For those of you wondering what on earth a sleep regression is, (yeah, I didn’t know about it either!), basically your baby is making a giant developmental leap and suddenly starts waking more frequently at night. It typically happens around the four and eight month mark. When our baby turned four months, it meant we were waking up 5-10 times a night, almost every night!
Naptime changed a lot for us during this period as well. I used to be able to take my baby with me wherever I went, because he would fall asleep anywhere (as long as he was in my wrap!). But after he turned four months old, I noticed that he wasn’t easily sleeping on-the-go anymore. He was more interested in his surroundings, easily over-stimulated, and sensitive to loud noises.
Needless to say, this can be an extremely trying time for new parents because you are back to a period of running on limited sleep. And if you’re like me, lack of sleep is the hardest part about being a new parent (read more about that here)! So, I thought I would share five tips that helped our family get through this sleep regression (and helped us make it out the other end, alive! :D)
Five Tips for Getting Through Baby Sleep Regression
1) Establish a sleep routine
There are tons of sleep books and resources out there that will tell you about different strategies and methods to get your baby to sleep, and I’ve scanned through about five of them. The one tip that seemed to be consistent was the importance of establishing a sleep routine. A sleep routine is a set of activities that you do with baby before every nap/bedtime that signal to your baby it’s time to sleep. Activities can include:
*Taking a bath/giving a sponge bath
*Changing his/her diaper
*Putting on pajamas
*Turning on a sound machine
*Singing a lullaby
*Giving a baby massage
*Dimming the lights
*Saying a few words like “sleep time now”
*Nursing/feeding (this should ideally be done at the beginning of the routine)
When it comes to naps, you don’t have to do all of these, but a few should stay consistent. Our consistent naptime sleep routine includes lowering the lights, turning on the sound machine, changing his diaper, and nursing. Our full sleep routine includes: taking a bath; lowering the lights; putting on the sound machine; putting on PJs and a sleep sack; nursing; prayer; and saying “sleep time now”.
2) Try pumping and (letting others) give a bottle
Although I am exclusively breastfeeding, I have been getting my baby used to a bottle so that someone else (like our parents or my husband) can feed him if I need a break. I like the NUK® Simply Natural™ Bottles because they are designed with a “close to mom”feel, because they are modelled after the shape of a mother’s breast for an easy transition between breast and bottle. The NUK bottles are the only ones on the market that have multiple (up to nine) nipple holes, which makes the flow similar to a mother’s flow, providing a more natural feeding experience. These bottles are part of the NUK® Simply Natural™ Feeding Support System, which also includes the Simply Natural™ Freemie® Collection Cups that I blogged about here. Now that my baby is starting to take a bottle, other people can feed him while I nap.
3) Get in solid naps during the day (you too!)
During a sleep regression, you may notice your baby is taking shorter naps (catnaps) that are around 30-45 minutes long. This was our case for what seemed like forever, but now our baby is starting to take 1.5 to 2 hour naps again! Another piece of advice I’ve picked up from multiple sleep books is ensuring that they have a good morning nap. If this means that you need to nap right next to your baby, do so! It’s tempting to want to get things done while your baby sleeps, but getting in at least one nap a day helped me survive those sleepless nights!
4) Ask for help
I’ve said it before – raising little people takes a village! Who is your community? It can be your family, a group of friends, your faith community. Whatever form it is, I can’t stress enough how important it is to surround yourself with a group of people who can carry you through this huge life change. For most of history, people have raised families in a community setting. It is our modern North American society that has created this isolated trend of doing it ‘on your own’. You can certainly do it on your own, but it is so hard!
So, ask for help. Have someone come over for a couple of hours to hold and play with your baby while you do whatever you need to do. Take a break, let your husband take over for a while, and do something to recharge (ideally, out of the house!). I have definitely leaned on my family (especially our parents!) and church community to help us through this time, and it might be the only way we have been able to get through (sanely) on such little sleep. If you can afford it, you can pay for post-partum doula services (highly recommend Graceful Birth! – because she’s my mom and her services are awesome!)
5) Remember this season will pass!
There were moments when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore. There was a point when I was waking up so often, that my body just couldn’t sleep anymore. I would just lay awake at 3:00 am unable to sleep because I knew I would have to wake up in an hour. These were hard moments and as a new mom, I didn’t know if they would pass.
But, my baby is seven months old now and I can safely say that we are sleeping better again. As I write this blog, he is taking a two-hour nap. This is a huge improvement from the 30 minute catnaps we were having during the sleep regression. At night, we wake up around three times now. I also feel that although it is still hard to not sleep through the night fully, my body has adjusted. But, I’ve also had to adjust my lifestyle and slow down. I have to be aware of my limits, as I have limited energy stored these days. At the end of the day, this is the season of life I am in. I know it won’t last forever; it will pass.
Disclaimer: This post was written in collaboration with NUK. As always, opinions are 100% my own!