As I sit on the floor of my daughters room, letting her cry a little bit while she tries to learn to put herself to sleep, I can’t even think about writing anything else this week other than this. The 4-month sleep regression, or as I like to call it “death by sleep deprivation”. I may or may not also be crying.
Before we had our sweet little lady, if you’d asked me how I hoped to approach sleep with her, I would have told you that I definitely wanted to sleep train. I was all judgy about people who didn’t have a strict schedule and let their babies “run shit” for lack of a better term. I’d clearly never had a baby, because I didn’t realize that they kind of run shit, anyway. I’m very type A and I like things to be a certain way, organized, and predictable. Ha! I had another thing coming.
The moment we had Wren Marí, everything changed. I became this incredibly lax mom that has followed a very baby-led lifestyle for the last 4 months. I immediately ditched all the research I’d done in preparation of becoming the “perfect mom” and just did what felt natural and right for our family and little girl. For us, “right” has been nursing on demand, napping generally whenever she seemed tired (usually 1-1.5 hours wake time between naps), and bed sharing. Both my husband and I have been in total agreement that this is what’s best for our daughter and for us. It’s actually been going swimmingly and she’s been a very joyful & easy baby.
Until about a week ago. Don’t get me wrong, she’s still a happy girl & the light of our lives, but mom life has gotten real. Real fast. Nursing her to sleep and then laying her in her crib for a nap have become a thing of the past. She suddenly started popping right up the moment I tried to lay her down. She started fighting nap time, taking sometimes an hour or more to soothe to sleep. She’s only napping for about 10-15 minutes at a time and sleeping in hour-long increments throughout the night. This makes for a sleep-deprived mom & baby. I think the only decent naps we’ve had have been during walks when I wear her in our Tula baby carrier. It’s truly crossed my mind to go for an hour long walk every single time she needs a nap. See? I’m clearly losing it from lack of sleep.
Mind you, this has only been going on for a few days… But it has made me question everything I’ve been doing as a mom. Did I make a mistake following my baby’s lead? Should I have been sleep training and letting her cry it out? Should I have had her on a clear schedule? Would this all be easier if I had done things differently?
By nature, I’m a researcher, so I’ve read all about both sides of the spectrum on sleep training and everything in between. To (over) simplify it, many proponents of the “no-cry” method suggest that letting your baby cry it out is teaching them that mom and dad will not come if they need them and will lead to attachment problems later in life. The sleep-training model suggests that letting them cry will teach them to soothe themselves to sleep and that letting them cry during this time is not ignoring a need, it’s ignoring a want. Research aside, my natural inclination is in support of no-cry. I want Wren to know that we will come anytime she needs us and feel that we should respond when she cries (real cries, not just fusses) regardless of the cause.
In the last couple of days, I’ve also been reading a lot about this huge change that happens for babies around 4 months. They make huge developmental leaps and their sleeping abilities change as well. I won’t go in depth, but I thought *this* site had great information if you’d like to read more. Basically, around 4 months- babies stop sleeping like babies. They can no longer fall asleep anywhere at anytime. They stop sleeping in a constant deep sleep and start cycling through light and deep sleep and are easily awoken. Often, they will wake up just because they are in the “light” part of their sleep cycle and don’t know how to put themselves back to sleep. Hence the 10-15 minute naps we’ve been having.
It’s incredibly comforting to just know that this is a normal developmental stage for our little nugget and even exciting to know that she’s meeting her milestones like a rockstar, but it also means that we have to make some adjustments that account for her current developmental stage. This “sleep-regression” is not a short phase that will pass on its own, rather it is a permanent change in sleep as our baby girls brain matures. We need to find the best way to help her learn how to sleep again in a way that is appropriate for her age while still following our maternal and paternal instincts as to what’s best for our girl. I think some experimenting is in order.
I wish I was ending this post with some miraculous solution for other moms and dads out there. But I’m not. I’m ending this post after picking my daughter up out of her crib because I couldn’t stand to let her cry & letting her nurse and nap in my lap while I typed this on my phone. I haven’t gotten anything done, haven’t showered or had lunch, have a to-do list that’s growing faster than I can check things off, but my mommy heart is happy. I hope that I’m able to separate my motherly instincts from MY emotional wants & find the right way to move forward for Wren. This is just one of many hurdles we will face and I honestly don’t know how we’ll decide to handle this. But I do know that we’ll only grow stronger as a family for moving through it and that literally everything we do is out of the deepest love for our baby bird.
Have you dealt with the 4 month sleep regression? How did you get through it? What worked and didn’t work for you? We would love to hear your experiences!