Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sleeping and the 4 Month Sleep Regression

I mentioned yesterday that I had a LOT to say on the subject of Natalie's sleeping schedule during the last month.

This past month, I started weaning her off her swaddle by swaddling just one of her arms. I first did it on a night when I knew she was exhausted, and would likely sleep through anything. All in all, there was no trouble with swaddling just one arm, she adjusted to it very easily for a few weeks.
For the entirety of her 4th month of life, I was extremely worried every single night about the dreaded 4 month sleep regression. I had read countless things about this stage, and every night as I put her to bed, I braced myself for what was to come:  "would the sleep regression start tonight?" Right after she turned 4 months, she randomly woke up 3 hours after she went to bed - (she usually would go 6-8 hours before waking up!) I immediately thought "Here we go, this is it." And I instagramed this picture from our baby-cam, announcing that the sleep regression had arrived!


Many of you had encouraging words for me: "Good luck!" "It's terrible, but you'll get through it!" etc., etc. But then...that didn't happen again for a few weeks. 4 months and 1 week passed, then 4 months and 2 weeks, 4 months and 3 weeks and then we entered the last week of her 4th month. I thought "maybe we're in the clear! Maybe she won't have this sleep regression!" And then...all of a sudden, it hit. I was up every 2-3 hours for about a week straight. I don't so much mind the getting up part, as long as I can feed her and get her right back down to sleep, but the problem she's been having for a little over 2 weeks now is the "going back to sleep" thing. She tosses and turns, and she startles awake almost immediately after falling back asleep. For two nights last week, I was stubborn. I had just fed her, and I knew she wasn't hungry. I also knew that nursing her would help her fall back to sleep almost immediately, but that she was using nursing as her only way to go back to sleep! So I refused to give in, and tried to get her to sleep by other methods. (which is hard...if I'm holding her and she wants to nurse...she will kick and arch her back every way she can in order to reach the boob!) After 2 1/2 hours in the middle of the night, I gave in and started nursing her again - heck, she usually eats every 2 hours during the day anyway. In the middle of the night, when you just want to go back to bed...some battles just aren't worth fighting anymore.

This has been a tricky balance for me. Many people will say that I'm helping her form bad habits here by always nursing her in the middle of the night, and I wouldn't disagree with that. But I've also read many counter arguments to that. These people say that sometimes, you need to do whatever you can to get through the regression/night and you have time to break bad habits later. This paragraph struck me from this article on Sleep, Baby, Sleep.

I look at a sleep regression like when you first bring your baby home from the hospital. Anything goes at that point, anything she needs you provide. No set rules.  So that the both of you get some sleep, otherwise you'll slowly start to lose your sanity. Don't be afraid that your going to have to start sleep training all over. Like I said, once your baby already has those skills, the most that you'll have to do is remind her, not start all over.
The only thing that made me get through the last two weeks was a complete change of mindset. I was so focused on "not giving in" that my mind would go to a dark place in the middle of the night. After 1 to 2 hours of trying to get her to go back to sleep, I start to think crazy, stupid dramatic things:
"Of course my baby can't go to sleep"
"Maybe I should just stop nursing her altogether if she's going to be like this"
"I can never do anything again, so much for ever having a social life!"
"Who needs F*** sleep anyway?!"
"Well great, I'll just be super tired tomorrow then, ugh!"
But WHY did I let it get to me so much? Do I really think I'm the only mother up at 3 in the morning trying to get her baby to sleep? Across the country, and across the world, there are hundreds of other mothers doing the exact same thing I'm doing at the exact same time. And what does it really matter? Sure...maybe I'll be a little bit tired the next day, but you know what's truly amazing? I can take a nap. I don't have to get up at 6am to go work an 8 hour work day - I'm extremely lucky for that, and I have no right to complain.

Once I stopped the self-loathing of being up in the middle of the night, and once I came to terms with the fact that for these few weeks during her regression I'm going to nurse her extra during the night, and I'll worry about weaning her from that later on, I became a much more sane person. Last week, she tossed and turned one night from 1:45-4:00 am: waking, sleeping, waking, sleeping. I was in and out of sleep during that time watching her on the monitor, but she never cried that whole time, and from what I could see, she was in the process of learning to put herself back to sleep. Before I knew it it was 5:30am and she was up and crying...but the important thing is she had spent all that time calmly working through going to sleep by herself. It was a long night of me constantly checking on her, but it was still progress in my eyes.

I've come to terms with the fact that I will probably feed her during the night for quite some time. And as long as she goes right back to sleep after feeding for 30 minutes, I don't mind. Kellymom.com is basically the breastfeeding bible, and the article "Sleeping Through the Night" is pretty much exactly how I plan to continue with Natalie. The link is great, and I highly recommend reading it if you are going through the same thing as I am. It basically says that every baby is different. Like learning to crawl and walk, babies reach the milestone of sleeping through the night at all different ages, and on their own time. Natalie may not necessarily be waking because she's hungry, but because she's still learning how this crazy, scary thing called life and the world works. Who am I to deny her a little bit of comfort in the middle of night? At the end of the day, giving in to that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
All in all, after reading up on some of this stuff in the past few weeks, I've been much better and more sane during these nighttime feedings. In the grand scheme of things, I only have a short window of time in Natalie's life where she's going to want to fall asleep in my arms, the least I can do is embrace it and enjoy the extra minutes (or yes, sometimes even hours) that I get to do that.
How do you handle getting up in the middle of the night? Did you experience the 4 month sleep regression?

12 comments:

  1. I'm three weeks away from the four month milestone and I'm wondering if this will happen with Jeanette. She has random nights where she will wake up at 2am and after letting her cry it out for 10 minutes I go in and rock her. She typically sleeps from 10:30pm to 7am. We've been trying the Baby Wise method and it seems to be working for her, but I do worry about sleep regression. Now that I'm back at work full time my husband and I take turns getting up with her if she's up in the middle of the night.

    I had to give up nursing due to lack of supply so I try not to feed her in the middle of the night unless she is really upset. It's so hard sometimes to know what is the right thing to do, but I think it's best to do what works for you and your baby! Every baby is so different and so is every family and what works for them! Good luck momma, you're doing a great job!

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    1. That's so good that your husband and you share the responsibility during the middle of the night. Since I'm home with her, I don't mind taking the night shift, however - I do worry that if I am every away for a night for some reason, that she won't do well with Chris in the middle of the night because she's not used to that. So - that's another hurdle we may have to cross one day (like my sister's upcoming overnight bachelorette party)

      You are right - every baby is different, every baby needs to be comforted in a different way and it's just up to us to try different things and figure out what works. This is truly an example where you have to just reinvent the wheel because there is no right or wrong. You're doing a great job too!!

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  2. You have a great attitude about it! I was back at work by the time Abbie went through hers, and it was HORRIBLE. Then she got better for a little bit before getting worse again...and then at 8 months, we sleep trained her. It was a rough few days, but was one of the BEST things we ever did. If you get to the point that you want to do it, feel free to pick my brain! I also put how we did it up on my blog. :)

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    1. I can't imagine how you functioned on such little sleep - go you! What "exactly" is sleep training? I honestly hear so much about it everywhere and I don't understand it - what is different about the way you sleep train than any other night?? I def. want to pick your brain, and I'm heading over to your blog right now to read up on it!

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  3. Laura, you are doing a fabulous job and I must say Natalie is too. She has trained you in the way a parent should be. LOL. That is the job of every child. You had to work through with letting go and you did. It was your sanity or your pride. You made the better choice and you'll do it over and over again throughout your parenting lifetime. All Natalie needs to know at this point is that you or Chris will be there whenever she needs you. That's how infants build trust which is the foundation of all future relationships. I'm so very proud of you, Mama!

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  4. We are in a rough sleep patch, too. It started at 4 months and now at 7 months, it is still not better but has changed several times. I try to have the same mindset because she's gone through a lot.. two teeth and it looks like another on the way, rolling both ways, learned to sit up, starting to figure out crawling, and now separation anxiety. Someday she won't want to sleep in my arms or snuggled up in bed so we just do what we need to do to survive and try to soak it up at the same time. Glad to see we're not alone!

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    1. Yes..they go through sooo much the first year that when you think about it, you do have to be understanding that their bodies are withstanding a LOT of change and growth for such a tiny little thing. It definitely is one day, and one night at a time! Of course, I post today about her trouble sleeping and last night was her best night of sleep to date! 12 hours, and only woke up once from 4:30-5:00!!

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  5. I've been a silent follower for a few months now. I found your blog through another mom blog I'm sure. We have a lot in common as far as our babies are concerned. We didn't find out the gender, thought it was a boy..girl! She's smallish, sounds a lot like Natalie as far as eating is concerned, etc. I don't have a blog anymore, but am working on starting one. Anyway, my daughter was born 2 months after Natalie and you have no idea how much your posts help me. I feel like they give me ideas/heads' up, etc.. on what is okay and what's not okay. Anyway, this is something I needed to read. I feel like my little girl hit this stage a little early. We never swaddled her (she didn't like it) but we did have her in a Rock and Play. I'm trying to transition her to lying flat and it's just not happening, but she's stopped sleeping well in the Rock and Play, too. I am a lot like you, I don't mind getting up in the middle of the night, it's when she won't go back to sleep. I am grateful I can take naps during the day, too. I love your perspective. I just sometimes feel like I'm doing something WRONG and that's where I start to get frustrated. Keep the posts coming. They really are helpful. And she's adorable!

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    1. thank you thank you so much Sharlee!! This was such a sweet post, thank you for following!

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  6. You are doing so awesome!! The 4m sleep regression killed us!! She still doesn't sleep well. She is up once for sure and I nurse her. You have a great attitude. You just have to do what is best for you.

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    1. Thank you!! Yea..once a night I don't mind - and lately, since I posted this she's been much better!

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