The phrase “sleeping through the night” takes on a whole new meaning when you’re a new parent. Everyone tells you to get as much sleep as you can before the baby comes. But no matter how much you try to mentally prepare yourself for the sleepless nights to come, it’s impossible to truly understand how much you will miss that peaceful slumber until it’s actually gone.
The reality of just how little sleep I needed to function was something I learned very quickly as a new mom. During the first 48 hours after giving birth, I got (maybe) 5 hours of sleep…TOTAL. And those 5 hours were hardly restful, to say the least!
Once we were home, it was much easier to adjust to our baby’s constant schedule of eat, sleep, repeat. In fact, by the time Warren was a couple of months old he was basically “sleeping through the night.” He would typically sleep a solid 6-hour stretch at night, wake up to nurse, and go right back to sleep. I remember one night he slept for 9 hours straight, and I thought surely we were those lucky parents who had been blessed with a good sleeper.
Then came the sleep regression.
Suddenly our superstar sleeper was waking up every 1-2 hours at night and only taking 30-minute naps during the day. My husband and I felt like we had been hit by a train. We were hesitant to start any true “sleep training” at such a young age, and I couldn’t bear to leave him crying. So, in our desperation, we started a process of trial and error to see if anything would help him sleep better.
First, we tried a loose version of the “pick up, put down” method, but each time we tried to put Warren down he would get increasingly more upset. We tried letting him suck on our finger, which used to always soothe him to sleep, but now he angrily pushed our hand away. To make matters worse, he decided he didn’t like the pacifier either.
It seemed like nothing would calm him down except to nurse; so that’s what we did—every time he needed to fall asleep, and every time he woke up during the night. It was extremely demanding, but it saved us so many tears and was so much easier than fighting for an hour just to have him fall asleep for two more. We were still zombies, but at least we had found a relatively painless solution.
However, after about a month with no improvement in Warren’s sleeping patterns, we had reached our breaking point. One night, in a moment of desperation, my husband finally pulled the trigger and overnighted Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit from Amazon. We were shocked the next evening as we laid Warren in his crib. The calming effect of the sleepsuit started as soon as he had it on, and we watched on the baby monitor as he calmly put himself to sleep.
I wish I could say the sleepsuit was the solution to all of our sleeping problems, but it wasn’t. It did help Warren fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer, but the only true solution we found was time. Warren’s sleep regression lasted about 6 weeks. The major mental developments he was experiencing during that time completely changed his perception of the world around him. His sleep cycles were also changing, and he didn’t know how to cope. It was a difficult period for everyone. And even though I was exhausted and frustrated during those 6 long weeks, it helped to remind myself of all the changes Warren was also dealing with.
Eventually we broke the nursing-to-sleep habit, Warren started gradually sleeping in longer stretches, and my husband and I slowly started to feel human again. Things got better, but it took a lot of patience and flexibility on our part. All of those hours I spent searching the internet for advice, and even contemplating hiring a sleep consultant, I now wish I had spent catching up on sleep!
If you are in the thick of this seemingly endless phase, my best advice is to take a deep breath and remember that this too shall pass. While I couldn’t stand hearing advice like this at the time, I have to admit it’s very true. Sleep deprivation alone is bad enough, and the last thing you need is the extra pressure of trying to handle the regression the “right” way. Try out different methods to see what works for your baby, but don’t expect miracles to happen overnight. Even if you create some “bad” sleep habits during this phase, there is still time to correct them.
One day you will sleep again, and the only reminder you’ll have of those sleepless nights is the expensive sleepsuit that helped you make it through.