I have been working recently on night-weaning my daughter.

She has generally taken to my gentle discouragements fairly well and settles quite happily for a quick cuddle and back to sleep, as long as I am there. But – if I am not there, she will not sleep! Not at all, no matter how tired she is. She clings to me and, if I so much as think of abandoning her to her bed, she cries and crawls out of bed, trying to follow me out of the room.

So much for my evening “me” time…

I had an inkling of an idea that my unsettled evenings and the night weaning might be linked. Today after a very useful conversation at BIBS, I have a much clearer idea about this.

One thought was that my littl’un might be missing out on her “sucking quota”.

(As an interesting aside, I’ve changed my views on dummies a little. The comments on this breastfeeding / attachment parenting website are a fair summary of where I am at at the moment on those. Note: you might want to turn the sound off on your PC before you click on either of those links!)

The theory is – more or less – that babies and toddlers need to suck, not just for food but also for comfort and generally for their emotional well-being. The scientists call this non-nutritive sucking. Babies and toddlers weaned “too early” can become unsettled even at times when they would not normally nurse, just because they are lacking their sucking time and so feeling out of balance. So, by not feeding her at night, am I failing to meet her sucking needs?

In the evenings, it isn’t milk she wants, it’s cuddles. She doesn’t ask for milk, or only for a quick little drink at most. Similarly, in the night, she doesn’t usually ask to nurse anymore: she is happy with a cuddle. Moreover, if she misses out on sucking, she has her thumb to hand (quite literally!) and she does regularly use it.

So I think she gets plenty of sucking, and has the option to suck her thumb if she wants more. On balance, I’m not convinced that she is missing the sucking part of our night feeds. It’s not non-nutritive sucking that she lacks, just general non-nutritive mummy time. Our night feeds used to be a good long snuggly affair, two or three times a night. Now we just have a quick cuddle once a night. That’s what she misses, I think.

So the answer has to be more daytime cuddles and as much non-nutritive mummy time as we can squeeze in during waking hours. How lovely đŸ™‚

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