My 11-month old baby boy co-sleeps with us literately at my breast. I can’t move him out of my bed.
DR. RUTHERFORD: She’s going to have to prepare to have a few nights of discomfort with the baby because he’s gotten so used to soothing himself by having her breast in his mouth and using it like a pacifier.
MOLLY: This question was submitted from a Mom in Fort Myers, Florida. She added that if he’s not in a deep sleep, he cries at “any attempt to remove my nipple out of his mouth and wakes up if I insist (wide awake). I am ready to move him out of our bed and wean him and am already feeding him formula during the day (he only breastfeeds at night).” What can she do to get this baby off her boob and out of her bed?
DR. RUTHERFORD: Clearly she has to change what she’s doing because the baby is so addicted to it and she is ready to move on to the next stage. She wants to move him out of the bed and begin weaning him from this sleeping pattern.
There are other ways she can soothe the baby other than giving him her breast. She can continue to breastfeed him at night and then put him in the crib. And even if he cries, she can go in and pat his back but she needs to stop feeding in the middle of the night and not bring him into her bed with her.
MOLLY: She could offer him a pacifier instead, that might help soothe him and he might want something in his mouth. I know that my youngest was a pacifier baby and we were grateful for it.
DR. RUTHERFORD: Absolutely, I think a pacifier can be a good alternative. The suckling instinct is very strong for babies but they don’t necessarily need to receive nourishment to satisfy that instinct.
MOLLY: There’s a sleep-training book that I found really helpful because it gave a step-by-step plan to follow when moving a child out of your bed and how to train him in a very kind and gentle way that works. It’s called The Sleep Easy Solution.
DR. RUTHERFORD: In addition, she and her husband or partner need to be on board together with this. They have to understand that they may have a few difficult nights but it will be worth the effort for everyone’s sleep.
MOLLY: Is there anything she should be considering in terms of long-term effects?
DR. RUTHERFORD: That’s actually a hard question to answer because the baby is just 11 months old and we’re look for patterns that effect people in the long term.
That said, parents should always be on the look out for any pattern of difficulty with change. Changes tend to be hard for children anyway, but if a pattern is noticed and this pattern affects the child’s life negatively, then the parents might want to address that and help the child overcome any reluctance to “move on”.