There’s a sentiment among parents, a sort of superstition, that you are never to publicly share your good fortune regarding any aspect of your child’s sleep. Whether you have an awesome napper who falls asleep promptly whenever tired, or a sleep-through-the-nighter at just 2 weeks of age, keep that shizz to yourself. Because if you don’t, the sleep gods will rain fury down upon you for committing such a sin, and you will be tormented by a period of poor sleep unimagined by even the most pessimistic parent.
Bean has never been a great daytime sleeper, but his nighttime sleep has always been solid — and even more so in recent weeks. So for us, it started with my ill-conceived proclamation to daycare workers that, while he rarely if ever napped in their presence, he had always been a good sleeper at night, waking only once or twice briefly to eat, then going back down sleepily and soundly.
Then, he slept for a 10-hour stretch two nights in a row. And then he slept through all the way, from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., without waking once. And I shared this news with his teachers. And then everything fell apart.
That’s right: We are deep in the throes of the dreaded 4-month sleep regression, and our little overachiever decided to start going through it a full two weeks before he even makes 4 months.
On one of the rare days he was sleeping through — here, in my office about to take a nap — right before it all hit the fan.
No sooner had he slept through, than he started waking up twice a night again. Then it was three times. By the end of last week, he was waking up four times a night, unable to be calmed by a pacifier. Over the weekend, he started taking upwards of an hour to fall asleep at night, an event that we hadn’t experienced since the bad-old newborn days of 4, 5, and 6 weeks old. After 20 minutes of fuss-filled nursing, he screams for more, only to refuse to remain latched. Then he goes stiff as a board and start screaming the second I attempt to put him back down in his bassinet. A quick pop of the paci can quiet him (once he’s eaten) but it will fall out two or three times, prompting another fuss fest until we quickly replace it. This past Friday, he slept from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m., and took an unprecedented 3-hour nap on Saturday, which gave me hope, but it turns out he was probably just catching up from the horror fest that was his week of nonexistent daycare naps, because he went right back to waking up four times a nap and short, crappy naps thereafter.
You can see why our most recent attempts to move him out of our bedroom and into his crib were yet another big, fat fail.
We don’t swaddle him anymore, but this most closely matches what bedtime looks like these days. Again.
Google “4-month sleep regression” and you get tons of blog posts and frantic forum postings. What the eff is going on with my child’s sleep? Even though I knew it was coming, I kidded myself into believing it was a myth, or that I’d be one of the lucky few it didn’t happen to. I told myself that, since a friend reported that her son’s regression involved two night wakings a night, that we didn’t have far to regress because Bean was already doing that, and it wasn’t that bad.
Oh, how foolish I was. I’m here to tell you that, in our house at least, the 4-month sleep regression is alive and well.
This regression, or whatever, is theoretically tied to Wonder Week 19, which helpfully starts as early as week 14. According to scientists Hetty van de Rijt and Frans Plooij, there are 10 developmental spurts that occur independently of physical growth spurts. These phases, which can last a few days or a few MONTHS (holy hell), are when babies are working out pretty amazing concepts regarding themselves and the world around them. They may co-occur with growth spurts, but are not the same thing. The pattern goes:
- Fussy period when they’re working it all out
- The “leap” where they can now demonstrate a grasp of what they learned during the fussy period
- A sunny period between Wonder Weeks where your child is tolerable again
This is what stares back at me each night. Clearly not the face of a child who’s sleeping.
I haven’t read the book, because I haven’t really found it necessary — there are plenty of good resources regarding WWs online. One of my favorites is this rundown by Who’s That Mom? Ask Moxie also has some really useful posts on this topic, including “A reminder about sleep regressions” (hey-o, there’s another one in four months!) and “Should you sleep train your 4-month old?”
So what’s going on that’s so disturbing my kiddo’s sleep?
Wonder Week 19: The World of Events
Basically, he’s learning about sequence of events (grab toy, inspect toy, put toy in mouth). Not to mention there is also a 4-month growth spurt. EXCELLENT. All that means that not only has he become a tremendously shitty sleeper all around the clock, but he’s also:
- Moody: Lately, the littlest thing seems to set him off. He’s like a mini toddler: Take away his stuffed frog? Meltdown. Put him down in his crib? Meltdown. Walk into the hallway with him? Meltdown. Dry his hair after a bath? Meltdown. One second he’s a giggle box, the next he’s Professor Fussypants from Tantrum University.
- Clingy: He just can’t hang as long as he used to under his mobile or his activity gym. If we’re not right by his side, he’s screeching to be picked up.
- An atrocious, yet voracious, nurser: Good grief, he hasn’t been this bad of an eater since I was engorged. He always seems starving, but he just won’t latch. He latches then pops off a dozen times in as many seconds, eventually screaming and pitching a fit because there’s no milk in his mouth — because it’s pouring down my boob. Meanwhile, he’s waking up every two hours to eat throughout the night. Because what I really want to do at 3 a.m. is wrestle a 16-week-old who’s hangry but won’t eat. In fact, this terrible eating was largely responsible for my sudden fear last week that my milk supply was plummeting, which led to my taking supplements containing fenugreek, which apparently causes Bean great gastric distress and led to several huge diaper blowouts at daycare, making me feel like Mommy of the Year. And then at the end of the week, I ended up putting 18 extra ounces in the freezer, so… no, my milk supply is fine. My kid is just a terrible nursling ATM.
“I’m exhausted but I’d rather spend 45 minutes rubbing my blanket all over my face.”
For now, I’m taking great comfort in the fact that this is a temporary phase. I did attempt some CIO with interval checks on Friday, determined to make the crib transition over the long weekend despite his poor sleep patterns, because apparently I had not yet read the aforementioned article on sleep training a 4-month-old (short story: Don’t do it). And he ended up screaming so powerfully that it took him a full 30 minutes to calm down even after I transferred him back to the Rock n Play. Which made me feel like a SUPER awesome parent.
The bad news? Once he’s out of this phase, he’ll be prepping for Wonder Week 26 (the world of relationships, AKA cause and effect) and probably teething.
Because the fun just never stops.
I guess it’s worth it.