Conquering the 4-Month Sleep Regression: Part 1

As I've alluded to, April was a rough month in our house, namely because no one was getting much sleep.

We returned home from Easter weekend in Iowa when Liam started having sleep issues. Wouldn't sleep in his crib anymore, wouldn't sleep unswaddled anymore, was waking up a lot. We chalked it up to having his routine messed up when we traveled, and the fact that we allowed him to sleep in his beloved Rock 'N Play while we were there.

After a few nights, it became clear this was more than just re-adjusting to our schedule. This kid was just not sleeping anymore, and it was getting worse. I'd heard about the 4-month sleep regression and started to look into it more. Sure enough, he had all of the "symptoms." (Read more about it here at one of my favorite sleep resources.)

We rode it out for awhile - maybe a week or so - just to see if it would just go away without much intervention from us. Some babies go through it and you'd never know. Other babies get it bad for a few days.

But Liam struggled for 4 weeks. FOUR WEEKS.

Every night, we'd put him down at 9pm, swaddled in his crib (as we did prior to the regression). And every night, around 11pm, he'd wake up screaming. We'd soothe him, put him back in crib and he'd start wailing again. We'd eventually put him back in his Rock 'N Play. But even there, he'd only sleep for 1-2 hours before waking up crying again. He was waking up after every sleep cycle (45-50 minutes) some nights. He slept better as a newborn. I usually ended up nursing him because I knew it would get him back to sleep (ignoring the fact that I was introducing another sleep association.)

It got to the point where I was so ridden with anxiety. I'd go to bed anxious and fearful every night because I didn't know how long I would get to sleep, or how many times I'd have to wake up. When I heard Liam on the monitor, my heart would start pounding, and I'd just hold my breath, hoping he would go back to sleep.

Not every night was terrible. But I'd say on average, for those 4 weeks, Liam was waking up about an average of 6 times each night. Now, I know that many babies out there wake up this often and more, even babies older than Liam. But you have to understand - our little man was sleeping 9pm-5am, eating, and going back to sleep until 7:30am. I realize now we were lucky!

Being that I - we - were desperate for sleep, I spent hours on end researching the topic of sleep. Have you ever read that article by the mom who read every sleep book, and she basically concludes that all of the advice contradicts each other? That was me.  Every day I came home with a new solution. I bought memberships to sleep sites. I scheduled consultations with sleep experts. I bought gimmicky items guaranteed to make my baby sleep better. I bought e-books.

I. Was. Crazy. At one point, I seriously considered if this obsession with sleep was post-partum depression manifesting itself in a new way.

One night I'd be ready to have him Cry It Out, the next night I thought better of it. Next night let's try no swaddle, now let's try one arm out of the swaddle, fuck it let's go back to full swaddle. He's not getting a paci tonight, he's only getting a paci when he wakes up, but not when he falls asleep. Today we'll try schedule A, and next we'll go to schedule B. Tonight it's the sleep suit, tomorrow it's the Zippadee Dee sack. The problem is this, not actually it's that, so we have to do this...this was my brain for 4 weeks! It was maddening.

As a confused, sleep-deprived, new parent, I desperately needed explanations for Liam's behavior. I wouldn't even consider the possibility that his "behavior" was because Liam is just a little baby! I wanted to find an answer, a solution, an easy fix that would not only help us all sleep better. But also because as a parent, I just wanted understand what the hell was going on. I can see now that it was because, on some level, I believed that with understanding comes control. "If I know what it is, I can do something about it."

But trying too hard to understand can backfire, too. I got mad at my husband because on his night to get up with Liam, I felt he was neglecting Liam by letting him cry, and told him, "That's not what we agreed to." He explained he had no idea what we "agreed to" because my plan of attack was different every day.

So that was it. I needed to turn off the faucet of information. I needed to stop Googling. Stop buying e-books. Stop requesting sleep consultations. We needed to take what we knew about OUR son, about OUR family, about OUR beliefs, OUR goals for sleeping, and come up with a plan.

The one thing we knew for a fact, despite all of the conflicting information out there, was that the answer to getting through the sleep regression successfully was teaching Liam how to self-soothe in order to get himself back to sleep. How we did that was the question.

In my next post, I'll share what finally worked for our family in getting Liam to start sleeping again!

1 comment:

  1. I feel on edge! Like I can't wait to find out what worked for you! HAHA! Glad you are now on the other side of it. We are rounding the corner on 4 months in a few weeks.....


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