28/01/2014 14:16 GMT | Updated 22/05/2015 10:12 BST

Ask Joanne: Stopping Co-Sleeping And Breastfeeding

What's your question about life with children? Send it in to our life coach Joanne Mallon with this anonymous form. Names can be changed on request

Andrea writes:

My daughter turned 3 in October. I have two older boys who I breastfed for over a year and co-slept with. When it was time, they stopped feeding naturally and both moved into their own rooms without any problem whatsoever. So I thought it would be the same with my daughter, how wrong could I be?

She still co-sleeps with us even though she has her own bedroom all decorated and it is next door to her brothers whom she adores. She still breastfeeds and I know it is time to stop but she won't and I don't know what to do. She usually only feeds just before bedtime and often takes herself off to our bed when she is tired. My husband has said that he sometimes notices that she 'helps herself' in the middle of the night. She does not feed during the day unless we are on our own and she is tired and I will admit I do give in to her sometimes.

I know it's time to stop and get our bedroom back but I have never had a baby who cried or didn't sleep though so the idea of 'controlled crying' etc scares the life out of me. My youngest son also has very serious health problems from birth (he is 7) and we have nearly lost lost him twice, so after seeing him screaming in pain in hospital time after time I just can't bring myself to upset my daughter albeit to help her, and obviously my husband and me. As she starts part-time nursery in January I would like her to be in her room by then. We have no relatives or friends who can help and we cannot afford for me to 'go away' for the weekend as my husband is self employed.

Here's our life coach's reply:

Dear Andrea

First of all, ask yourself if you are really ready to stop breastfeeding. Because you will have to be 100% certain about this if you ever hope to convince your daughter. You're not doing either of you any favours if you say no, then give in when she's tired. It does sound like she is not ready to stop easily, so if you want to do this then brace yourself for a few tantrums. Only plan to stop at a time when you're not too busy or your partner is around to help, maybe starting over a weekend.

You could also make use of the time of year and suggest that Father Christmas may have trouble finding her if she's not in her own room. Or perhaps a special extra present could be a new night time cuddly. Is there anything she particularly wants that could be a reward for sleeping in her own room?

To be honest, I'm not sure if just before starting nursery is the best time to change sleeping arrangements too. Some children are very adaptable to change, but others take a while to get used to any change in routine. You will probably find that your daughter is more tired after a busy day at nursery, and then may sleep better at night.

I can understand why you are reluctant to try controlled crying. The other method you might consider is gradual retreat, where you start off sitting by your daughter's bed as she goes to sleep, then gradually retreat. You can see a full explanation of this and other sleep training methods here. There may well be tears, but remember that this is your daughter communicating – it's not tears of pain. You're not inflicting misery on her – you're teaching her how to feel secure sleeping alone. This will be a gift for the whole family.

The other issue that you mention is lack of wider support, and maybe this is something to focus on for yourself in 2010. Life with children is so much easier when you are plugged into a wider community – simply having someone to talk to is a stress relief in itself. Maybe start with an online community like Mumsnet or Netmums, or take up an outside interest.

Good luck to you all


Send your question in to life coach Joanne Mallon via this link

More practical help for parents in the Ask Joanne section