much for your ideas – i love feeding my baby to sleep and co sleeping, but she hit 5 months and for the last month shes been waking every one to two hours each night – shes worse now than as a new born.
    I’ve probably made the situation worse by just feeding her every time she wakes up at night, and i dont wait long as i dont want her to wake my hard working husband…
    Is is always the fault of repressed emotions? As my baby girl is The Happiest baby you’ve ever seen. She just smiles and laughs all day.

    Reply
    • Hi! Your story is so common, and know that you’ve done nothing wrong! I highly recommend reading the book, “Tears and Tantrums’ by Aletha Solter. Also, if you would like to set up a consultation on-line, we can do that through Skype. One of my areas of speciality is with breastfed/cosleeping babies and toddlers and sleep, I’m a certified Aware Parent instructor. Let me know if you would like that, the consultations are $60 (Australian dollars) for 45 minutes, plus a questionnaire that you fill out to help me better understand the issues. Restless sleep in babies and toddler is almost always that there are some repression of emotions, and that’s why we do the in depth questionnaire, so that we can get to the bottom of it. I understand it’s hard because they can be such happy little things and then wakes all night! So frustrating and you don’t know who to turn to. Let me know…

      Reply
  23. Hi Kate! Greetings from an exclusively breastfeeding mother from Greece.
    I liked your article a lot, I found it really helpful.
    I have a 10 month old who has always been restless at night. Some nights are better than others, of course. He has never slept in long stretches, even as a newborn (except for a few nights). I keep blaming myself for this, I tend to feel guilty a lot. Also, I’m the only one in my family who has breastfed for so long, so I’m struggling to find support. My husband is always there to support me, but what I really need is some help during the night wakings. My little one used to sleep in dad’s arms sometimes when he woke up at night, but returning to work has made things really difficult. My little one always “asks for mama”, he keeps screaming until I hold him, and almost every time I feel so exhausted so I always lie him down next to me and use breastfeeding as a last resort (which means I have never made it to hold him for more than a few minutes while standing). We always end up bed sharing, which I know helps, but it always tires me so much… I don’t have any space to change position and things are only going to be worse when summertime arrives, we have too hot nights here in Athens. I don’t have any problem cuddling my baby, but I would love it if he could sleep in his crib, which is in our room, tied next to our bed (I can put my hand between the crib slats and touch him, but it never works, he wants to be held)
    Another thing that really bothers me is that he doesn’t have any teeth yet, so he’s obviously teething (wakes up fussing and crying, drooling, doing mouth sounds in the middle of the night). The problem with that is that he changes his latch during night wakings, he only takes my nipple and not much of the areola, which is REALLY annoying and painful. IN fact, I hate it, although it doesn’t actually hurt my nipple skin (no tearing, not any blood – thank goodness!- only some irritation which doesn’t last for long for the rest of the day).
    I REALLY don’t know what to do to lessen the discomfort of my (our) situation.

    ANY advice is welcome (and needed!)

    P.S. To top all of the above, I’m bad sleeper myself, it’s hard to fall asleep (I have always been a bad sleeper) and I wake up easily. I also have postpartum hyperthyroidism problems, and Grave’s disease. Enough said.)

    Reply
    • Oh… it all sounds a bit stressful for you! There are certainly things that will help with him sleeping better at night, without you having to break that night time connection. I highly recommend reading the book, “Tears and Tantrums’ by Aletha Solter. Also, if you would like to set up a consultation on-line, we can do that through Skype. One of my areas of speciality is with breastfed/cosleeping babies and toddlers and sleep, I’m a certified Aware Parent instructor. Let me know if you would like that, the consultations are $60 (Australian dollars) for 45 minutes, plus a questionnaire that you fill out to help me better understand the issues. Big hugs to you!

      Reply
  24. I have this issue too. I think the biggest reason I don’t want to let my 13 month old cry is because I have a 3 year old that also cosleeps and is not happy when woken. It’s just less drama to nurse him then to deal with 2 upset kids in the middle of the night. My husband works nights otherwise I would have him take my 3 year old to the other room. Any suggestions anyone?

    Reply
    • Hi Danielle,
      I totally understand that. I also co-sleep with my three kids. So, what you can do is give your 13 month old opportunities to cry throughout the day (supported cries, of course) and before bed time, especially, they tend to have some really big cries before bed if you don’t feed to sleep. The idea is that if he cries before bed (in your presence) he will have a more restful sleep.

      Reply
  25. Charlotte Steventon

    Hi!
    I just came across your article. I have an 8month old boy, we Co sleep and breastfeed. He’s never been a great sleeper. It’s interesting what you said about crying, Noah wakes every hour sometimes, would you recommend cuddling and soothing to sleep even if he’s crying? I too am guilty of sticking a boob in his mouth as soon as he stirs. I was previously recommended putting a sippy cup of water in his mouth so he gets to realise the boob won’t be there on every waking. And with napping too, he only really naps in carrier, car or when being held. Would you say to try to soothe him to sleep even If he cries? He always goes to sleep if he has a boob.

    Reply
    • Hi Charlotte! It’s so nice that you’re there for your son both day AND night. It’s really some thing that depends on how you’re feeling at nights. Some mothers really just want their babies to go back to sleep and feel desperate, so they use the boob. Others are really tired of the night waking and want to slowly start night weaning. You could absolutely try giving a sippy cup, if you feel like he’s thirsty but maybe not hungry? Other options are to read that book, “Tears and Tantrums’ by Aletha Solter, or we can set up a Skype consultation and we can discuss all of this is in a lot more detail. Just let me know 🙂

      Reply
  26. Hello Kate I’m at the moment a struggling breastfeeding mom I have 3 children the last two are close together in age, one just turned 18 months and one just turned 7 months, I love my babies to bits and I absolutely love breastfeeding but I feel over exhausted my 18 months dd only slept threw a week before new dd was here, so basically I’ve been in and out of sleep for along time the night times are very tiring but I love it, love being with her and watching her enjoy her every fed. So here’s where the trouble is… In the day she will moan so badly mother all day but quite a bit enough to make me put my head in my hands, if I’m with her and holding her she’s absolutely fine the second I put her down and leave like to cook or clean ect satan himself enters my flat! She screams and has like 4 different levels 1.moaning 4.screaming that loud and sadly the neighbours must think I’m killing her, the second she sees me she’s the happiest girl in the world and its lovely knowing she wants me but I can’t always be there but here’s the thing, i literally have to take her everywhere with me shopping school runs i can’t do anything by myself because my partner will moan that all she does is cry without me she’s on solids I thought that would help but it hasn’t I just don’t know what to do anymore giving up breastfeeding isn’t what I want to do!!. I do everything in the flat we live in and no amount of conversations are going to change that unfortunately so I would appreciate it if maybe you could help me shine some light into my lonely crazy mind. And not just the same answer “Put her on bottles”

    Thank you so much for your time 🙂

    X

    Reply
    • Hi Kirsty! Oh, big hugs to you! It is so hard when babies are that close together! I highly recommend reading two Aware Parenting books, “Tears and Tantrums” (first) by Aletha Solter and then “Attachment Play”. And you also have to listen to your body, if the tandem feeding is getting to be too much, it’s ok to cut back (or even wean) a little for your own sanity. I’m also happy to do an aware parent consultation with you if you want. I do it through Skype. I would need you to fill out a questionnaire so I can get a bigger picture of what’s going on. Just let me know.

      Reply
  27. Thank you for this article!! I have been struggling with deciding how to help my son (and myself!) get better sleep. I’ve always nursed to sleep and then placed in his crib right next to bed. It worked for us for a long time. He’d wake every 3-4 hours, nurse, fall right back asleep and I’d put him back in his crib. The last few weeks he was nursing for what felt like the entire night, and would sleep if I held him and my boob was in his mouth but I couldn’t put him back in the crib or he’d scream… so I was co-sleeping out of despairation because I work full time as a medic and needed some sort of sleep to function safely at work. My husband started to push for cry it out, but I just can’t imagine abanding my baby while he screams. I never even thought about letting him cry while holding him! Tonight I fed him solids then nursesd so I knew he was full, then snuggled my little guy while he had a good cry. He was so mad and trying so hard to get to that boob, but after about 15 min he was sound asleep on my chest and I was able to lay him in his crib and enjoy the evening with my husband. He woke his usual 3-4 hours to eat, then right back to sleep in the crib, which I’m very happy with for now and am not ready to night wean yet since I don’t get to see him for 13 hour stretches when I work. Thanks for the article and advice!! I’m definitely going to check out ‘Tears and Tantrums’

    Reply

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