Emilia started out as a pretty decent sleeper when she was born, but her sleep patterns often change as she grows rapidly. For a while (between around 6 weeks to 3 months), she would sleep from 11pm to 7am on most nights.
Then the 4 month sleep regression hit her (and us) hard.
She started waking up every 3 hours, asking to be nursed back to sleep. At first I thought it was a growth spurt as she was still a week away from turning 4 months old. After a few days, I realized she would stop actively sucking and swallowing in less than 10 minutes. That’s when I realized it’s the sleep regression.
I expected the sleep regression to hit her hard as I started nursing her to sleep consistently (and intentionally) since she turned 3 months old. Because Emilia hates naps, nursing her to sleep became the easiest short-term solution for us.
This short term solution started biting me in the butt as she started waking up more often at night. She’d go to bed around 9pm, wake up at 1am, 4am, 6am, 7:30am and 9am! 😭
We tried sleep training her when she turned 5 months old but because of her gas issues, we were not able to train her properly. Ideally, I should put her to bed drowsy but awake. However, since she is a gassy little girl, I always had to hold her upright for 30 minutes before putting her into her crib. Otherwise she’d wake up crying in about 15 minutes because of trapped gas in her tummy.
Holding her for 30 minutes is impossible to do when she’s awake because she gets extremely squirmy. So I kept nursing her until she’d fall asleep. After she’s asleep, I’d hold her for 30 minutes and then put her into her sleep sack in the crib. During this time she’d wake up briefly because of the movement. Afterwards we’d leave her to cry it out until she falls asleep.
Things improved slightly – Emilia stopped waking up at 1am. But she still woke up every 1 to 2 hours after 6am and I started co-sleeping with her from 6-10am so that I could still catch some snooze while she nurses in the side-lying position.
As she turned 6 months old, my sleep deprived self just couldn’t do it anymore. Not to mention nursing her sideways was starting to destroy my neck and shoulders. It is time to sleep train her properly! 😤
I did a lot of thinking and realized a lot of her problems are related to each other and in order for this to work, we’d have to rip off all the band-aids at once.
And so, a week ago, we moved Emilia into her own room. One of the problems was the creaky floorboards and bed in our room, which startle Emilia and wake her up when she’s transitioning between sleep cycles or when she’s in a light sleep cycle. Also, because Emilia slept right next to me, I’d wake up as soon as she stirred and respond to her too quickly, hence depriving her of the opportunity to self-soothe.
Another thing I managed to stop doing is holding her for 30 minutes before putting her to bed. Her gas issues started improving around the time when she turned 6 months old. Back then, she’d always give out a big burp and several small bubbles around the 20 minute mark as I held her before putting her down. I’m so glad that’s not the case anymore! 😍
Now that gas is not a problem, we’re able to nap train her as well. This is such an important step as sleep training is all about consistency. I no longer nurse her on my side on the bed until she falls asleep. Now I’d feed her on a chair about 15 mins before her nap time to calm her down and make sure she’s full for her nap, and I break the latch after she stops actively sucking and swallowing.
I’d then play the Brahms Lullaby as I burp her for a few minutes before placing her into her sleep sack inside her crib. Last step is giving her a kiss on the forehead before walking away. I’m hoping to build an association between the lullaby and sleep so that eventually, she’d be able to fall asleep with the cue.
The first night, our first attempt actually failed because we put her to bed too early. But second attempt was a success even though Emilia cried for about 20 minutes before falling asleep. She slept from 9:30pm until 8:30am that day.
Second night, she cried for 5 minutes. Third night, down to 1 minute and the fourth night, she only whined for a few seconds! 😍
She still seems to need 1 feeding most nights though. Now she sleeps from around 9:30pm to 6am, eats for 15 minutes, and then go back to sleep for another 2 – 3 hours until about 9am.
For naps, she cried for about 5 – 10 minutes the first few days. Now, she’s usually able to settle herself in 1 to 2 minutes, unless she really didn’t want to sleep. In that case, she’d wail and scream for 10 minutes and by that time, I’d know I misread her cues and I’d take her out of her crib.
Words can’t describe how happy I am now that Emilia is sleep trained. I finally have time to take care of more housework and simply have some me time. Most importantly, I get to spend more alone time with Andres. 😊
I know that this is not permanent and there are more sleep regressions in the future. I also have yet to eliminate nursing as part of the nap routine. I’m happy with the progress we’re making though and I know that all will be well in due time.
For my fellow parents who are deep in the trenches of sleep deprivation, I hope things will get better for you soon. Hang in there! 💗 I also hope that my experience can help, however little, in your journey of getting your baby to sleep through the night.