Tag Archives: baby sleep

Sleep Deprived: In the Throes of the 4-Month Sleep ‘Regression’

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.

playyard

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.

wail

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

blur

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.

blankie

“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.

mommy and me

I guess it’s worth it.

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Lies They Told Me About My Newborn

Parenting books. Childcare classes. Internet forums. Blogs. Baby websites. Developmental milestone emails. Nurses. Doctors. There is a plethora of sources from which baby facts and advice spout, and as an avid Googler and incessant researcher, I gobbled them all up like they were manna from heaven.

In the end, however, I realized that some key points were just total garbage. While I had hopeful thoughts of our baby sleeping nonstop, dropping off wherever he may lay, and establishing a reasonably spaced-out feeding schedule, the harsh reality was anything but.

I thought I’d take a moment to log some of the most outrageous lies I was fed. Not to burst your bubble, but just to let you know that we, too, were fed the party line – and choked on it.

Spoiler: Most of them have to do with sleep.

1.       They consolidate their sleep around 6 weeks, nap for upwards of 2 hours at a time throughout the day, and can sleep through the night!

First off, “sleep through the night” in and of itself is an awful, terrible misdirection on the part of the medical community. It turns out that when they say “sleep through the night,” they mean, “sleep five hours in a row.”

What? What kind of honky tonk BS is that? Whose night is five hours long? I mean, yeah, I’d love to sleep five hours in a row, don’t get me wrong. But when the baby goes to bed at 7 p.m., not only am I not at all tired, I still have to make and/or eat dinner, take a shower, pump, and get everything ready for work the next day — not to mention converse with my husband ab0ut more than diaper output and neck cheese (as in, “Make sure to clean his neck really well during bathtime, he has some major neck cheese and I don’t want him to be the smelly baby at daycare”) and have some small amount of downtime to play Candy Crush and catch up on “Mad Men”. So, by the time I crawl into bed way later than I should, this “sleeping through the night” kid only has about two more hours of sleep in him. Therefore, sleeping five hours in a row, while nice and all, is pretty much useless to me.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let me tell you what a great, white beacon of hope the daytime “sleep consolidation” lie was to me in those first four or so weeks. Sure, it got me through some of my darkest moments, allowing me to look forward to the mythical day when he’d turn six weeks, the sleep gods would flip a switch, and he’d stop taking 45 minutes to fall asleep for a 20-minute nap. Seriously, I think I have PTSD from those early days when I’d breathe a sigh of relief, sneak out of the room, make myself a hot lunch or start cleaning up or take a shower or just lay on the couch and watch “Grey’s Anatomy,” only to hear a tiny cough and a piercing wail within five minutes. Nowadays, even though he’s 15 weeks and usually naps for more than 30 minutes at a time, I rarely leave the room after putting him down, instead lolling on the bed playing on my iPhone or napping myself. I’m scarred from those days of hopefully leaving the room only to be called back within minutes. Scarred, I tell you.

And those two-hour naps that Babycenter claimed I’d start seeing? Sure, he had a couple last week. But he was also sick. So, you tell me – was he just so tired because he was sick?

By the way, Murphy’s Law dictates that, if you do leave the room, it’ll be a 15-minute nap. If you stay, he’ll sleep for three hours. Of course, you will have chosen not to nap yourself, and will instead of whiled away the time shopping on Amazon, thinking he’d wake any minute. And then when you finally get so tired you decide, “OK, he’s slept for a while, I can probably catch a few myself”… he wakes his ass up.

2.       They eat every two to three hours!

This sounded pretty reasonable to me. I breastfeed, and when we were in the hospital, the nurses would declare his next feeding time as three hours from when he’d last begun eating. So if he’d start eating at 1, he’d be due to eat at 4. Totally doable. And since he was so sleepy in those first few days out of the womb, I’d be the one waking him to eat. By the time we got home, I was told to feed every two hours to stimulate my milk production. OK, still doable – eat for, what, 15 minutes, then nap or whatever? And I can still get tons done, or nap myself. Deal.

Except, wait. He’s not exactly eating for 15 minutes. It’s more like 45 minutes. Per side. And then we’re done, and he’s still crying. Or rooting, or whatever. He’s still hungry? I mean, it works… he’s gulping it down… And hey, he’s “stimulating my supply.” But then, all of a sudden, he’s hungry every hour. And it takes an hour for him to eat. So it’s Boobfest 2013 and I’m the main act. Well, actually, I’m the only act.

This two-to-three-hour BS was one of the hardest to toss aside, by far. Not only did feeding him take forever, but it hurt like the dickens, so it wasn’t exactly something I looked forward to spending my entire day doing. I could also not master breastfeeding with one hand until he was about 12 weeks old, so it took both my hands. That meant that, short of setting up Netflix to play nonstop “Grey’s Anatomy,” I couldn’t do anything while he ate – like, oh, eat myself. Or drink water. Or let the whining dog out into the back yard. Or pee (seriously, there were days I didn’t pee all day long). This was especially difficult once my Mister Mister returned to work at two weeks postpartum.

3.       Baby won’t nap? The swing ALWAYS works!

Thank goodness we didn’t buy a swing ourselves – it was a hand-me-down – because this kid does NOT, nor has he ever, slept in or even enjoyed the swing. At all.

See, when you have a baby who will not nap, you run all sorts of frenzied Internet searches while frantically rocking him in his bassinet with one hand and loudly shushing. “4-week-old baby won’t sleep.” “4-week old 15-minute naps.” “Newborn sleep deprived.” “Infant sleep schedule.” And then you find these promising sleep experts and their books and blogs and 8-step low, low-priced personalized sleep programs, and you see there’s hope. Because there are things that work! Like shushing, and swaying, and swaddling, and sucking. And the swing.

Ah, the infant swing. All over the place, there were parents extolling its virtues, proclaiming that their crappy nappers would log one, two, even three-hour naps in these things.

So I’d pop him in there, turn the swing on, maybe even switch on some white noise, and he’d chill for a few minutes… And then he’d start crying. Powerfully.

Then I started searching for things like, “Baby won’t nap in swing.” Because everybody promised me he would. And I’d get an entire blog series about how to get your baby who won’t nap in the swing, to nap in the swing. And I do all of the stuff. ALL of it. I swaddle him, and I put the swing in a dark, quiet room, and I stick the pacifier in his mouth, and I turn on the white noise machine, and I turn the swing on high, and I strap him in, and I leave the room, and I wait 10 minutes.

And he wails. And wails. And does not nap.

So, I’m not saying the swing doesn’t work. But it certainly doesn’t work for every baby, because for us, it was a bust.

Plus, it’s a space-sucking monstrosity.

4.       Baby still won’t nap? Put him in the carrier! That poor kid just wants to be held! 

OK, so even if the swing doesn’t work, the infant carrier should, right? I mean, it totally makes sense that he was held 24/7 while I was pregnant with him, so he should be totally comforted by being held so close to me, and just nap the day away while I actually get some housework done. Or pee.

Thankfully, there are approximately 84 different infant carriers. So I bought a soft structured one, for shopping trips. And a long fabric one, for around the house. And a Mei Tai-style one, because it was cute.

And he hated them all.

Seriously.

OK, he dug the soft structured carrier occasionally, and mostly in the first few weeks of his life. I could got a couple of trips to Target and an outdoor gender-reveal party out of it. But the Moby Wrap? Ugh, awful. I used it 1.5 times – once to try it out, and once to actually carry him around in, until he fussed so powerfully I thought he would snap himself in two from arching backwards. And the Mei Tai? Oh, God. Hated it so much I thought he would melt into a poof of hate.

My theory is that, when held so close to me, he was right there in Boobland, but there was no access. He just wanted to eat, but instead I was cooking and emptying a dishwasher. And no, breastfeeding while carrying was not going to work out for us. Just trust me.

So these useless infant carriers sit on our closet shelf, and while I’ll probably trot out the soft structured one once he’s old enough to be carried on my back, the other two are officially wastes of money and wastes of space.

5.       They’re so great at this age! You can take them anywhere, and they just sleep!

If I had a nickel for every person that told me this, I’d be able to buy a pair of brass knuckles and punch them all in the face.

 

I could go on and on, with countless lies told to me about ways to get him to calm down, and ways to get him to nap. But in the end, what worked for him – and us – was time. It was hell, and I threw a pacifier across the room once or twice at my lowest moments, and even packed a bag and told my husband I was leaving at my very lowest, around six weeks postpartum. But then he got a little older, and breastfeeding didn’t hurt as much, and he became more efficient and ate for less time but got more so he went longer between feeds, and he started napping nominally longer and at least more frequently, mostly because we actually took the time to physically put him down in a sleeping structure instead of using a swing or a carrier or waiting for him to just flop over while playing on his activity mat and snooze for a couple of hours.

If I knew then, what I know now, I wouldn’t have wasted so much time wondering why he wasn’t doing what the books and blogs and sites and emails and forums told me he should be. Or wondering why all this stuff was working for them, but not for us.

Or, as my friend JB says, “If we knew then, what we knew now, we’d be $1,000 richer.”

Because today, while it’s not perfect, he’s healthy and happy and growing like a weed, and learning something new seriously every minute of every day.

The greatest truth of all is “this, too, shall pass” – and that’s no lie.

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