The End of Sleep Regression

A month ago I posted about how we were dealing with the evil four-month sleep regression. At the time we were right at the peak of it. The night after I posted that was Jack’s worst by far. It took over an hour to get him to close his eyes. He just kept screaming and making himself more overtired. Then once I finally thought he was asleep and set him down, he woke right back up. Another 45 minutes of frantic nursing and crying, he finally passed out and stayed asleep when I set him down. Then he woke-up every hour for the rest of the night. At 4 AM I went out the living room and cried out of exhaustion. And of course, once I got myself together and went back to the bedroom,  Jack woke right back up! At that point I put him in bed with us, but it didn’t help. He still woke up every hour until 8 AM when he decided to be up for good. I wanted to die. And naps weren’t any better that day. He screamed and nursed frantically. And when he did finally go to sleep, I couldn’t set him down and he only slept for 15 minutes in my arms. And he did this every 2 hours. I called out sick from work that day because I couldn’t function properly.

“It’s 10 PM? You want to go to sleep? That’s nice. I’m WIDE awake!”

After that night, it slowly got better. And I mean slowly. Like another month slowly. That’s right, it took a whole 56 days for Jack to sleep through the night again. What’s weird is everything went back to normal in reverse order, like he magically hit the rewind button. First, he started to go down easily for naps. Then his naps went back to the normal 30-90 minutes. Next, he started waking only every 2 hours at night. Then 3 hours. Suddenly he went to sleep easily at night. Lastly, he went back to his normal 5-6 hour stretch, followed by two more 3 hours stretches. It’s just like all the books said, he did go back to normal once he learned how to handle the adult sleep cycles. Last night I officially declared the regression over. I got 8 hours of sleep total and it felt amazing!

So what is my advice to any parent struggling through this hell? Do nothing. Seriously. Just keep your baby’s normal routine (being flexible as needed) and understand that neither you nor your baby can control this. If it worked before, it will work again once your child brain develops enough. I know you were probably wanting to hear that I did some magic sleep training program to get him back on track quickly. But I don’t believe in sleep training, I honestly think it’s mean. Why would you force your baby into something that they are not designed to do yet?  I think the time and energy you waste on forcing strict training on your child should be used to comfort and encourage them during such big mental leaps instead.

That being said, there are a few things you can do to help your child master the skill of sleeping better (note I said better, not prefect).

  • Have a bedtime routine. That way they begin to recognize a pattern of events that lead up to sleep. We do bath, lotion massage, pajamas while calmly talking/singing, nurse on the couch with all the lights out until he’s asleep. He’s learned this pattern now too, he starts giving me the milk face while I put his pajamas on.
  • Put them to sleep in a dark, calm room. Turn off the lights (we leave a night light on so I can see him when he fusses). Make sure there is no loud noises that could startle them (loud neighbors outside,  noisy dishwasher, & etc.). Keep the room at a decent cool temperature. Use a white noise machine if you like too (we use a box fan). Pretty much remove all outside stimulation that could keep your baby awake if they do happen to open there eyes for second.
  • Lay them down drowsy. This encourages them to put themselves to back to sleep when they wake-up at night. I know I said I nurse him to sleep, but the walk to the bedroom usually wakes him a little. He wiggles and opens his eyes a bit as I set him down. I usually step out out of his view and watch to make sure he goes to sleep. Ninety-nine percent of the time he does instantly.
  • Learn the difference between real and fake cries. When Jack was in the middle of his sleep regression, I notice sometimes when I picked him up when he cried, he would forcefully open his eyes and start screaming. Then he would throw a tantrum and it would take an hour to put him back to sleep. After a week of this, I research it and realized he was not actually awake when he cried. Babies—especially when in a sleep regression–cry in their sleep if they are dreaming or in between sleep cycles. I picked him up too soon. I would scream too if someone woke me up from a sound sleep! So one night when he cried I sat-up and watch him for a second. He kept his eyes closed and his hands stayed soft. He cried for maybe 2 minutes tops, but it wasn’t loud, more like a fuss. Then he went right back to sleep and slept 3 more hours. Later he cried again, but this time his eyes were open and he reached out for me. Then I picked him up, nursed him, and he went back to sleep in 5 minutes. If they are really crying, always comfort them. I do not believe in letting them cry-it-out. A baby under 6 months does not have the mental capacity to manipulate you, they only cry when they need something. And yes, attention and reassurance at this age are basic needs.
  • Don’t change your comforting methods. If you start something new during this time, they will get used to it and want you to keep doing it after the regression is over. For example, if you never sat on yoga ball and bounced them back to sleep before, don’t start doing it “just for now” to get them to sleep quicker. It will become a new crutch that you will always have to do at 3 AM.. Do you really want to bounce on a yoga ball at that ungodly hour for the next year? Didn’t think so. I kept on picking Jack up and nursing him back to sleep. If he was really fussy, I patted him bottom and shushed. If he really wasn’t having it, Michael would turn on his calming music and I would gently rock him. But these were the things I had done since birth. The only difference was I had to do them for longer. Now that he is back to normal, I went back to doing them normally too. No crazy sleep crutches at 3 AM.
  • Walk away if you reach the breaking point. It’s okay if you get too stressed out from lack of sleep, you don’t have to be prefect. One night I went to bed right when Jack did because I was exhausted, and of course he woke up as soon as my head hit the pillow. I tried for an hour to put him back to sleep but he was WIDE awake. I carried him to the living room crying and told Michael he had to take him. I went to sleep for three hours while Michael tried in vain to get him back down. I woke up at midnight and nursed him back to sleep. He still woke up every hour after that, but with a little sleep I gained some composure and prescriptive. Remember they are not torturing you, they are just learning a new skill and need your help mastering it.
Woke-up with his cute face after 9 hours of sleep.
It does get better, just be patience.

Just be patience. Seriously, this will not last forever. One day your baby will be leaving for college and all you will have are the memories of rocking them back to sleep at 3 AM.  Don’t over stress and make those long nights more painful than they need to be. Keep loving your baby and help them through this phase.

Dealing With Sleep Regression

It happened so suddenly and quickly snowballed. From about 3 weeks-old, Jack had slept through the night. Maybe twice a week waking at 4 AM to nurse, but usually sleeping right till 7 or 8 AM. And he would take three 2-3 hour naps each day too. I did very very light “sleep training”, if you ever want to call it that, but he was just naturally a good sleeper. It was a dream come true! Then one night it all vanished.

It all started three weeks ago. The first few days he just woke up one extra time a night to nurse. Then in a few days it went to twice. Then before I knew it he was waking up every two hours. Then nap time went out the window, only 30 minutes at a time. Then he became insanely fussy at bedtime and it would take over an hour to get him asleep. Needles to say I am exhausted and frustrated. Did I mention that I started back at work this week too? Such fun.
This is the last good night of sleep we got three weeks ago.
He woke up at 7 AM and we put him in bed with us until 9:30!
Jack is in what is known as the four month sleep regression. It can happen anytime around 3-5 months though. I knew it could happen and I did some research on it. But let me tell you, I didn’t think it would get this bad. He didn’t even act like when he was a newborn! It sucks, really really sucks. However, because I did my research I know it should not last forever.
Now he only wants to sleep in my arms during the day.
don’t mind short term, but it would be nice to clean my house…
So what is the evil sleep regression? Essentially Jack is learning how to sleep like an adult. Before this he slept like he did in the womb, one basic sleep cycle. He didn’t need to recharge any of his major systems because he wasn’t really using them. Now that he is bigger and doing bigger things, he needs to have deep REM and non-REM cycles like adults. But unlike adults, he has not learned how to sleep through these cycles yet so he wakes every 45-90 minutes. Also during this time Jack is undergoing a major growth spurt and a mental leap. That’s a lot of stuff for a little guy to go through, no wonder he’s having a hard time sleeping and wants more milk! However, once it’s over, he should return to normal. I can’t wait for that day.
But for your amusement and because I was bored when afternoon while he slept in my arms…
 
 Four Stages of Grief For Sleep Regression:
Stage 1.) You deny it’s happening. He’s just having a bad night…for the past 2 weeks. He’ll be fine tomorrow night. He will take a good nap this afternoon too.This isn’t sleep regression, it’s just a growth spurt!

Stage 2.) You get angry and blame everyone. Your husband has the TV too loud so you ban him from it. The neighbor’s dog won’t stop barking so you yell out the window for it to shut up. The house is too hot so you call the AC repairman demanding he come out today. The room is too bright, the sun must be imploded! You think you are a bad mother and just cry. 

Stage 3.) You plead with your LO. You will give him anything or do anything if he just goes to sleep. You want to co-sleep, will that make you happy? How about a new sleep sack, we can get one with owls on it! More milk before bed? You want a puppy? A Porche on your 16th birthday? You want me to stand on my head? Daddy will sing all night long for you, please just sleep! 

Stage 4.) After some research, talks with your mom, consulting the online forums and calls to you doctor, you finally accept it. Your sweet little angel is in the middle his first sleep regression. You hope it will be over soon and you just pray you keep your sanity till then.