Guys. The struggle is very real right now.
Our beautiful, lovely, almost 6 month old daughter has been going through a “sleep regression”. A sleep regression is defined as a period of time when a baby wakes more throughout the night, is harder to settle and can skip or take shorter naps (https://www.babycentre.co.uk).
The reasoning behind a sleep regression is thought to be because babies sleep patterns are beginning to go through cycles of light and deep sleep, similar to adults. This normally occurs around 4 months but can happen at any time. When babies wake up, they usually don’t know how to self soothe and get themselves back to sleep on their own. That’s where mom (or dad) come in with the rocking, shushing and feeding to get baby back to sleep. These methods to get babies to sleep are often called sleep “crutches”.
There are skeptics out there that say sleep regression isn’t real. But I’m here to tell you it is for us. In the first few months of Hadleigh’s life, she slept pretty much through the night with maybe the occasional 1 or 2 wakens to feed and it wouldn’t take long at all to put her to sleep. She was in her crib at 2 months old with no issues. Now it takes about an hour for her to fall asleep, and she wakes up about 3-4 times during the night and she gets extremely upset about being in her crib.
So why the sudden change? Besides her sleep patterns beginning to mature, I have a couple of theories behind this new sleep schedule of hers. For one, the first couple of months I did not nurse but I exclusively pumped. So she was bottle fed for the most part. After about 3 months I decided to transition her back to the breast while I was off work and she continued to bottle feed while I was at work. Her sleep stayed decent in the beginning of the transition, however, once I started working less, this is when bad habits began. Now this is all my fault. I was enjoying the increased amount of time spent with her and the bonding of nursing. This has resulted in her pretty much needing my breast in order to fall asleep, which has become her sleep crutch.
Another theory to her sleep schedule is because she has spent a large amount of time in her short life traveling. We have been to Maryland to visit family for a week at time twice, Asheville for Brendan’s job and the beach. Traveling can disrupt everyone’s sleep schedule, so I have no doubt that the lack of consistency of her sleep has been due to travel. This last trip to Maryland proved especially difficult because the only device we had for her to sleep in was a Rock N’ Play. She HATES that thing. So I ended up bed sharing in a king sized bed at my dads for those 10 days we were there (something I swore I’d never do, but desperate times…). Her knowing that I was right there gave her the impression she could nurse whenever she turned over towards me. I allowed this because I knew we were in a new environment and I felt bad ignoring her cries while I was right beside her.
In a desperate need for sleep, I was determined to get her back into some sort of schedule and into her crib for bedtime once we got back home. My husband and I have gone back and forth with the idea of “sleep training”. There are so many methods out there that it seems daunting to find the right one that will work for our baby. Every baby is different and there is no guarantee one method will work over another. Our second night back from Maryland we attempted a modified version of the “Ferber method”, which is a version of “cry it out” where you go in to check on her in intervals. We would check on her every 7 minutes and it took about an hour of her crying to finally fall asleep. That night she ended up sleeping from 8pm to 630am, Brendan fed her, and then she slept until 8:30am. It was AWESOME!
However, it hasn’t gone quite as well since that night. She will sleep a for a good chunk of time, usually 8pm-1am and then 4am-6:30am then until 7:30/8am. I know a lot of parents have it worse that we do. My main concern is her needing to nurse to sleep and her crying fits when we put her in crib to go to sleep. I was so worried after our Maryland trip that she would not sleep in her crib. It is definitely difficult to get her down but I am thankful she sleeps a good amount.
I will say she has never been a great napper. She has way too much FOMO (fear of missing out) to sleep much during the day. Naps are spent with her in my arms. I have read a lot of advice from other women and pediatricians that recommend focusing on bedtime first, since the drive to sleep during naps is not as strong and can prove more difficult for sleep training. I am still nursing her to sleep. I want to start off gradually into a routine, especially because we are moving in less than a week and I know she will probably get messed up again being in another new environment. Once we move I plan on determining a better sleep training method and schedule to help her adjust.
I will keep you guys updated on how it goes once we move! I’m also SO open to advice or hearing other mama’s personal experiences with sleep training their babes!
And the adventure continues.