I know better. I’ve been through it before. I know well enough that it might feel like the end of the world but really it’ll be such a small tiny blip of time in the grand scheme of things. I even knew it was coming so I wasn’t surprised, and yet here I am, starting to feel overwhelmed by it again.
The dreaded 3 to 4 month sleep regression.
Everyone who has been through it has advice to give. And I don’t mind the input – hey, you never know what might work for you, and I love any excuse to share ideas with other parents. BUT but but, it can quickly spiral out of control. All of a sudden, you’re trying new swaddles and sleep sacks, new sleeping positions, buying new books to read, wasting your precious sleep time on reading blogs and participating in mommy online chat rooms.
There seems to be so many decisions (that must be made NOW!) and possible solutions. Put the baby down early vs. keep her up late, swaddle her vs. don’t swaddle vs. half swadle, dream feed vs. no dream feed, back sleeping vs. side sleeping vs. tummy sleeping, cry it out vs. attachment parenting methods, and on and on. No wonder we’re exhausted!
You’ll find yourself committing to dropping the sleep crutches one moment and then desperately adding even more when your regular tricks won’t work. I remember when Ellie was going through her sleep regression: “Ok, that’s it, no more swaddling! Starting tonight!” And then 2 hours into the worst night to date, we’re on youtube watching videos on how to triple swaddle your baby. Words = eaten.
It also brings up other feelings for me – paranoia that I’m not producing enough milk to satisfy my baby’s needs, worry that she is overtired and not getting a healthy amount of sleep, guilt that I’m not enjoying every part of this stage, envy of Moms that have great sleepers and long nappers, and frustration that I can’t get anything done during the day because my baby is sleeping in 20 minute increments!
Sleep regressions are hard. But they look different for everyone. For us, it looks like this:
Layla had been sleeping like a rockstar (7, 8 ,9 hours straight) starting at 4 weeks. It was pretty amazing actually. Around 12 weeks, she started waking a couple times early in the night needing to be soothed back to sleep, usually popping the pacifier back in did the trick. Then, around 14 weeks, corresponding with when she learned to roll over, she would SCREAM when it came time to put her down. She would wake up wailing as well. We figured out that she was pissed about being swaddled. So we moved to a zippity zip (she wasn’t ready for that) and then to the Merlin Magic Sleep Suit. She’s now 18 weeks, and she’s still napping and sleeping in the sleep suit. We tried various positions too – alone in the suit, propped next to pillows, propped on her side, in the dockatot, in the dockatot with her arms swaddled down… I would describe her sleep as interrupted. She may wake up to 8 times within the 2 hours following putting her down. She may need the binky or need to be picked up and rocked again. Then, she usually wakes up 1-2x throughout the night needing to be soothed. She’s up anywhere between 2:30am – 5am for a feeding and IF I’m lucky, she falls asleep eating and we snooze together until morning. Sometimes, if it’s closer to 5am, she has trouble falling back asleep. On a good day if she sleeps til 7am, she’ll nap a total of 2 hours until she goes down to bed (usually between 3 – 4 cat naps). She DOES NOT sleep enough for a 4 month old, that’s for sure.
Ellie went through a rough sleep regression period around this time too. I took notes in a journal and it’s actually been helpful reading back over it, not because there is any secret solution but because it shows me that it will pass!
I never brought Ellie into bed with us at night because I didn’t want it to be an impossible habit to reverse. I had heard so many stories of kids sleeping in their parents beds til they were like 12 and I didn’t want to go down the slippery slope. Plus Ellie was never comforted by the boob so it wasn’t an option. I had to try other things to settle her. But here I am now, pulling Layla into bed with me every night, as early as 2:30am … it’s really the only thing that will work at that point …so even though I’ve been here before, it is new territory with new challenges!
We’ve discussed sleep training but haven’t committed because she still seems so young. The only thing that REALLY works is being patient, if you can figure out how to be. Because even if you do find some miracle solution, swaddle or system – it will take time, and trial and error, to find it, and then more time to implement it. And even if you decide to sleep train, there are so many methods to consider. You have to come up with a plan, lay the ground work, commit ahead of time to exactly what you’re going to do. So again, patience is required.
So no real summary here other than to admit I don’t have all the answers. I don’t believe a miracle one-size-fits-all solution necessarily exists so we shouldn’t expect one. Every baby is different, every parent is different and we’ll all get through these hard stages in time. My method is to take it day by day, follow Layla’s lead and needs, use my Mommy intuition and try new things to see if any of them support our efforts. At least that’s my plan for today. 😉