Q&A: night nursing and the working mom

Readers who work outside the home, please share your experience in the comments section. I'm a WAHM, so I've never personally experienced this situation.

Carrie says:

"Moxie,
 
I need help.  My almost 7-month old son still wakes to nurse at least two or three times per night.  I work full-time outside the home and have since he was 3 months old.  I need to get him on some sort of schedule or into a routine so that I can function better.  Last night, he woke at 11 pm, 2 am, and 4 am to eat. 
 
I talked it over with our pediatrician (who was less than helpful and suggested I wean).  I talked it over with our new pediatrician (after I fired the first one for suggesting I wean).  The new ped suggested a 4-hour feeding plan during the day to get him used to taking more less often, and stated that is was OK to feed him at midnight and 5 am, but between those hours, we should let him fuss/cry.  I like this idea in theory, but since the waking times are erratic, I alter it a bit to fit our nights (if he wakes at 11 to eat, I'll feed him if he wakes at 4, etc).

He nurses when I am home and (reluctantly) takes a bottle at day care.  He eats solids.  He is learning to crawl, rolls over easily, sleeps in a sleep sac, and is teething, but his waking at night has been this way since before all of that started.
 
When I am home (such as on weekends or the recent Thanksgiving holiday), he wakes less often at night.  But, when I am at work during the day, he tends to want to nurse more at night.  The LLL website says this is "normal reverse cycling", but really, it is killing me.  I am not comfortable with the idea of bringing him to bed with me as LLL and Sears suggest.  My breastfeeding books all gloss over schedules and working women and are very light on how many times a baby older than a newborn needs to eat per day.
 
I need help with changing the times he eats so that it fits my workday and so he gets most of his feedings from me and not from the hard-to-collect bottles of breastmilk.  He goes to bed at about 7:15 and gets up for the day just before 7 am.  I'd like to feed him at 6 or 7 am before I go to work, but he has usually just eaten some time between 3 and 5, so feeding him before work would go against the 4-hour pattern I am trying to do.  Also, I get home around 5:30 and he goes to bed at 7:15, so there is really only one nursing session available in the evening.  Do you think it would help if I fed him right when I get home and then wake him to eat before I go to bed?

Is there really any way to put him on a schedule?  Am I doomed to sleeplessness until I wean?  Is his night waking just a bad habit I have to break?  He only wakes to eat - not to play or be rocked or any other reason.
 
I would love to be able to have him eat at 6 am (nurse), 10 am (bottle), solids at noon, 2 pm (bottle), 4:30 pm solids with Dad, 6 pm (nurse) or 7-11-3-7, and one nursing session over night, but I have no idea how to go about doing this.  Any and all advice from you or your readers is welcome."

You are getting quite the grab-bag of advice there, and most of it sounds completely counter-productive to me.

I think you've assessed the situation perfectly. He misses you (and your boobs, of course) while you're at work, and is trying to make up for it while you're home. In bed. Asleep.

So, if he wants a) more contact with you, and b) more food from you, then you should figure out how to give him those things without having to be up half the night.

You could give him more contact with you by wearing him in a sling or wrap as much as possible. After you walk in the door, pee, and wash your hands, put him in the sling and wear him around until it's time for him to go to bed. In the morning, wear him around even if you only have 5 minutes while you're watching the weather and traffic report. In a few days he might start to catch up on contact time with you and not want it so much in the night.

I'd also try to stuff him with as much milk as possible while you're with him (NOT try to stretch out his feeding time, which will just make him more hungry when you're trying to sleep). Definitely nurse him before you go to work. Nurse him when you get home, and top him off before bed. Wake him up for a dreamfeed right before you go to bed. If you can get as much milk into him as possible while you're home and awake, he won't be as hungry in the middle of the night.

FWIW, I don't think he's going to sleep straight through for another couple of months. (That's not to say that no babies do, but if he hasn't in the past, he's not going to magically start sleeping through this week, even if you wean him to formula.) But I do think you could get him down to 10 or 11 and 4 or 5 without much of a struggle, and then gradually he'll wake up later and later.

The bad news: Many many kids go through a kind of sleep regression around 8-9 months. I think it's correlated heavily with the developmental spurt around 37 (once again The Wonder Weeks comes in handy). So you might make great strides in the next few weeks at getting this settled and then have it all fall apart again for a few weeks. But then once he's past this spurt the sleep should really get so much better. Unless he goes through some bad teething.

Working moms, any BDTD stories?