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Breastfeeding toddler having overnight contact with dad?

(36 Posts)
RushyBay Wed 07-Sep-11 10:02:07

I posted this in the extended BF support thread yesterday, but no replies yet, so I'm not sure how often people on there check it. Sorry to repeat myself, but desperate for advice.

DD is 16 months. During the day I feed on demand when she's with me, but she is looked after by family members 3 days a week while I work and she never looks for it if I'm not there.

At night she goes to sleep in her own bed at about 8 (story, feed, then I lie next to her and she drifts off), then she wakes at about 11 and I bring her into my bed and she goes back to sleep without a feed until about 4, then I feed every time she wakes (usually 5.30, 6, 6.30 blush) til she wakes up properly at 7.

My problem is that DH and I have recently separated. We're meeting this afternoon to discuss contact, and I'm feeling really unsure about what's going to be in DD's best interests. Until now DH has always really failed struggled settling DD at night, but I expect they'd figure it out between them sooner or later? Especially if she's at his house and knows I'm not there.

Does anyone else have experience of this? Would I need to pump to maintain my supply if she was gone for 48 hours?

I was really hoping to continue until she self-weans, but would be happy I think to get to 2. I'm heartbroken at the idea of forcing her to wean and putting her through unnecessary distress at a time when she's already coping with so much change.

Should I be arguing for no overnight contact until she weans, or should I try and let go and accept that having good quality contact with her dad is more important than breastfeeding?

All opinions/experience welcome smile

juneau Wed 07-Sep-11 10:12:57

Firstly, commiserations on your separation.

As for the co-sleeping, BFing, etc, I think I'd be tempted to fully night wean her at this point. I'd also get her to sleep in her own bed as sooner or later you're going to have to let her sleep at her dad's and if she's used to sleeping next to you and feeding on demand it's going to be very hard for her or your ex-partner to get any sleep. If it were me I'd insist on no overnight visits until I'd got her happily settled and sleeping in her own bed each night. Anything else is going to be too distressing for her.

As for weaning or not - only you can decide this - but your supply will certainly dwindle if you don't feed for 48 hours. It won't dry up completely - not initially - but you'll produce less and this could cause your DD to self-wean. However, if you really want to BF until she's 2 you'll need to pump a bit in her absence. Perhaps you could give this milk to your ex-partner to give her in bottles?

FWIW, 16 months is still quite young and children forget much quicker than you think they will. So getting her to sleep in her own bed will hopefully not be too much of an ordeal if you persevere for a week or two. If she's used to waking at 11, I'd go in, resettle her with some milk or water and then leave. She might need you to stay with her to start with until she falls asleep again, but I'd also get out of the habit of lying next to her as this becomes a real rod for your back as time goes on. I used to rock my DS1 to sleep in a rocking chair and had a real job getting him to self-soothe himself to sleep as he got older. You might find some helpful tips in 'The No-Cry Sleep Solution' by Elizabeth Pantley.

tiktok Wed 07-Sep-11 10:14:58

Difficult - wow.

But you can continue with breastfeeding and ensure contact with your ex.

You are 100 per cent right that unnecessary/unwanted weaning is too much for a toddler who is already coping with change - just because she is pre-verbal does not mean she is unaware of the distress and stress around her. Her relationship with you, of which bf is a part, is a constant for her, and should not be disrupted.

Why would your ex need/want overnight contact at this stage?

Can't it wait until you and your toddler are ready for this? He can see her at other times - you already know she will cope when you are not there - and at night, she can continue the closeness and routine she is used to. In time, she (and you) will be ok with overnights.

But there is no rush, as far as I can see.

juneau Wed 07-Sep-11 10:15:37

P.S. I found my DH had no patience for rocking our DS1 when he was a baby, so he could never get him to sleep. If you ex-p will be putting her to bed at least some of the time in future it's definitely going to better for her (and him), if he can put her to bed and she falls asleep on her own. This is a skill that all children have to learn sooner or later anyway, so IME it's better to do it when they're as young as possible.

eaglewings Wed 07-Sep-11 10:20:57

I really feel for you. I chose to bf in the same way with DS and DD2. My problem was going away over night for work and leaving them with dh.

I refused to leave either of them over night until they were 2 years old, work just had to accept it. After that I'd be away no more than 2 days and 1 night.

They were fine with their dad but he was always good at settling them.

If I was in your position I would ask for a few more months before he has over night visits.

However you and he will have to find the right solution for the 3 of you, have you any idea what he will ask for?

witchwithallthetrimmings Wed 07-Sep-11 10:40:04

I agree with the arguement that waiting for a few months would be best but before then you may want to think about letting your ex baby sit and put her to bed. This will get her used to him and associate him with bed times as well as play times

Cleverything Wed 07-Sep-11 10:45:42

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

BertieBotts Wed 07-Sep-11 10:48:31

I've been in a similar situation and I'd say go by when your dd is ready, which is not necessarily related to whether she feeds at night or not.

Ds was 13 months when we split up and I didn't agree to overnight contact straight away as I'd never left him overnight before and wanted to work up to it. In actual fact xp never did work up to it because his contact became less and less rather than increasing (his choice) but since then I have felt that ds was ready in various situations to attempt being away from me for longer periods. The first was new years when he was 2.3, at my mum's house, didn't go well, but mainly I think because he wasn't that familiar with her house, something I'd overlooked. The second time was a month later and was at home, and ds was fine, but he did wake in the night which my mum found hard. He's also done a late evening at the childminder's, where she put him to bed in his pushchair and he was fine, and last time my sister babysat, when he woke up he asked for her, not me! Dp also lives with us now and if I'm ill, out, or have gone to bed early for some reason, dp can put him to bed quite fine and happily without milk or even lying with him, he just tucks him in, kisses him and walks out - something which would be completely unheard of for me!

Ds is a month off 3 now, but I think it's likely if your xp is committed to seeing your dd and helping her feel settled in his new home when she visits, then it's like anything else, you just build it up slowly, you'll know when she seems ready. And really don't worry about breastfeeding and co sleeping, just let those come to a natural end. She will adapt quite easily when elsewhere.

How long has he looked after her on his own before? I'd start with that time period (more frequently if necessary) and slowly increase it.

BertieBotts Wed 07-Sep-11 10:56:35

Also wanted to add, although I co slept with ds until he went into his own bed at 2.5 ish, from about 18 months if I had someone over (v occasionally!) he would be alone in my bed while I slept on the sofa bed downstairs, and he coped fine with this change. At first he would wake more, but over time he woke less without me there, which was one of the cues (as well as him stealing all the covers!) For me that it was time to get him his own bed.

RushyBay Wed 07-Sep-11 12:03:16

Thank you all for your replies! The consensus seems to be to try and put it off for a few months...

Although Bertie I'm a bit concerned that you found contact with your XP got less over time instead of increasing. I suppose I'm worried that saying no to overnights will reduce their bond and may lead to XH being less committed in the future. Do you think that would have happened anyway with your XP?

On balance though I think tiktok's point about breastfeeding being a constant for DD which might help her get through this period has won it for me.

I really have no idea what XH is going to say this afternoon sad

Cleverything Wed 07-Sep-11 12:59:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

NoNoNoMYDoIt Wed 07-Sep-11 13:02:47

why a father would need / want contact overnight - well, why would a mother want it? am quite shocked to read that, tbh...

NoNoNoMYDoIt Wed 07-Sep-11 13:03:41

just as well you aren't posting this on lone parents. you would get an absolute pasting on there...

organiccarrotcake Wed 07-Sep-11 13:30:14

nono I think you're being quite unreasonable. The most important person here is the child, and ensuring that she gets what she needs to help her through this difficult period is the highest priority. Fathers (in this case) should understand that their child's needs come above theirs. The OP doesn't appear to want to limit contact - in fact she's concerned that not allowing overnight visits would reduce his input so it seems that she's quite understanding and supporting of the need for the father to spend quality time with his child.

OP, My personal feeling (and I've not actual evidence other than anecdotal for this) is that fathers (or of course, mothers) who live away from their child will drive their own relationship with that child, and provided that the resident parent supports the other parent's relationship which you seem to want to do, it's then up to the non-resident parent to work out what the relationship is. Meaning, if the relationship is so weak that a father not seeing his child overnight will start to then limit his contact then he's a crap father. I'm sure that's not the case for your ex. Hopefully he will understand that this is a transient period, and that you will work towards a time where she can stay overnight with him when it's appropriate for her - ie when she doesn't need that night support from the breast.

I would be making this clear in any meeting and work out ways that he can get the quality time that he needs and deserves in other ways and at other times, and that you would like her to stay over when she's able to do so without distress.

One thing to consider if you do end up with her going away from 48 hours is your breast care. Can you express? You really need to ensure that you're keeping the milk flowing to avoid blocked ducts or mastitis, and this is possibly another consideration when it comes to length of time away from you at the moment.

Hopefully your ex is supportive and knowledgeable about the immense health benefits that you continue to provide to your daughter, so won't be pushing you to wean for his sake (much as it's understandable that he'll want to spend time with his daughter). Maybe this will help:

Good luck, and come back and let us know how you got on xxx

NoNoNoMYDoIt Wed 07-Sep-11 13:56:00

maybe i am just scarred by the court process that i went through and the absolute lack of regard for what was in my children's best interests (DD was 18 months when we separated).

the court considers that it is in the child's best interest to have as much contact with both parents as possible. they do not have to establish that there is 'positive benefit' to the child. it is the child's right. and as far as the court is concerned, that right comes above everything else - even standards of physical care. even to the point where it is not the father caring for the child during contact, but a paid employee.

i know the OP isn't talking about court. but if it goes there, believe me - breastfeeding will be the least of her worries.

go and ask on LP why a father would 'want / need' overnight contact with a 16-month old and see what answers you get there...

tiktok Wed 07-Sep-11 18:51:59

It's not a question of wanting/needing overnight's wanting/needing overnight contact at a time which might result in distress for the toddler....of course a loving father would like to have as much contact as he wants/needs, but not at the expense of the toddler's well-being and emotional stability. Later, of course it should be possible. But a loving father would want the toddler to be happy.


BertieBotts Wed 07-Sep-11 20:16:26

Yes sorry, should have clarified. I think contact would have dropped anyway. He didn't want him overnight to begin with and he only suggested it after he had been sporadic about it for a while, to which i said i think you need to see DS a bit more regularly so he gets used to coming fiirst, he said ok and then carried on just as he was.

BertieBotts Wed 07-Sep-11 20:36:21

FWIW I also post in lone parents and I'd say the same thing there. I agree the courts don't tend to take children's best intrests into heart aside from their ridiculous one size fits all policy of as much time with both parents as possible, but I see no reason to echo this if you are still at the stage of working things out between you, it should be common sense to take things at a speed you feel your individual child can cope with.

wannaBe Wed 07-Sep-11 20:44:54

I have never breastfed but I think you have to weigh up what is in the child's best interests - is it a couple of months of bf or a relationship with her father. It's a no-brainer IMO.

And tbh it should never be about what you will agree to - she is your xh's child as much as she is yours. If he goes to court he will get overnight contact without question.

I think that to withhold overnight contact for the sake of breastmilk is ludicress.

NoNoNoMYDoIt Wed 07-Sep-11 21:20:08

tiktok - your bit in italics was not in your original post in the context of him wanting / needing contact with his daughter.

the courts would not see it like that. they would say that the distress caused to the child by NOT having overnight contact at this point would be greater than the distress caused by lack of boob overnight.

sorry to be so blunt - but really, that is what they would rule. doesn't make it right. it's not (incidentally) what i think either. but that is the case.

bertiebotts - ask latemates the question on lone parents...

RushyBay Wed 07-Sep-11 22:33:02

Well, we had a good talk today and have agreed to do things gradually. At the moment he's still looking for somewhere to live, so contact will be here for the time being anyway. I agree with witchwithallthetrimmings's point about keeping him involved in bedtimes, so we've tried to settle on what the routine will be when she's ready to stay overnight, and then adapt that. So any nights she will be staying with him in the future, he's going to come here and do bedtime.

We're going to talk again in November and see how she's doing with settling into nursery, how long she's had to get used to being at his house; whether she seems to have got more clingy or whether she's taking it all in her stride.

Fortunately, XH agreed that BF will be an important way to help DD feel secure during this difficult period.

wannaBe, I quite agree that it's not about what I will agree to. It's about what we think is going to be in our child's best interests. I asked here because I wasn't sure how XH was going to feel about it, or how best to manage the transition, and I wanted to be better informed before discussing it with him. To suggest that I would 'withhold overnight contact for the sake of breastmilk' is missing the point, and failing to understand the significance of a nursing relationship for a toddler.

NoNoNoMYDoIt - I'm sorry you've had a bad experience with the courts. I'm very aware of what they would rule if this went before the court. I consider myself very fortunate that XH and I are not at that stage.

organiccarrotcake - as we'll be building up slowly, I'm hoping that I won't get too uncomfortable? I never managed to get the hang of expressing in the early months. I got rid of the pump and had slightly more success with hand expressing, but whenever I tried to get into a routine I just found it caused problems with getting too full and sore, so I stopped altogether and just kept DD close. I haven't even tried for about a year. Do you think a little bit of hand expressing to ease discomfort would work once she starts doing overnights? Or should I be shopping for a new pump...?!

CardyMow Thu 08-Sep-11 01:33:27

NoNoNoMYDoIT - At what age would the courts rule that way then? I am worried about Ex-P if he goes to court now. DS3 is 7mo, and a bottle refuser. I am letting Ex-P come round for 4-5 hrs, twice a week to see him, but will not even CONSIDER overnight contact until DS3 is 18 months+. HE chose to leave, knowing I intended to bf and let DS3 self-wean, we had discussed it before DS3 was born when we were still together.

So I am NOT blocking contact, but do not see it as in DS3's best interest to have overnight contact away from me, at such a young age, when he refuses to drink from a bottle, so would not be getting ANY milk.

If Ex-P decided to go to court for overnight contact, when he has NEVER even tried to settle DS3 through the night (even when we were together), would the courts still OK that even though DS3 will not take any sort of milk from a bottle? Even if it meant all DS3's immediate needs were not being met? (He still feeds 3-4 times a night, and night feeding is important to keep bf'ing going).

I'm worried now.

witchwithallthetrimmings Thu 08-Sep-11 10:00:08

Rushy am glad to see that you and your ex have been able to sort things out, must make you feel a less worried about things

organiccarrotcake Thu 08-Sep-11 10:27:41

NoNoNoMYDoIt much sympathy sad I've been through horrid court battles with my ex but, thank goodness, not (yet) over our child specifically. But having done as much as I have I can only begin to understand how awful it must have been for you sad

wannabe "I have never breastfed but I think you have to weigh up what is in the child's best interests - is it a couple of months of bf or a relationship with her father. It's a no-brainer IMO."

If the father's relationship is so weak that not having her overnight for a few months will remove his ability to have a relationship with his daughter, he's not worth the air he breaths. You might not understand the need that a toddler has for the breast, but I can assure you that forcing her to separate from her favourite comforter may cause great distress. You might be able to compare it in some way to a comforter that your child adores - maybe a dummy, a teddy - or maybe it's you. Taking that away with no explanation (because there can be none at this age) would be very distressing indeed.

RushyBay Perhaps it's worth spending a bit of time practising expressing and see how you go? If you find you're able to manage hand expressing it's not worth a pump. It really depends on your own body and how quickly you get uncomfortable and you may need to play it by ear.

loudlass I personally wouldn't worry at the moment. If you're offering your ex as much contact as he wants then hopefully it will be ok, and trying to ensure your relationship doesn't break down further, fingers crossed all will be ok. smile

RushyBay Thu 08-Sep-11 14:09:56

loudlass - are your older 2 children having overnight contact with your XP? If he never wanted to do any nighttime parenting when you were together, is he likely to be asking to do it now you're separated?

Judging from people's experiences on here it's best to try and keep things out of court if at all possible, so I'm planning to be as flexible as possible on anything I don't really care about in the hope of keeping things amicable. He can take every stick of furniture we own for all I care - I'm happy to furnish the house from freecycle as long as we're able to work together about things for DD!

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