I know it’s been a while (again), but this time I have a valid excuse as to why I haven’t been blogging. I think there comes a point in every first-time parent’s life when their sheer will is tested. For me, that test was the 8-month sleep regression, and it was hard AF.
So here’s the thing. I’m that mom that reads up on absolutely everything in preparation for what’s to come. I know about parenting trends/theories new and old and I alter my “style” to fit Sophie’s needs. In that aspect, I’d say I’m a pretty excellent mommy. Still, and I know I’ve mentioned this before, there are some things that no amount of studying can ever prepare you for.
What exactly is a sleep regression? You can find a pretty detailed explanation here, but to summarize, a sleep regression is a sudden (unwanted) change in sleeping patterns usually due to a developmental leap or milestone. These usually happen at 4, 8, 12, 18, and 24 months, but every baby is different. Some go through them earlier/later while others don’t really go through them at all (lucky bastards). Some last for a week while others last for months. It’s really very different for every child. The theory is that, just like you can’t sleep when your mind is racing, little ones can’t sleep when they’ve started learning new skills that they want to understand and practice every chance that they get!
For us, the 4-month sleep regression happened right on time and lasted for about a week. It was hard. To adjust from baby sleeping 10-12 hours straight every night to waking up 3-4x was incredibly stressful … but that was child’s play compared to when the 8-month sleep regression hit.
Have you ever wondered how much sleep deprivation you can go through before completely losing your mind? Yeah, me neither, but I was about to find out. Starting right around my 30th birthday (thanks Soph!), my daughter’s sleeping habits became a little bit haywire. Sometimes she’d sleep through the night, sometimes she’d wake once, and sometimes she’d wake a handful of times. It was completely unpredictable from one night to the next. As the days passed, things became progressively worse. She soon developed her first ear infection and lost interest in solids (except puffs), and that’s when poo really hit the fan. She began going to bed later, waking up more often, and fully waking MUCH earlier in the morning. It seriously threw me and my husband off. I was waking anywhere from 6-7 times a night with her, pretty much every hour on the hour at one point. I tried everything: earlier bedtime, later bedtime, nursing longer, measured feeds, rocking, swaying, singing, nightlight, no light, co-sleeping, bed sharing, longer bath, shorter bath, no bath, more solids, less solids, you name it. Nothing seemed to make a difference.
This dragged on for a little over 5 weeks. I found myself crying far too often and shouting way more than I care to admit. Often times, I’d have to step away from her crib and just breathe for a few minutes in order to not lose my sanity. I still can’t bring myself to use the cry it out method (no judgment if you do), so those few minutes of her screaming cut me to the core. I had no idea what to do, but I knew that it was not safe for me to hold her while sleep-deprived and hysterical.
My husband was a life saver several nights where he would spend an hour or so playing with her at the butt crack of dawn just so I could sleep, recharge, and tend to her again. It’s sad to say, but I couldn’t wait to go to work during the week because I could at least nap during my hour and a half commute each way—which I did every single day without fail. I love my daughter more than life itself, but this was a nightmare that wouldn’t end, and I was just trying to make the best out of a sh*tty situation. I asked advice in pretty much all of my 918273645 (hyperbole) mommy groups and no one had a solution that I hadn’t tried yet. All I kept hearing were things like “Don’t worry, mama. This is just temporary,” and “The 8-month sleep regression was the hardest for us too! You’ll get through it!” Only two things came from reading these empathetic words: 1) I wanted to punch the poster(s) in the face, and (2) I was starting to believe that “sleep regression” was just fancy made-up terminology designed to allow moms to think that there’s a scientific reason attributed to why your child isn’t sleeping. Well, I’m happy to report that I didn’t physically assault anyone, and sleep regressions are very real and very temporary (despite my cynical theory).
After fiveish excruciating weeks, I’m happy to say that Sophie is back to normalish sleeping habits. Her bedtime is a bit later, but she has consistently slept 10 hours for the past couple of weeks, only waking once for a “dream feed”. It’s almost as if the past month never happened—needless to say, emphasis on the almost. On top of that, her ear infection is long gone (PS: we went through three doctors, four antibiotics, and one allergic reaction to get there), she’s learned a bunch of new skills in a very short time frame, and she’s eating like a champ! She’s a happy little clam, and I’m sure all the added rest plays a huge part in that.
Why am I even telling y’all this story? I want to frighten anyone from ever even thinking about having children, like ever ever—totally kidding (maybe). Let’s keep it G … PARENTING. IS. HARD. Whoever tells you otherwise is either suffering from amnesia caused by many a sleepless night or just plain lying. It is beyond rewarding, but it also comes with so many challenges that you just can’t possibly be ready for.
I will say that my online mommy friends were right: I did get through it. My husband and I both did. I think a support system is one of the most important resources for a first-time parent. If you’re a single mom or dad and you need help, call your parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, trusted friends, neighbors, or co-workers. I’m dead serious. Call for backup when you need it because no one can guess what you’re going through unless you tell them. Put your pride to the side. There comes a time where even the most strong-willed people (clearly not referring to myself here) need help, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I could’ve never managed this on my own.
My last piece of advice is this: even if your kid sleeps like an angel, rest while you can. You never know when their habits are going to change. If and when they do, it is anything but a pleasant surprise. As for myself, I use every nap to my advantage. I know that each nap allows me 45-60 minutes to either shower, eat, or sleep—sometimes even two out of the three (living the life of luxury, I know)! At the end of the day though, for my sanity and for the sake of my happy household, I will always choose sleep.