What do you do when you are exhausted all the time? When day and night merge into one? When you feel like you could die of tiredness? (dramatic , I know). No one can prepare you for having a baby. This is my response when everyone asks how I have found it – No one can prepare you. Everyone told me it would get easier when my baby started sleeping through, but he just didn’t. Well, he did for a week and I thought I had cracked parenting, then he started waking up again every two hours. I had a glorious week where I felt human again! !In a 3am googling session I turned to my husband I told him that apparently this is the infamous 4 month sleep regression. No one told me about this. It was clearly another parenting secret that is kept hidden and must not be spoken about to expectant mothers. Everyone asked, “How old?….ah 4 months,” and gave a sympathetic nod.
Now he is 8 months old and people are telling me that he must be having the 8 month sleep regression! WHAT!? NO!? He has not recovered from the 4 month sleep regression! Oh, this one is caused by separation anxiety? Well that solves my problem completely; I need to be with him at all times, obviously. And, at this landmark in growing up I had to bring my baby back into bed with us. This was a huge regression because we had unintentionally used this method at birth. He knew what he was doing as well, the moment I gave up and turned back in the direction of our bedroom, he actually smiled. Honestly, I do not care what causes it, just make him bloody sleep… please.
I was not concerned about asking for help with this sleep issue. Here are a few methods I was told about – genuine methods from my health visitor.
- Give baby a dummy- He had never had a dummy. I had not deliberately decided this, I just never bought one and by the time he reached 4 months old I felt like I could not give in. I was never against them, actually one tired night I tired to put one in his mouth numerous times and he looked at me like I was crazy. It was one of those cherry topped ones that made him choke, so I did not want to do that again.
- Co – sleep – Like I said previously, we unintentionally co – slept to start with. Any one who breast fed knows how hard it is and the journey out of bed in the middle of the night is too much to handle. It seems, having baby cuddles in bed all the time can affect me and Hubby’s ‘cuddles.’ (To put it politely).
- Give baby more protein to fill him up – I spent a week trying to give my baby more fish, cheese, yogurts and boiling eggs. (Yes, this is protein, I googled it after a strong discussion with Hubby). I felt, irrelevant of the HV’s advice, that this was a load of trollop. Sorry if this works for people but my LO was rammed with protein, but was still screaming at 1, 3 and 5am.
- Get him in a routine- I have had a routine since he was 4 weeks old! I am fairly obsessive with this routine and every night we bath, read, cuddle, bed. This was clearly not the issue either.
As I was, seemingly, trying out all the correct methods I turned to other Mothers for support. Many just tutted or laughed and told me I will never sleep again and babies will be babies. Others went, “Mine too,” – yes, very supportive, but useful? No. I spoke to many Mummy’s and the general consensus was that I do not let my baby self sooth, I always cuddled him to sleep or let Him fall asleep on the bottle. Now, for all you super experienced Mums out there, you are probably laughing because It is so blummin’ obvious. Indeed, I was cuddling him to sleep and then putting him down, but not letting my hand off his back, then immediately picking him up again the moment he squeaked. So go on, just laugh away, but I enjoyed a snuggle. I was, and I am not afraid to admit it, doing it all wrong. Self soothing just seemed an impossible task for my little bundle. I watched him stand up in the cot and push his chubby little hands through the bars and scream blue murder. I just couldn’t see it working.
So – Controlled crying. What awful parent would do it? Well I did. For the last 6 days. I researched before taking action, but one tired, teary morning I said, “Tonight, I am starting it tonight.”
Day 1 – I didn’t go through with it. I could not hear my baby cry like that! What he needed was a good snuggle.
Day 2 – This was it! The previous night ended up with three in the bed. So.. I let him cry. I sat outside his little room, monitor in hand and listened to my bundle scream. I’m not going to lie.. I sobbed. I set a 10 minute timer, but that seemed to drag and drag, but after 9 and a half painful, torturous minutes… he slept! He literally just dropped and slept! But how long for, I hear you ask? The whole night, 12 full hours. 12 blissful hours. This was obviously a fluke.. Or as my husband pointed our, maybe he doesn’t want to cry because he thinks I do not love him! It was just in jest, but I got the right hump, I can tell you.
Day 3 – I repeated the same routine. It took 5 minutes of screaming – asleep. Seriously? After all these months it was this easy? For 8 months I had been waking up every 2 hours and this was it?
Day 4 – A minute and a half! He woke at 4 and I caved slightly and gave him a secret cuddle – shhh!
Day 5 – I was getting a bit confident now, but I spoke too soon. Clearly my secret cuddle was my downfall; He screamed for 10 full minutes. It was horrible and I felt like the worst human being, the worst mother. I went in and soothed him, but no luck. Another 10 minuted dragged by and this is hard to admit… he was sick 🙁 We changed pajamas, sheets, even nappy and gushed with love and cuddles. This is why I did not want to let him cry, but I reluctantly put him down again and left. Silence. I watched him sit silently on the monitor. 20 minutes passed (no screaming, just silence). I sneaked in to his room and he was asleep – sitting up. This made me feel all kinds of sad; he was sat waiting for me to come back and he fell asleep. I gently tipped him over and he slept for a full night.
Day 6 – Shaken from the previous evening I, begrudgingly, left him , but only for 5 minutes. In fact, he did go off to sleep. At 4am he woke again. This was one of those moments where I questioned my parenting. What would happen if I just left him? Is he hungry? Please do not let him be sick again! Before I had time to process anything he was asleep! WOW! He doesn’t need me (sob).
Now, I know every baby is individual, but, with a few hiccups (literally) this controlled crying business seems to be working. (In fact he went down tonight without a sound). This may not work for all babies, but I hope this is a little bit informative and is a real mummy’s experience of controlled crying. I thought It was the worst thing a parent could do and I could not believe that people would do it, but… I’m now a believer in this crazy method! Yes, It is painful, however, I have found that a little crying does not harm him and He still smiles at us first thing every morning 🙂 I would recommend this method, but persistence is key. To be honest he might regress again, there might be another secret landmark in his maturing that has not become apparent yet. I know, it has only been a week, ( I can hear people saying that) but so far.. so good. There will be a new blog if it changes…
Please share your sleep deprived stories or methods you have used to give other Mummy’s hope.