I write this bleary eyed over my 2nd cup of coffee for the day. It’s been a rough few weeks with my little monkey, who has been pushing me to my limit. No matter how far we go, though, it seems I can always find just an ounce more of patience and energy to give my baby girl what she needs from me.
At around 2 months old, Avery began to sleep beautifully. She would be in bed for 12-13 hours at a time, only waking twice (sometimes only once) for quick feedings. It was wonderful. Especially now looking back. People warned me not to get used to it, and they were right. Just when I got used to it, she changed things up on me. DRASTICALLY.
Around 12 weeks, Avery started waking up every 2 hours again. It was really hard at first. After doing some research I decided she must be going through a her 3 month growth spurt, especially since she would wake up hungry and need to eat before she would go back down. Her pacifier, which was usually good enough, was not anymore. So, I did my best to deal with it, and figured it would get better soon.
In the 5 weeks since, it has not gotten better. In fact, one might say it has gotten worse. Much worse. There have been nights where she wakes up needing me each hour. There have been nights, and days, when she will sleep nowhere but in my arms. Most nights her “long” sleep stretch is 2 hours, and only if I am lucky. Just two nights ago I was up with her 6 times between 11pm and 7:30am. I am coping ok, and doing my best to deal with it. What makes my life easier is the fact that I am co-sleeping, and that often times all she needs is just a little bit of comfort (in the form of nursing in her mamas warm cuddly arms) before going right back down, sometimes in less than 5 minutes.
As her mother, I can’t help but feel like this is happening because of something I did. That if I did (or had done) something differently, this wouldn’t be happening at all. So, I set out to explain why my baby has regressed so terribly, and I realized that it is so common they actually have a name for it! It is called 4 month sleep regression. Hallelujah! It is not something I am doing wrong! It is not something that is my fault. It is completely normal. So normal that it has been studied and named. This made me feel much better.
Through all of the reading and research I have done on infant sleep, I have come across sleep training- aka “crying it out"- over and over again. This school of thought believes that if I let her cry it out and go back to sleep on her own, eventually she will teach herself to go back to sleep on her own without needing me.
Maybe I am a softie ( I have always been a fairly sensitive person) but the thought of it makes me sick to my stomach. Leaving my baby girl to cry it out in order to go to sleep is not what I am prepared to do (and logistically, would not work really well considering she sleeps only a foot or so away from me). It ignores what a baby's cry was designed for- to alert parents that something is not right. I just don’t think I could ever do it, even if this were to go on for many more months.
I knew when I decided to have a child that there would be sleepless nights. Forcing my infant into independence, before she is ready, is not something I agree with. My belief is that children need to be parented to sleep, not put to sleep. I feel (in fact, I know) she is too young to manipulate me, and by crying she is communicating a need- the only way she knows how. The CIO approach is, in my opinion, a mis-guided effort by some sleep "expert" to try and mold babies to fit into their parent's lives- not the other way around. Another aspect of the "let's have babies conveniently" mindset. A lot of research supports my feelings as well.
So, I will keep doing what I can to find the energy I need to carry on. I know that eventually, as her sleep system matures, she will learn to go to sleep on her own. Current findings say that this happens at some point between 10 and 18 months.
10 and 18 months??
I’d guess I’d better stock up on coffee.