I want to jot a few things down about sleep while I still remember what we’re going through (and why). I know this is totally tldr; but because I’ve relied upon the advice of so many people this week I want to make sure I can recall everything even though my short-term memory is no doubt extremely extremely compromised due to lack of sleep.
A baby at four months of age can sometimes go through what’s called the ‘four month sleep regression’. Yeah, that’s what it’s called, and it is as bad as it sounds, but it’s not really what I’d call a regression. It’s actually a step forward in development (yay!). They begin to recognize patterns in activity in the world around them, and they get worried if/when things aren’t the same when they wake up as they were when they went to sleep. Another thing I didn’t know before this, is that sleep is learned. A person doesn’t just innately have the ability to release their conscious mind and nod off, but must figure out how to drift into a slumber.
At four months of age Dash stopped sleeping as well in all the ways we were used to having him sleep. Previously we’d have Dash sleep on us during the day because that worked. If he didn’t fall asleep quickly enough a short walk would always, always konk him out like a light. At night we’d dutifully try to put him in his bassinet because they say it’s important for babies to sleep in their crib/basket/hammock/closet but we’d then pull him into bed with us after he woke at night and demanded food.
That’s what we’d been doing, but suddenly at four months he started to really dread being put down in the basket at night and he’d fight sleep . At night we spent hours bouncing him on the ball and singing lullabies, then we’d lay the babe down in the basket and he’d jerk awake and start bawling. Jamie and I began to hate nighttime and we weren’t too crazy about each other, either. During the day Dash would sleep on us but not for long enough—little guys like he is now are supposed to sleep for a couple of hours every couple hours, and he was only sleeping thirty, forty minutes and then waking up excited to see what games we were going to play (see photo above of Aunt Charlie doing every trick in her book to keep bebe sleeping for a significant nap time). So, we decided we needed some help in the sleep department.
One tough night I asked the advice of Henrik Bennetsen, another parent (a more advanced one with three children to learn from). I thought I was ready for the dreaded Cry it Out, or anyway something. I knew I needed something. He said, “There is lots of different advice out there so it is really about finding something you believe in and then sticking with it. For me that was The Sleep Easy Solution.” The thing about this book that sold me is that they suggest that doing some sleep training, while it can be excruciating, can result in less crying overall—they call it the least-cry solution. That seemed to correlate with what we were beginning to experience on the ground in our household.
I got the book, I started reading it, it all made sense, and then we kind of accidentally started doing it one night, even though we weren’t ready. I was going to go on a nighttime adventure (Dave Chappelle!) and Jamie was going to be home alone, and, well. It just seemed like it was our last chance to try it until maybe mid-April, when he might be teething or have some other developmental milestone we would delay for.
Where we’re at—definitely still in the middle of it—is night 3 in this experiment. We’re supposed to keep going for at least 5 nights and days, and then keep doing it at least 10 to cement the learning. The last 2 nights have been brutal so I won’t describe them overly much except to say it’s no fun listening to your baby cry and that night two he fell asleep more quickly than night one (1.75 hours, .5 hours).
I will say that I have a lot of optimism for this approach because when the baby is awake, instead of putting him down under his play station to let him bat at some toys I’m actually hanging out with him, batting at the toys myself. Right now I know that when it’s nap time I will have some time to myself instead of wearing a baby and trying to keep him asleep. So for the past few days I have been treasuring every single second of his awake precious smiling adorable face. Which I love unbelievably much.
So that we can commiserate with people who have fresh babies, I’m continuing to jot down some of the details:
- Weaning from the habit of nursing to sleep in the middle of the night was horrid—we started that last night and he cried from about 1:45 am until 4 am. That was truly awful and none of us slept because we’re all in the same room. The second time he woke up (around 5:45 am) he only cried for about forty minutes.
- At first when I was reading the book on sleep I was thinking they didn’t need to be so babyish about the writing, and I didn’t need to read that the baby would still love me and be cheerful in the morning… But I can tell you I remembered and repeated to myself every one of those words when he was crying last night and when he woke up in the morning kind of catatonic from lack of sleep and we were worried that we were breaking his spirit. And they have to write in a babyish way because the people reading the book are not functioning properly when they read it.
- Ways we cheated so far: supposedly if you aren’t going to lay them in bed to sort out learning how to sleep for themselves you should have a nap-in-motion, so we let him sleep in the carseat while we biked over to a BBQ yesterday. He was so tired (poor guy) that we couldn’t have kept him up anyway.
- Another cheat: Today we let him nap on me while we had lunch with my former photo teacher and her partner. He slept from 2:10 until 5:30.
- Buy a really nice effing white noise machine, because we just got one today and night three he cried for maybe a minute or two but really hardly at all and now he is either asleep or maybe dead? (sorry, not funny but sometimes one has that thought and I would rather admit it).
- Recommended reading: for month two! Do this!! Do this!! We read some things like this but it didn’t make any sense to us at the time. While your baby is still tiny and not yet 4 months try to lay them down in their bed awake if you can. Even if you don’t do that, at least start working on your nighttime ritual so that by month 4 you kind of know what you’re doing.
- Read everything because one of these things will be the one that makes the most sense to you—they all kind of say the same thing. Today, just when I was most doubting that we should keep doing this we ran into the author of this post (a pediatrician) just by utter coincidence, and this writing was very encouraging and validated everything else I had read. And Natalie wrote to say that CIO was what worked for them with Joy, and Nick and Ingrid did something like this for Leo and Luke… anyway, just keep reading and asking everyone what they think until you find a way that works for you.
- If you don’t care if your babies sleep with you till age 5, or otherwise you don’t want to do any of this—that is fine! We decided on our sleep goals (baby goes to sleep at ~7, we have some time to ourselves) and are simply doing our best to get there. I expect a lot more bumps in this road.
- I am more sleep deprived now than I was when Dash was very small. I call him little bug sometimes, but tonight I called him little gub. So. You can see that my brain is scrambled big time, which is why I’m going to stop writing this and go to bed.