Question: My daughter is 15 months old, and I am a SAHM who nurses her through the night. Lately she has been wanting to nurse MORE frequently. She used to just nurse once or twice a night for about 5 minutes or so. Now it’s 2 or 3 times and she nurses for 10 minutes or more. I feel like we are moving more backwards than forwards. She gets plenty of solid foods to eat during the day. Is this just a phase she is going through?
Answer: It probably is a phase, and I can guarantee it won’t last forever. Babies nurse for so many reasons besides hunger: loneliness, nightmares, temporary insecurity due to developmental “separation anxiety,” or discomfort from teething or a cold. There is no way for me to know exactly why she is waking up more frequently lately, but I do know that stressing about it and looking at it as a step backwards is not going to help the situation.
There are tons of books on the market that claim to be able to teach parents how to train their babies to sleep, but if those methods really worked, then new theories and books on the topic wouldn’t be coming out all the time, and the person who really had it all figured out would be a trillionaire.
This isn’t really a breastfeeding problem, because formula-fed toddlers often go through periods of more frequent wakefulness as well. If you’re nursing, you have a built in way to comfort your baby and nurse her back to sleep (one of many benefits of breastfeeding).
The one thing that I can tell you for sure is that this, too, shall pass. One day the same clingy little toddler who wants constant attention from you will be jumping in a car and leaving on a date with a teenaged boy, while you are sitting at home wondering what she’s doing and what time she’ll get back. Believe me, this will happen before you know it, and you will have fond memories of these toddler days when she needed you so much.
The article Night Waking: Will I Ever Get a Good Night’s Sleep Again? has more information about your toddler’s sleep patterns and how they differ from adults.
Anne Smith, IBCLC