It is amazing how completely different my two girls are. Their personalities, their likes and dislikes, and their habits.
Right now those differences are most apparent in the realm of sleep. Gabi was such an easy sleeper. She had her moments. Like with all babies, sleep comes and goes. In retrospect, it was predictably cyclical, though.
We (and if you’re a new parent take notes) expect to see sleep regressions around the time of growth spurts and milestones. Four months and eight months are a very big deal. Milestones and growth spurts all converge during those times and sleep takes a hit. A big hit.
But it passes. I remember with Gabi wondering if I was doing something wrong. I remember thinking, “Gosh, do I have to sleep train her?” I wondered if she just wasn’t able to sleep because I never taught her to do those things that my coworkers were talking about. I remember words like “self soothe,” “bad habits,” and others whirling around my brain.
Thank heavens for the Kellymom.com forums. They stay absolutely on message and make it very clear that you can no more “train” a baby to sleep than you can “train” a baby to walk and talk. Sleep, Kelly says, is a milestone that many kids don’t reach for several years.
From Kelly’s article Sleeping Through the Night:
Your baby will begin to comfort herself and to sleep for longer stretches at her own developmental pace. If your baby wants to nurse at night, it is because she DOES need this, whether it’s because she is hungry or because she wants to be close to mom. Sleeping through the night is a developmental milestone (like walking or toilet training) that your baby will reach when she is ready to. Trying to force baby to reach this before her time may result in other problems later on.
I’m so glad that the Kellymom forum moderators take such a strong stand on this issue. It’s coming out more and more that leaving a child alone to “cry it out” (cry what out exactly?) can actually cause brain damage.
So I just plugged along through those mercifully short sleep regressions with Gabi, and, just like Kelly promised, the constant waking passed.
Thank goodness I know that now. Katie is really giving me a run for my money. Her 4 month sleep regression merged into a 6 month sleep regression and when we hit 8 months last week, all bets were off. We are deep into the 8 month sleep regression with no end in sight.
She’ll take an hour to nurse herself to sleep at night. She wakes hourly to nurse. This week we’ve added a new element to the mix. She’ll nurse to sleep starting around 8:30 PM, but then when she’s finally asleep and letting go and I’m thinking I can drop off to sleep too, those little eyes pop open, and now YAY! It’s happy baby fun time! She crawls all around, practices pulling up on the side of the crib we have Macgyvered to our bed, climbs over me to try to get to the exciting looking alarm clock, chews on my shoulders, sticks her fingers up my nose and in my ears, and just generally has a cheerful and noisy time.
This went on from 9:45 last night to 11. Finally, she went to sleep. And then woke up every hour afterwards to sit up and crawl in a circle and then nurse again. At 5:30 AM, she decided it was time to greet the morning. So up she got.
No point in going back to bed. I had work to get ready for. So up I got, too.
I fantasize about a 4 hour stretch of sleep. I can’t remember what that’s like.
Thank goodness for Gabi. Thank goodness she taught me that this will pass and things will get easier. Thank goodness for cosleeping! Right now I can nurse her and then just roll over and fall back asleep. Imagine if I had to get my tired self up, haul my carcass down the hall, try unsuccessfully multiple times to put her down in the crib without waking her, haul my carcass back down the hall to my bedroom, and then try to fall asleep? Good lord! That sounds like a nightmare!
I didn’t talk much about it when Gabi went through her wakeful cycles. I didn’t have the same kind of supportive community, and I wanted to avoid the inevitable, “Well, maybe it’s just time to let her cry. I let my kids cry and they turned out just fine.”
I’m more confident now, and I know from experience that this isn’t a forever thing. So now, when people ask, I’m open about it. I say, “We’re smack in the middle of the 8 month wakeful period. It’s really hard, but I know it will pass, and I know that she needs me right now.” Sometimes I follow with an, “I’m so glad we’re cosleeping. It makes things so much easier for all of us.”
At any rate, I am seriously sleep deprived now. I think I’m handling things pretty gracefully, but wow. I’m tired.
Which is probably why this post is so disjointed. Maybe tonight will be the night that she sleeps.