Mama needs help: baby wakes her up every night

Got this query:
“I am a 30 week pregnant mum of a 20 month old toddler. I was at home for the first year and have worked for 6 months. I co sleep withmy toddler who is still beastfeeding ….. but he wakes so regularly at night …. I am the only one who can feed him back to sleep. He is struggling with excema that seems to be getting worse and the advice that I have had from the medical profession and homeopath is that I should stop breastfeeding and co sleeping …. I would love to find out more about anyone who has been in the same position and got through it with some sanity.”

I don’t have much advice to offer as, well, a Dad.
Hopefully you, dear reader, have more to offer to help her out?

18 comments on “Mama needs help: baby wakes her up every night

  1. You doctors are right stop both over about a 1-2 week period. The baby is running you instead of the other way around and the baby knows it. It is okay to let them cry. They will stop when they are tired. Children don’t break easily but they do like to control. Sleep with your husband and let the child learn to sleep alone. It is better for the child. After three boys that are all men now they survived just fine.

  2. I coslept until my son was over 2. While it does help to wean, you also have to give your child other self soothing mechanism. Can you give a sippy cup of water instead of nursing? It might go badly at first, but over time, if the breast is not offered, the toddler will learn that it isn’t an option. I cut the middle of the night feedings first when I weaned, but it doesn’t mean you have to completely wean. Cutting the feeding was hard for about a week, then it was done. Once it was out of the picture and we stowed a sturdy sippy in the bed where he could reach it, we started getting a full night of sleep.
    We co-slept past this point and it was fine. You have to make the choices that are right for your family. If co-sleeping is part of that, stick with it. If not, explore your options.

  3. Can’t tell you about the cosleeping or breastfeeding past a year thing – but eczema? That shouldn’t be affected by either.
    Things that will help the eczema:
    1) wash sheets (actually all laundry) in a “free” detergent (Tide Free, Cheer Free, All Free… etc) – no dyes, perfumes. You’d be surprised how much difference that will make
    2) if you continue to cosleep? watch anything with perfumes (including wearing perfume!) b/c if they are on your skin, they will end up on his
    3) Bathe child *every* day and at end of bath before putting any clothes on, slather with a good ‘sealant’ cream to seal in moisture. Best we’ve found? Vanicream… you can get it at pretty much any place with a pharmacy – but most keep it behind the counter even tho it’s not prescription b/c it’s great for making compounds is their website
    4) For hand & foot eczema (usually due to things like soap on hands, or putting in mouth) extra slather on something like aquaphor or vaseline just prior to bedtime then cover with socks so that it doesn’t get all over bed (yes, even hands!) A couple days usually takes care of bad spots

  4. My partner and I still co-sleep with our 3.5 yr old daughter. We don’t defend that decision to anyone, including doctors.
    My partner was breast feeding until just a few months ago, and I can relate more to your husband than to you. But here is what worked for us.
    She started out only nursing to sleep and at waking up and maybe once in the middle of the night. Any other time our daughter woke up, she was allowed to have a bottle of rice milk. She is allergic to wheat and dairy and had horrible eczema until we cut those out of her diet.
    She then started cutting her back to bedtime and waking up. The switch to the rice milk bottle was not a big deal to our kiddo, because we introduced it to her in a bottle during the day.
    After a couple weeks of this, she cut her back to just bedtime nursing. She could have rice milk or water in the middle of the night, but no breast milk.
    She is fully weaned, drinks water at night if she is thirsty, but is now cutting down on that as well.
    The other thing we did, which works on and off, is putting her toddler bed at the foot of our king sized bed. We have the box springs and mattress on the floor, so they end up being the same height. She can sleep in it if she wants, but it is up to her, and we are close by so she feels secure.
    As for your hubby, if he has to sleep and you can handle the little one on your own, ear plugs are a gift from the sleeping elves. I had to sleep in the guest room some nights, with my phone by the bed, in case my partner needed something, she could text me a request without waking up the kiddo.
    The Dr. Sears books are what we go by when it comes to the co-sleeping issue. We find him to be very helpful and his advise has worked for us 99% of the time.
    Good luck, and feel free to email if you need to vent.

  5. I don’t think either Co-s or Bf’ing has anything to do with the excema. I would contact LLL or more info. At 20 months they are often more clingy. So it’s a tough time for big changes, but it can be done. But do it only if you want to and I would suggest only one thing at a time. Pick a plan to transition and stick to it. Consistancy is so important. It’s fairly easy to switch them to no night nursing, but you have to decide how you want to do it. I used a bottle that he goes to bed with and sometimes wakes up crying if he can’tfind it, but not too much. You could try sleeping on the other side of your partner and wearing a bra. Maybe move him to a co-sleeper so he is nearby, but not feeling you every time you roll over. I only Co-s for 6 mo with both my children and glad I did. They both sleep well now. I still bf both my toddlers.

  6. Well, for one thing, the excema is most likely unrelated to the breastfeeding or the co-sleeping, unless your lotions, soaps or detergents are the cause of the allergy. If anything, continuing to nurse will continue to give your little one a boost in the fight against allergens. Unless YOU want to stop nursing and co-sleeping, I would say there is no reason to. What you need to do is see an allergist and see what is causing the excema because that is probably the cause of the night waking. My son (3 1/2) has excema as well, that we have not found the cause for, and he has night waking issues too, due to itching. When he is at the height of a breakout, I give him benedryl and he gets steroid and antibiotic ointments to help make him comfortable and let his skin heal.
    Only you and your partner can decide when it’s right for you to stop nursing or co-sleeping. Don’t let any Dr try to talk you into stopping before you are ready. You are the expert on your situation, and don’t let others make decisions for you 🙂 And good on you for nursing this long! WOOT!

  7. We still co-sleep with kid 2 (3.5 years old) and kid 1 comes in on occasion (6.5 years old).. and we breast fed for 2 years.. each..
    When you go to the Doctor.. they are being paid by you.. so they feel pressure to give you an answer.. even if they don’t really have an answer.. so.. the first thing they’ll think of is something they don’t understand… and that is co-sleeping.
    How can doctors continue to regurgitate training that isn’t based on science.. surely a crib and taking away the best dietary supplement imaginable can’t be a magic cure for excema ..
    Sorry.. you’re asking here because you know that the doc is wrong.. go with your instinct.. don’t listen to him.

  8. I disagree with your doctor as well. I breastfed all 3 of my kids until they were in their third year. Breastmilk is great for kids with allergies! They slept with us (or in a side-carred crib) until they were around 4, and will still come in if they have a bad dream or are sick, although we rarely see the 12 year old. 🙂
    I did night wean the kids as they approached 2 for my own sanity. They were fairly verbal, so I would explain that I needed to sleep and would nurse them when the sun came up. I offered them water, which helped with the transition. And if they didn’t cooperate and go back to sleep, DH and I told them they would have to go in a different room because they were disturbing our sleep. A few times, he had to take them to their room, but once they saw we were serious, they would settle down and be allowed to return. The key for us was being consistent. Good luck!

  9. I’m a co-sleeping granny. Our 3.5 yo g’daughter lives with us. Although she has her own bed and room, she’s allowed in our bed anytime she wants. So, were all of our children — each stopped on their own timetable.
    First, 20 months is not too old to be in the comfort and security of the co-bed. Someone once said humans are the only creature that throws their infants out of the warmth of the nest immediately.
    The health care providers appear to be more concerned with separating the baby from you, then the well-being of your child.
    The excema is an irritation or allergy. The only connection to breastfeeding is if you eat something he’s allergic to. However, that would have shown up long ago. (My youngest has severe food allergies. I had to give up poultry, milk, and corn while I breastfeed.)
    Throwing your precious son out of your bed will not improving your sleeping. Not only is it tough to sleep at 30 weeks, but your son’s discomfort will continue.

  10. Please, please look into food allergies or intolerances as a cause of your son’s excema. Gluten grains (wheat, barley, rye and oats) are a very common cause of excema, as is the protein in milk and other cow’s milk dairy products. Consider a two-week trial of removing gluten and cow’s milk dairy from both his diet and your diet (since the proteins pass through your milk). If they are the cause of the excema, you should see improvement within that timeframe. And please, please don’t stop nursing him or co-sleeping with him — he needs you right now. He’ll wean on his own timeframe, and will seek independence in other ways.

  11. Some good and interesting advice above. I have some experience in this arena being 22 weeks pregnant with a 22-month-old. I nightweaned him when he was 20 months because I was so exhausted, breastfeeding was very uncomfortable, and we were both unhappy (he was frustrated that my supply is down, I was in pain and tired). I took a week of explaining that “milk is sleeping” and that “more milk when it’s light out” (he understood the difference between night/day light/dark at that point). He was angry/frustrated, but not sobbing and inconsolable. The first few nights he was thirsty, so we kept a cup of water nearby for him, and a few nights I would go to the couch and my husband would stay in bed with him. After about a week, he started having a bedtime snack and the night wakings for hunger/thirst stopped. After We also transitioned him into a full-size bed in his own room around this time and he started sleeping much better. Now if he wakes up at night, either my husband or I will go climb into bed with him and either sleep or snuggle until he falls back asleep. Everyone gets more sleep, and even though I’m sad that we’re closer to weaning (he nurses a couple of times per day, sometimes only once), everyone gets good sleep and I’m not so frazzled. My husband also feels like a part of the solution, and that is going to be immensely helpful when Baby Brother is here.
    I would give you this take-away: You need to do what feels right for you, your little one, and your family. You can’t be a good parent if you’re chronically exhausted and a nursing relationship should work for both of you (notice I didn’t say “be enjoyable”, but it shouldn’t be miserable for you). Nightweaning can be undone if it’s not working, and sleeping accomodations can be re-arranged. If you try something for a few nights and it’s not working or getting any better, then change it. Good luck to you!

  12. I am nursing a 9 month old and nursed my older son until he was 3.5 years old. When he was about 2 I explained to him that nennies went to sleep at night too. He was pretty upset but not hysterical or anything. We still co-sleep with both. My baby has had eczema and we have a family history of allergies. I have Celiac’s. I currently do not ingest any gluten, dairy, soy, eggs, or peanuts and his allergic symptoms have gone away. It’s not easy but I did the same with my eldest and he is (touch wood) allergy free. My nutritionist tells me that if you can avoid the most common allergens (see above) for the first 2 years and breastfeed, you should be home-free.
    Most importantly, do what is right for you and for your family. Do not apologize for those decisions either.
    Good luck!

  13. I raised 5 children and breastfed everyone. My oldest son liked to nurse constantly throughout the night and I could not get a good night’s sleep. I was not pregnant but was working regularly, and needed that extra rest. What worked for us (thank goodness my husband was willing to take a role) was that my husband slept with the baby for several nights until the baby learned that nights were for sleeping. He readjusted his schedule when nursing was not a choice. Something like this may also work for you. Toddlers are old enough to make it through the night without nursing. Remember, you have rights, too! And in the long run, it will be a service to your child to set firm parameters. That way he will begin to intenalize his own boundaries.

  14. I’m currently 10 weeks pregnant and my OB (and the RN) told me that I MUST wean my son by 20 weeks gestation. She said that the nipple stimulation releases Prolactin after 20 weeks and could cause pre-term labor. She also said it takes essential fats away from the growing baby and makes you extra tired. So, I’m a little surprised to hear you’re nursing this far along in the pregnancy, but if it’s not a problem like they said it would be, then go for it! But, sounds like maybe weaning might help but I wouldn’t want to have to make that decision 🙁
    Luckily for me, my son recently weaned himself just several weeks ago, but he’s also almost three years old so it was a very gradual process. He was only nursing in the mornings anyhow and it was mostly just for comfort, so I’m very grateful it wasn’t too emotional for either of us. Occasionally he still asks to nurse, but my breasts are getting really tender and I tell him that and he’s old enough to understand it and “let me off the hook.” I just cuddle with him extra now. I keep a sippy cup of water on the nightstand for when he crawls in bed with us in the mornings. I also keep some crackers in a dish handy that he can snack on if he wants. (I do make sure the crackers are not a choking hazard though and I’m awake when he’s snacking on them. He usually will wake me and ask if he can have some first.) This serves two purposes: handy morning sickness grab for me, and a snack for him until I feel less green and can get out of bed to make him breakfast!
    I see no problem with co-sleeping or extended nursing, but you just have to trust your instincts and do what is comfortable for you. Our son still occasionally comes into our room and climbs up in bed with us. We cheat and put a foot stool at the bottom of the bed and he helps himself up and snuggles in between us and we don’t even wake up much. Works for us! Until I wake up with a foot in my mouth or an elbow in my eye socket – then I usually carry him (while he’s asleep) back off to his own bed.
    Our son also had eczema for the 1st year or so. It was terrible and made me want to cry at times. It got so bad at one point where we had to use a steroid cream. That stuff clears it up very fast when it’s really bad, but it’s not something you want to do often. For us, he just eventually grew out of it, but honestly – a big part of it was me quitting my job to stay home. Lots of things cleared up once he was no longer in day care.
    We used a petroleum cream called Eucerin (dr. recommended) and it helped a lot. You have to slather it on regularly. His day care was not following our instructions for putting it on his skin and that was one of the last straws for me in pulling him out and staying home and now I’m MUCH happier – we all are!
    I won’t lie and say there is a magic formula – there just isn’t. Our son didn’t sleep through the night until this past year – after the age of two. Sorry to tell you that. We just kept letting him sleep with us so we could at least get some sleep instead of fighting it. We sometimes let him cry, but it was not easy and you have to figure out what your tolerance is. 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 20? Constant checking in on him and reassurance that we weren’t going to just abandon him helped. Sometimes telling him – “Mommy has to go put something away and I’ll be back in a few minutes to check on you” helped. I wouldn’t just lie, I would come back and sometimes repeat the process.
    Well, I hope some of this may help you a tiny bit. Best of luck and hope it all works out! Just remember, it’s only temporary. It’s not going to be like this forever. When they are teenagers and getting into other things, we might just as well wish for these times back!! 🙂

  15. You’ve gotten a lot of great advise about co-sleeping (keep going) and breastfeeding (keep going) and eczema (get it treated), but not one mentioned anything about your going back to work.
    I know it’s been 6 months, which seems like a long enough time to adjust (to us), but for our little ones, sometimes having mommy away for that long (all day) isn’t easy on them. Some reverse their cycle and decided that it’s easier to spend more time with mommy when she’s home (at night) rather than be awake during the day, when she’s not home.
    Some things to look at: How long are his daytime naps? Are they scheduled or does the caregiver let him sleep when he’s tired, and wake when he’s ready? Is he sleeping too much during the day? Not enough?
    And then, you’re pregnant. If your pg is anything like mine, you are exhausted…and not sleeping at night anyway!
    With a new one on the way, your toddler is sure to pick up on the changes he may be sensing around him. If you are talking to him about the baby (which is a good thing!), he knows something BIG is about to happen…and big change is scary and stressful to little ones–we know what is going to happen, and look at how stressed WE are when expecting a new baby! Moving him out of the bed now will only stress him more–and when the new baby comes, moving him may pave the way for disaster!
    Eczema, pg, bfing and co-sleeping–all that aside, babies around this age always seem to have difficulties sleeping. Some kids are just born to sleep, others, like your and two of mine (I have 4), just want to be awake ALL night long, tossing and turning.
    Reassure your little one that you are there, and will be there even after the baby comes. Remind him he’s doing a great job preparing to be a big brother, and spend a little extra time with him every night before bedtime, and you’ll be fine! Get some sleep, Momma, even if you have to steal it throughout the day!
    Best of luck, you’re doing a great job!

  16. My wife nursed our twins until they were 30 months. They are now 8 and one still cosleeps about half time. He is highly sensitive and needs the connection to calm down after particularly hectics days.
    Ask your providers how they make the connection between BF and CoS to eczema, I’d be curious in their response.
    I didn’t see anyone mention vaccines. My daughter’s eczema started in the area of the shot and continued ’til she was 5. That round of shot also disturbed their sleep patterns. Needless to say we discontinued vacs after that experience.

  17. I am not a mommy, yet, but I have been a Nanny for close to 5 years now with the same family. I remember when the little one was having trouble sleeping in her own bed and be weaned from breast feeding that her mom gave her a sippy cup in her bed and also gave her a teddy bear that you can program your own voice into (you can also load MP3’s into the bear and has some other features). “Little miss” loved this teddy bear and the weaning process was much more enjoyable for all parties involved. I think the teddy bear was called a lulla-bear. Hope this helps!!!

  18. Our 2 yr. old had/has eczema. A few things to consider:
    The breastfeeding may only be a problem if he has an allergy to something you’re eating. In case of my 2yr old it was an allergy to Dairy and Soy, he has since grown out of it. If you haven’t already, check and see if your toddler has any allergies, you may have to adjust your diet.
    Another thing was that my toddler wanted comfort rather than being hungry/thirsty. When my wife didn’t nurse him she would hold his face(something he’s always liked) and allowed him to snuggle the breast and that comforted him.
    If its a case of being hungry, try to feed him something heavier at night e.g oatmeal etc. That way he isn’t waking up as often. If its a thirst issue try having a sippy cup with water.
    I know the constant waking and breastfeeding can be hard, based on my wife’s comments. It has helped that my wife’s milk supply is decreasing during this current pregnancy and the 2yr old is drinking less.
    P.S I don’t know if you’re using any creams etc. for the eczema but there is a great natural product called Florasone, that in my experience worked better than hydrocortisone. If that doesn’t work a mild prescription might be appropriate.

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