I work weekend nights - baby doesn't sleep for Grandma

Please help. My daughter is 10 months old. She is my second breastfed baby. The first was weaned at five months during a nursing strike -- I didn't know what was happening. I was determined to nurse this baby until she weaned herself but I have run into a problem that I can't seem to solve. I am 39 and a smoker (about 1/2 a pack a day). I'm an RN in a LDRP unit and only work weekend nights, 7pm till 7:30am. My daughter has never been much of a sleeper. She catnaps and nurses every three to four hours. She started solids at six and a half months and eats three good meals and snacks. I went back to work when she was 12 weeks old and she seemed to be doing fine. My mom comes over and spends the night at our house to watch her for me. She bottle-fed six kids and is really not supportive of breastfeeding. She has said that Jenna didn't like breastmilk in the bottle and gives her Enfamil. Instead of sleeping longer and longer at night when I'm at work, Jenna has started sleeping less! She fusses and cries (and she's normally a very happy baby) and now refuses anything from a bottle. I've also tried a pacifier and she's not interested. She's awake with Mom most of the night and Mom is convinced I should wean her. I've also noticed that during the week, she does a lot of non-nutritive sucking during the night. Is it the nicotine? Should she sleep in a crib? Does she need to be weaned?


Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Dear Carol,

Your little one sounds like she's going through a difficult time right now. It doesn't seem like it would be a good time to begin weaning her, or to begin transitioning her into her own bed to sleep. Though nicotine passed through your milk can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, I don't think that is the problem or you would have been seeing it at other times. (This is not likely since you are not a very heavy smoker.) It is very unlikely that a pacifier will work. Pacifiers will usually not be accepted by a baby of Jenna's age. From what you are telling me, it sounds as if the problem centers around the time your mom stays with your little one while you work nights on. It seemed to start when your Mom began giving her formula, rather than breastmilk in a bottle. (Maybe she's allergic to cow's milk in the formula. This can lead to a very uncomfortable tummy!) As young as your baby is, she knows that you and your Mom are at odds over this situation. Jenna seems to be protesting!

I would say a good talk, alone with your Mom, is in order. Sit down with your Mom at a calm time and share with her your concerns about Jenna's behavior on the weekends when she babysits. Let her know how you feel about continuing to nurse and sleep with your baby (if these are still a priority for you) and brainstorm possible solutions with her. Ask her if babysitting has become a strain for her. Maybe your Mom is becoming very frustrated with the situation and feels stuck. This isn't good for Jenna. Could you find another sitter if this were the case?

As far as practical solutions, it may help if your Mom keeps Jenna up a little later than her normal bedtime. Or she may be so overtired that she isn't sleeping well. It's hard to say. Start a bedtime routine during the week, carrying it over to the weekend, to help her wind down so she can more easily fall asleep, and stay asleep. A warm bath is calming for many children, followed by a story and cuddling in bed. A transitional object, like her favorite stuffed animal or blanket that she sleeps with every night may help to make her feel more comfortable while you're at work. There is no need to force a bottle at night. Nurse her before you leave for work and again when you return home. If she's thirsty while you're gone, your Mom can offer her your milk, water or juice in a sippy cup. Maybe she'd like a before-bed snack. That might help her to sleep better.

If she wakes in the night for you or your Mom, keep the room darkened and pretend to be asleep. Turning on the lights, the TV, playing, and carrying on a conversation with her may prolong the nighttime waking. It is really important that your bedroom is child-proofed, so if your little one does get out of bed, she won't get hurt. A latch can be placed high up on the door so she won't leave the room unnoticed in the middle of the night. Most older babies will settle down after a while and fall back to sleep, listening to your breathing.

Hoping that you soon are able to resolve this situation. Very best wishes!


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