We have just made it through that 4 month Sleep Regression stage; battered and bruised… but we fought through it together (I think I may have cried more than Bea for those 5 weeks! Man it was hard! And Sleep Regression IS real!) We have come out the other side and I believe that Bea now has a much keener appreciation again for day naps (she had been keeping herself awake by all kind of means included but not limited to what sounded like singing to herself and scratching her own face!) so we also had the added challenge of dealing with an over tired baby.
I think there is certainly a lack of medical/scientific information readily available at your local GP about baby sleep and in a panic that I wasn’t parenting right I read many a horror story of sleep regression on Parenting forums. Then on the other side, I was airing my own sleep deprived woes with two Mummy friends who both seemed a lot more bright-eyed and bushy tailed than me (despite having their daughters around the same time as me) and one of the little ladies had been sleeping in their own room from the start and the other was not waking up in the night and sleeping through. This lucky Momma had consistently been achieving 8/9 hours of unbroken sleep!
Is my baby broken?! What was I doing wrong to have to deal with hourly wake ups?! There was a week period where I saw at least one minute of every hour in different iterations each day- 12pm…1am…2am….3am…..4am…..5am so as you can imagine this did start putting a strain on my relationship with my Husband (who is about as useful as a chocolate teapot in the early hours) as I felt like he should be doing more to relieve me and I was ashamed to recognise it, but it felt like I was starting to dislike my baby at these crazy hours. It’s insane to think the depths you plunge to (the lack of sanity) when you have not managed to get enough “shut eye”. Then I would feel so guilty to even be thinking like that! But shit happens when you don’t get sleep! I realised I can be a very crabby kind of person. Historically, I have never struggled with waking up early and being fully functional and quote “annoyingly chirpy”… but this was certainly one thing I was not. I was less an early songbird and now some kind of permanently exhausted pigeon!
But there is light at the end of the tunnel and I think we have a very squiffy expectation of baby sleep! To distill the answer to the age old question “How much sleep does my baby need?” … simply put: however much THEY need as an individual so your baby will lead you. It does not mean there is something wrong with your baby if they wake themselves up after a 20 minute Cat Nap or do not sleep through the night. It becomes problematic when we put an adult expectation on their sleep patterns. Perhaps these “baby sleep problems” are more our own issues?!!
There is no normality in the field of babysleep. Recommended guidelines for Sleep are so broad. For example The National Sleep Foundation state that the limits of acceptable sleep are between ten to eighteen hours over a 24 hour period in babies between 3 and 11 months old so most patterns of sleep should fall within realms of normality.
The NHS advice on sleep suggests that by 4 months old a baby should be sleeping double the length spent in the day. This seemed to work as a rule of thumb for me as Bea got out of any sort of habit/routine for daytime napping! This is where advice “sleep when you baby sleeps” was utterly useless to Bea and I!!
What made me feel better about our Sleep Journey was finding “Why Your Babies Sleep Matters” by Sarah Ockwell-Smith (follow her fabulous blog here!) because she is a gentle parenting proponent and has a relatable way to translate science to actual parenthood.
The advice is refreshing because essentially it is pointless to track our child’s sleep pattern; parent reporting night-wakings are inaccurate. There is an expectation in our society that our babies should be sleeping through the night by 6 months old, but this is an unfounded because in reality research in Sarah’s book shows that 84% of children aged 6 months are still waking up at least once a night. Our expectations of our children’s sleep is unrealistic and it would allow us all a sleep-deprived sigh of relief if we realised that these “expectations” (turned limitations) are just constructs and “sleep problems” are just our little ones actually sleeping completely normally!
Did you have an expectation of when your child would be sleeping through the night? Have you put any successful routines in place that has encouraged sleep through the night? How much do you find yourself waking with your child?
– Bea’s Mummy
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