**please note, all posts about sleep are solely based on my experience with my baby. please talk to your pediatrician before sleep training to make sure it is safe for your baby at that time**
I wrote a post on sleep for a baby at 7 weeks awhile back. Little did I know at the time how often baby sleep changes. As soon as you think you have it figured out the little bugger goes and changes everything. Its a motherhood right of passage, learning that for those first few months (for most of us at least) there is no such thing as a schedule. Or at least not one that lasts longer than a week. And even when there is eventually a schedule, flexibility if the name of the game and you need to know that teeth, colds, special occasions, or a Monday after a weekend away can totally throw it for a loop.
Ella was always a great sleeper. She was text book really. She easily fell into the patterns I had read about in “Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Babies”, and with a little reinforcement from myself and Stephen she fell into some pretty predictable sleep habits. As she got older, wake times increased in length, sleep consolidated, her first stretch of sleep at night was getting longer and longer. At 3-4 months she took about 4 naps a day, and her first stretch of sleep would be 8-10 hours, followed by a short sleep of 2-3 hours before waking up for the day.
I had read about 4 month sleep regression when I was doing all of my baby sleep research. I had read that this was the point when babies sleep starts to more resemble that of an adults, rather than a newborn. I crossed my fingered that it wouldn’t happen to us, but alas, one night when Ella was about 4 1/2 months old I heard her crying. I looked at the clock, expecting it to be between 3-5 AM (her normal wake up time at that point for a nighttime feeding) and was shocked to see that it was only 11PM. I thought it was strange, but went into her room, fed her, comforted her, and put her back down easily. I went back to bed and expected not to hear from her again until 5AM. I woke up to a cry and looked at the clock. 1230 AM. OH. MY. GOD. I knew it was starting. And I knew there was very little I could do about it.
The next 6 weeks or so were a blur. She was still sleeping pretty well during the day, and going down well at night between 7-8PM, but night time became a nightmare. Starting around 10-11PM every night she would be up frequently. Sometimes every hour. She was harder to put back down than when she was a new born because she was just so AWARE. She was also getting used to life without a swaddle, which presented problems of its own. These frequent night time wake ups happened for the next month to month and a half, until we sleep trained her right around 6 months. I am going to write a separate post about sleep training entirely (we used graduated extinction) but for now I just want to give some tips for getting through 4 month sleep regression without completely losing your mind:
- Go to bed as soon as baby goes to bed. This is tough, especially if you want to spend time with your partner or horizontal on the couch. I didn’t do this every night, but when I did I felt more ready to meet her needs during those frequent night time wake ups.
- Send Dad in. Take turns going into the babies room with your partner. As terrible as it sounds, sometimes the baby realizes Dad is just not worth waking up for. This never happened with us, but at least when Stephen went in I could stay in bed
- Don’t create bad habits. If co-sleeping is not something you want to do, then do not start now. If you want to co- sleep, than by all means go for it. I am not one to judge. But if co-sleeping is simply not for you, do not fall into this habit. It will be so hard to break. I realized co-sleeping kept her asleep for long periods of time and had to try my hardest not to give into it. The good thing is that when I really need a solution fast (ie: in a hotel room) I know that I can pull her into bed with me and she will sleep like a baby (a baby that is not going through 4 month sleep regression, that is).
- Do not expect much of yourself during the day. Ella went through this lovely phase before I had left my job. So going to work everyday was a friggin’ nightmare. I could barely hold my head up let alone talk to hedge fund managers about amortizing their legal expenses. Do not hold yourself to an impossible standard. Did you get dressed today? Good. You are already ahead of the curve.
- Do not beat yourself up. This is a totally natural and normal phase that babies go through. I just kept telling myself that Ella was going through this because her brain was developing correctly. This was a GOOD thing.
It does not last forever, but it really does suck while its happening. Just breath deep, enjoy some extra snuggles with those night time wake ups (really the only silver lining in the whole thing) and know that when you get that first night of good sleep after this it will feel so so so good!