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Pink Sugar


​There’s no question about it, nursing a toddler is wonderful.  It creates a beautiful bond between a mother and child, and it helps ease oh-so-many of those little person woes. For mothers whose toddlers wake up frequently at night to nurse, it can also be exhausting. At some point in the toddler nursing relationship, a mother may wish to night wean her child.  It is for this mother that this book was written.  This book will help a mother teach her child – through beautiful words and illustrations – that they should nurse during the day, and sleep at night.
Toddlers who wake at night to nurse are typically incredibly attached to nursing; moreover, to the comfort and love that they get from mother when nursing at the breast.  Weaning before a child is ready can cause a great deal of fear, sadness and anxiety in a little person.  Thus, night weaning – like any weaning from breastfeeding – needs to be done very gently, and gradually, and with the utmost compassion and love.


Considerations prior to night weaning:

  1. Make sure YOU are really ready to night wean.  Night weaning a toddler can be emotionally and physically challenging for you.  You will need to be able to compassionately handle your child’s emotions (anger, sadness, frustration) when they wake at night to nurse and you turn down their request.  Unless you are ready internally to go through with the night weaning, it will be very difficult; you’ll find it easier to nurse than deal with your child’s emotions, and your child will sense that you’re not serious about night weaning.  You may also want to consider making a plan for getting some extra daytime sleep during the day leading up to, and the week that you plan to night wean.  If you are able, enlist the help of your spouse or partner, other family member, or a baby sitter to watch your toddler in the mornings so that you can take a nap.

  2. Make sure your child is ready to night wean.  Note that babies under a year old should not be night weaned.  Babies need the nutrition and calories from your overnight milk, and are too young to understand limitations being placed on their ability to nurse.  Toddlers, however, have at least some language sills, and thus can better understanding what a mother is communicating.  Using the technique below, give night weaning a try on your toddler.  If they react with outrage (hitting, screaming), they may not be ready to be night weaned.  You may wish to make another attempt to night wean in a couple of months.

Two weeks prior to night weaning:


  1. Have lots of conversations with your toddler about the night weaning concept.  Using age appropriate language, them how you are feeling, e.g. that you are so tired and that you would like them to stop nursing at night so that you can have lots of energy during the day to play.  Talk to your child about night/dark and day/light.  Read them Nursies When the Sun Shines.  Feel free to replace the word “nursies” in the book for whatever you call nursing in your family.  Talk to them about the concepts in the book; nursing is for day time when the sun comes up. When the sun goes down and it’s dark, it’s time to sleep.  When you talk, use pantomime.  At night before bed, point out the window and say “It’s dark. It’s night time. It’s time for sleeping.”  When they wake up in the morning, point out the window and say “It’s daytime! See the sun? It’s time for nursies!” During these weeks as you communicate concepts, you continue to nurse on demand at night.

Your first night of night weaning:


  1. Have the conversation about night weaning as usual, but this time make clear that tonight’s the night.  Let them know that when they wake up at night tonight, the nursies will be sleeping, and that they’ll have nursies when they wake up in the morning.  

  2. Make sure to wear a top that is not nursing friendly and easy for a child to lift up (sports bra, turtleneck, layers).

  3. Have a sippy cup of water and perhaps a healthy snack nearby – this will help ease your worries that they are waking because they are thirsty or hungry.

  4. When your toddler wakes to nurse, point out the window and tell them that it’s dark outside, that nursies are sleeping, and that they need to go back to sleep.  Tell them that instead of nursing, you will hold their hand and give them lots of kisses.  Give them those hugs and kisses and cuddles and tell them that you love them lots.  Tell them they can have water if they’re thirsty and offer the sippy cup.  Offer them a bit of food if you’d like.  If your child is developmentally ready to night wean, they will probably fuss or cry in your arms for a little while, and then calm down and go back to sleep.  

  5. Repeat each time your child wakes during the night.

  6. When they wake up and it’s daylight, make the first morning nursing session a big occasion. Show them how excited you are that it’s day time and it’s now time for nursing.

The nights following:


  1. Continue having the before-bed conversation as above, and when they wake at night, continue to give them love and cuddles in lieu of nursing.  Your child may continue to wake and fuss for a week or so.  Eventually, however, night waking to nurse should be greatly reduced or eliminated, and you will begin to get a full night’s sleep again!

Other notes and information:
Waiting until the sun shines is hard for little people.  Don’t expect for them to sleep in to 7am or 8am when you first night wean.  Allow early wake up times when you start, such as 5 or 6 am.  Especially during the winter months, when the sun does not rise until later, you may wish to choose a time in the morning that you designate as daytime – and instead of using the sun as a guidepost, turn the lights on in the room to indicate morning and “the sun shining.”  Other parents use special “wake up time” alarm clocks to signal to their child it is morning.  While these things do blur the concept a bit, they should work for most toddlers.  
If your toddler is ill, you may want to make an exception and allow them to night nurse.  When ill, toddlers need extra love and comfort, as well as the antibodies in your milk.  Once the illness passes, you may need to start the night weaning process again, but it should be easier having done it before.  The same consideration applies if there are significant stressors or changes going on in your family – toddlers are very perceptive and may need the extra night time comfort that your breasts provide.

Sleeping blessings to all!
Katherine Havener IBCLC RLC
Author, Nursies When the Sun Shines
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