Right before my baby graduated from her 0-3 months newborn phase, seasoned mum friends warned me about The Dreadful 4th Month Sleep Regression. Dreadful with a capital D.
Your baby will wake at ungodly hours and refuse to be put back to sleep.
Is your baby sleeping for longer stretches now? Enjoy it while it lasts!
Be prepared to wake up every hour or so.
These sleep interruptions sounded awful to me, an already chronically sleep-deprived mum. When the sleep regression started, it turned out that we weren't spared from a single one of these conjectures.
The 4th month sleep regression was real, very real.
I had thought my baby's sleep pattern would be regressing back to her newborn days of stirring every 1.5 hour and I was mentally prepared for that. But nooooo I was horribly mistaken.
The regression went further than I'd imagined. My baby became a prolific night waker, opening her eyes all ready and eager to play every 45 minutes in the wee hours. It was as though she went to sleep an angelic baby and awoke as Energiser Bunny. And that wasn't the worst thing. If I'd thought only bedtime would be affected I couldn't be more wrong. The same sleep interruption applied to even her daytime naps.
At night, I got up every time she did to coax her back to sleep. I found that bouncing her on the gym ball was the most effective (and energy-conserving) way. Through the long night, I had to get on and off the gym ball so frequently that eventually I positioned it right next to my bed, in closer proximity to me than my husband. My dependence on the gym ball grew and grew... to the extent that I felt I couldn't survive nights without it.
For the first few days of the sleep regression, I convinced myself I've got it. Nothing an extra few cups of coffee and cat naps during the afternoon couldn't fix. But as the days and weeks stretched out ahead of me like an interminable time loop and there was no sign that my baby would be getting over this regression anytime soon, I felt that I was losing steam. The husband and I tried to teach our baby to self-soothe, but she wasn't developmentally ready, and our hearts couldn't take the waterworks.
Gradually I started to feel aches all over - in my wrists, my back, my knees. It became too tiring, too straining, and no longer practical for me to be her Sandman alone. I roped in the husband to take turns bouncing baby back to sleep multiple times each night.
We cheered each other on with positive thoughts. To chase the gloom and sleepiness away, he reminds me
... of how blessed I was to be a mother, when there are others trying to conceive and yearning to be one.
... that I love having my baby close, her little warm body perfectly molded to mine.
... that the days of my baby needing me so much - for a human need as basic as rest - are numbered. I should savour every one of them.
... that there are countless dads and mums in the world doing the exact same thing in the dead of night and I'm not alone.
... that innumerable parents had weathered the same sleep regression storm and eventually sailed off to clear waters.
... that sleep regression was a sign that my baby's brain was maturing. That is progression! Regression is regrettably a pessimistic and unfortunate choice of term.
These reminders made me feel a ton better about the sleep regression. It is a passing phase, a blip in the grand scheme of time.
Indeed, five weeks came and passed in a haze. My baby's night wakings started to dwindle and I finally glimpsed light at the end of the long, dark tunnel.
My baby is 5 months now. I still get up once or twice at night when she tosses and turns and can't put herself back to sleep but the Energiser Bunny days of fighting sleep are thankfully gone. She quietens down and closes her eyes quickly as soon as I get onto the gym ball and begin my slow, rhythmic up-and-down motion.
Nighttime has become our thing. Her seeking sanctuary in my arms and me relishing my ability to be her world. It is tranquil to stare at her peaceful sleeping form and it brings to mind my favourite line from baby's bedtime book.
When you are sleeping curled up so tight, I stay awake, keeping watch through the night.
Yes I'm sacrificing my sleep but it is extra time spent with my baby that I'll never get back. It's all in the mind.
Don't fight it, and the 4th Month Sleep Regression isn't that dreadful after all.
You might also like:
Hi! I am Yunnie. I am the newly minted mama to a little baby girl and a mum friend to everyone on this special (and many times scary) journey of motherhood. Also a graduated bride with a penchant for weddings.