I knew it was probably coming. I knew it would be worse. I knew there was nothing I could do to stop it. But I just refused to believe it was happening—-again! We were hit with the 9 month sleep regression and hit hard.
The 4-month sleep regression felt like nothing but a distant painful memory. Jack went back to starting the night sleeping on his own and joining us to co-sleep later on. He would sleep 4 hours or so, then a bit of milk and go back down easily for 3 hours. Then more milk and 3 to 4 more hours. He would wake up in my arms all happy and ready to start the day! Not sleeping through the night, but there were no battles. He napped just fine during the day, even alone in his crib sometimes (but mostly on the couch with me. Totally doable. Two glorious months of reasonable sleep. Six to eight months seemed so easy.
Then around 9 months it began to unravel, again. Just like with the first regression naps went first. He began to fight them and only sleep for 45 minutes at a time. I knew this was the first sign of a regression, but tried to ignore it. He cut his first tooth about this time so I just blamed it on teething.
Then it began to cascade out of control. He would wake up after 30 minutes of being set down in the crib. Then take hours to get back down. Then wake up every 2-hours on the dot screaming for milk. Then he wanted nothing to do with the crib. He would popped right up—even from a dead sleep— and scream the minute we set him down. I accepted it was another regression and did what we did last time—just push through and change nothing. We put up with this for 2 weeks. That’s 14 days of no one in the house sleeping well. Everyone was cranky and tired all the time. I felt like a bad mom because I was too exhausted to do much. Some days all we did was lay around in our PJs. I realized ignoring it was not working and looked for another method.
I researched and asked around. I found the standard answers of cry-it-out and he needs to be night weaned. I knew both were not for us at all. Also several books to read, but none of them were anything new to me. Then during a La Leche League meeting, someone suggested The No-Cry Sleep Solution. I had never heard of it, but everyone who tried it said to helped them a lot. I borrowed the book from the lending library and started reading right away. I finished the book in two days and it instantly clicked.
This method takes time, understanding, and a lot of patience. First you need to understand why this is happening. Jack went through a big physical growth spurt and mental leap during this time. He got teeth (which hurts on its own) so he can eat all this new yummy foods. He learned to crawl, cruise and stand back to back. He said his first words and understands basic commands now. He’s more observant and is learning new things every day. That’s a lot for a tiny, no wonder he’s having a hard time shutting of his brain to sleep!
So, The No-Cry Sleep Solution consists of logging your baby’s sleep patterns for 10 days, analyze them, and making some suggested changes to the sleep routine. Then you start over for another 10 days. And repeat until you get a routine that works for your baby. When I first saw that you need to log for 10 day I want to cry. It would take forever to get some sleep! But I figured what do I have to lose? So I started it.
The first 10-day log confirmed everything I knew already. Jack was waking up shortly after being set down, his longest stretch was two hours and he was taking a long time to fall asleep. I did some suggestions from the book and did another 10-day log. We moved bedtime up to 8 PM, which means we started our routine between 7:00 to 7:30. We kept everything calm and stress-free. If he was too cranky, we skipped steps and got him to bed quickly. I added a lotion massage before pajamas. And we tried storytime and nursing to sleep in his room, so he didn’t get distract by the TV.
After another 10-days, things got a little better. It was taking less time for him to fall asleep and he was sleeping for longer stretches. But he was still waking up as soon as we set him down. Then it would takes over an hour to get him to stay down in the crib. And usually we gave up and brought him to the bed (because it took so long it was our bedtime). It was frustrating because we had no time to just relax at night. We changed a few more things and tried again. We added lullaby music to act as white noise and turned the space heater on in his room to keep it warm enough.
Five days later and I noticed a clear pattern that was making his naps better. He stayed asleep and slept better when if he napped in our bed (like I when I was exhausted and took a nap too). And he napped better when the white noise I had on was a TV or Netflix. It became clear to me what Jack needed to fall asleep. He didn’t want to be alone! He wanted to feel, hear, and smell that mommy and daddy were nearby. Its a survival instinct, safety in numbers. Not a bad habit or something I need to let him cry to get over. Just normal human behavior.
I talked to Michael about letting him co-sleep all the time. Michael agreed if it meant we all got more sleep. So, for the rest of the 5 days in the log we put him down in our bed and skipped the crib. Big improvement right away. I also started leaving the tablet playing Netflix on in the background when I wasn’t in the room so it didn’t sound like he was alone. Now I can actually spend a little time with my husband at night and baby gets sleep.
While we finally found a new routine that works for Jack’s new active brain, it’s not still not perfect. And I don’t expect it to be at this age. He still wakes about 2 times a night to nurse. But he goes back down easily and is sleeping longer. And yes, we still have bad nights. Like growth spurts and teething. He will wake up every hour crying and demanding milk. But it’s not every night anymore and I can handle it better now. The past three nights he’s been cutting a tooth (I swear he is the slowest teether ever) and it’s been rough. I’m very tired, but I know it will pass. Last week he actually slept through the night a few times. I wish I had read this book when he was born, I would have done this gentle and helpful method from the start. I really suggest this book if you are struggling with your baby sleeping too.