Sunday, April 27, 2014

Fighting the Losing Battle With Sleep: My Sleep-Deprived Ramblings

Right around three months post-partum, things were going good. I had a rhythm to my days. I had the right balance of outings and sweet time spent at home with baby. I felt in synchronicity with my baby. I felt rested (well, rested for a new mom). I felt like I could do this forever.

In Mommy Group, when people talked about sleep problems, napping, or putting baby on a schedule, I just naively tuned it out. I felt like we didn’t need a schedule. I was so “in tune” with my baby that I just followed his lead and when he started to get tired I put him down for a nap. And by “put him down,” I mean literally all I had to do was PUT HIM DOWN and he would sleep. Sigh. Oh, the beautiful naiveté. Also, I bristled against schedules because, well, it’s a schedule. I wanted to be spontaneous and free and able to go out and socialize. My baby was so adaptable that he would “nap wherever” and then wake up happy and refreshed. Oh and the whole idea of the Four Month Sleep Regression? Pish Posh. I was sure that wouldn’t happen to us. Seriously. I have no idea why I thought this, but I thought it was just some made up thing that people said to label their ongoing sleep difficulties.

Wow. That all makes me sound like a bitch, doesn’t it? Let me stop and clarify. I didn’t judge other people. In fact, I told everyone that you need to do “what works for you” in order to feel sane and happy. It just so happened that I thought “what worked” for us was to be flexible and relaxed and in tune with the moment. I thought if I just responded to what my baby needed, that we would be happy and I would never get stuck in “oh, we can’t go right now, because he naps from 11:02-12:35.”

Also, Sleep Training. I thought this was overrated as well. I mean, as a psychologist, I understand that the behavioral principles of gradual exposure and extinction work, but I also thought if you just used common sense and perseverance, you wouldn’t need to be so regimented about it. Are you seeing any themes here? First, clear avoidance of any type of structure or regimented schedule. Second, an exorbitant dose of big-headed ignorance.

So…what happened? Four Months. Yes, it appeared whether I believed in it or not. Literally, the weekend that Owen turned four months we moved to a new city and through off our routine. Owen also began teething. AND he learned to roll over both ways (a new fun skill to try out all night long in his crib). Ohhh and we thought it would be a good time to start having him sleep at night in his big crib (still in our room). So all of these things added up and….guess what? Four Month Sleep Regression.

And now here I am. One month later and still not sleeping. And by not sleeping I mean seriously. Not Sleeping. Naps have turned into 30 minute affairs and nighttime is on Newborn Schedule of waking every 1-3 hours. I am exhausted. Exhausted, emotional and bitchy. Oh, and vulnerable. Vulnerable enough to let doubt pierce my earlier blissful confidence. When a friend of mine, a 2nd time mom, started lecturing me about exactly how many naps Owen should have per day and how long he should sleep and what time he should go to bed, I listened. Listened when a month ago I would have smiled, nodded, and brushed it off as I kept going with what felt right for me. This time, I listened, then fell into a spiral of self-doubt and desperation and “What am I doing wrong???” It’s amazing how a little bit of lost sleep will shatter your confidence/cockiness.

So. I’ve been thinking. Thinking and reading. I’ve been approaching this from both an intuitive, emotional perspective as well as the analytical research side of me who just happens to be a child psychologist. In other words, I’ve spent some time getting “in tune” with myself and with Owen. I’ve also spent some time with my textbooks and journal articles.

Here is what I’ve come up with.

Now, these are just my Thoughts for This Week. They are subject to change at any time when Owen catapults into a new developmental stage and completely rocks my reality again. Also, I may be a child psychologist, but I am not an expert in infant mental health, and I am not talking in the capacity of a psychologist right now, just a mom who is tired. But, here goes…

Being a new mom is hard. Especially a first time mom. Put sleep deprivation in the mix and it’s harder than hard. According to psychological researching, behavioral methods (sleep training), do work, but only when used effectively and not with any consistent efficacy prior to six months. And so, we are left fumbling in the dark (literally and metaphorically). What parents want is a method for dealing with this new reality. Which is why people will may hundreds to Sleep Trainers to put their life back in order.

But who is right? The old me who believed in intuitively following baby’s lead and flexibly adapting each day? The burnt out me who is considering regimenting everything from naps to diaper changes if it will just make him SLEEP?



Because I’ve decided it’s not about what you do, it’s about why you do it. In order to get through this, you need to be able to have some sense of control and belief that you are, to some degree, in charge of what is happening to your life. Now, don’t get me wrong…I also believe you need a healthy acceptance that your life is not your own during this time and that nothing is permanent during this first year (years?). But, for your own mental health and sanity, I think you need to find something that gives you the sense (whether real or imagined) that you have a bit of control. If that means putting your baby on a schedule, then by all means do so. If that means, wearing your baby around for every single nap…go for it. If that means co-sleeping with baby perma-attached to your boob, ok! As long as what you are doing is healthy for you and baby…sounds great!

In other words, I don’t think there is a one, Correct Way to approach this, but I think we each need to find our Own Way. Otherwise, you end up like me, knocked off my pedestal, lost, and doubting every decision I’m making. As long as you have a plan and feel you are doing your best to be the Parent, rather than feeling like the baby is running the world and you’re simply Forest Gump’s Feather, then you’re doing good. Right?? Oh, who knows.

I also think that your method should come from being thoughtful and aware. When I’m just blindly trying to react to each thing that comes up without planning or preparing or consciously responding, I tend to feel more lost. When I don’t know why I’m doing something, it tends to be less effective and I feel more desperate. What I mean is, if the baby is crying and my plan is, say, to bounce him to sleep on the ball, but then his cries get louder and I give up…I feel lost. If I were to step back, think, and remember “Oh right, he always cries a bit louder before he falls asleep, so I’m going to stick with this a few minutes and see if he quiets down,” then I’d probably have more success. Also, on a grander scale, I think we need to know why we make big decisions such as, whether to follow a set schedule or whether to use a Sleep Training method. If your answer is – because it makes me feel better or because it works for my baby or because it makes sense based on my research, then good for you. My problem was, I was just starting to let other people tell me what to do without checking in with what I thought.

Anyhow, that’s all I’ve come up with so far. My little pearls of wisdom that, if you read between the lines, don’t really tell you anything at all. Also, my philosophical ramblings haven’t gotten me anywhere in the real world. We’re still not sleeping at night. Philosophy and analysis are no match for teeth piercing through gums.

What I can say is, I’ve changed my attitude a bit. I’ve started paying more attention to Owen’s needs again. And when I did, I realized he’s no longer on a newborn schedule, even though I was half-heartedly trying to stick to it. He doesn’t need to nap every 90 minutes, but rather every 2 hours or so. As a result, he’s napping better. Which helps my sanity because I get some time to myself to rest or get things done. But, at the same time, I’m trying to keep enough of my old self to know that this too will change depending on the day and as he grows older. In the meantime, I’m just trying to pay attention, be rationale, and not get swept up in the current of exhaustion so I once again begin to doubt myself and become an ineffective mess.

Update - I wrote this post a month ago and then didn’t post it. I suppose because it seemed silly to post an entire post about sleep in which I admit I really don’t believe there is An Answer to the Problem. But, maybe it will help others to read it, so here goes…I’m posting. And, you may wonder…have we made any progress? No, not really. Owen is transitioning from 3 naps to 2 and he’s going down much easier for naps because I’m watching to see when he’s tired and ready. So that’s nice. Nighttimes? We’re getting 3-4 hour stretches now. I still haven’t sleep trained or anything close. It’s just so much easier to feed him (takes about 7 minutes and then he’s back to sleep!). But I may have to try something soon. Six Months is this week and it feels like a big milestone and might be time to start fighting the battle. Props to Sunny at Cease and Decyst for winning hers!

Oh, and just's a few pics....:)


  1. Oh Owen is so so sweet! Little Yu has the same caterpillar (which I love), she received it as a present from a dear friend. Those striped leg warmers... I think I am going to faint of cute. As for the rest... preach it lady. I am right there with you, trying to figure it out. Some days are better than others, but I think that has to do more with her than with whatever it is we are trying to do (sure she is a baby, but I think I am starting to see she has *good* days and *bad* days and of course it probably has to do with growing, stretching, being tired). She has slept through the night (when I say through the night I mean from 23h to 5 am) maybe 3 or 4 times in total, but somedays she still gets her crying rounds (is that colic? I still don't really know what colic is, and sometimes we still don't know why she cries, only at certain hours of the day, to stop just like that) .
    Here's to finding our own way.

  2. I really appreciate these posts and find them informative... I am mentally bookmarking each and every one and I'm sure I'll be revisiting them in a couple of months.

  3. Great pictures! I wanted to know if you would be willing to answer a quick question regarding your blog! I'm Heather and please email me whenever you get a free moment at Lifesabanquet1(at)gmail(dot)com :-)

  4. a-freakin-men. amen. we do what works. we learn from what doesn't. we try to move on. he is happy. he is healthy. and so, you are an awesome mom. may you have many naps in your future!

  5. LOVE this post!

    And what a cutie Owen is. So happy too.

  6. Owen is so adorable!! I'm sorry that you are still getting up so many times during the night and I hope that it gets better soon. Izzy is a great nighttime sleeper, but not really a good napper (some days she naps for 45 minutes total, some days she will take a long three hour nap, etc. It's all over the place). I asked the ped about it and he said that as long as we are happy with her nighttime sleep then to not worry about her naps. But if we were having problems with her nighttime sleeping, napping is the first thing that we need to look at. Not sure if that advice is helpful at all for you but there it is!

  7. The sleep struggles SUCK!!! Sleep with Little K was the worst and never got any better. Because of the terrible time i had with her, I am being a lot more proactive about Little Budy's sleep. I've found to be very helpful.

    I noticed that you use Honest Diapers and I have a question about their products. Would you be willing to email me at Thanks so much!

  8. With twins, I have had no choice but to put them on a schedule. It makes it much harder to be spontaneous (but everything about twins makes it hard to be spontaneous) but we just schedule things around their naps now. We figure it's just a temporary phase and we won't always be so tied to their nap schedules. One thing I miss about their newborn days is their ability to sleep wherever and whenever. They rarely sleep in their car seats anymore. Sigh. We are also wanting to transition from 3 to 2 naps but haven't figured out how to do it just yet. I don't know which nap to eliminate.
    I'm pretty sure our 4 month regression lasted at least a month. I'm pretty late to this post so maybe it's gotten better by now. I'm trying to enjoy the sleeping through the night while I can because I know we still have more regressions to deal with. We are already starting to have issues with Paige not being able to fall asleep on her own anymore. Some nights she just screams bloody murder and needs us to hold her before she settles down. Not sure what's up with that since she was falling asleep fine before. Hopefully just another phase. Separation anxiety maybe? Anyway, hope you find a solution that works for you guys.

  9. Hugs - Lochlan wakes about 5 times a night and has done for months. I am behind exhausted. Here's to things getting better.

  10. I am so hoping that you guys have found a good sleep groove, but you know how to find me if you need some support! I can so so so relate to feeling like a zombie and what multiple wake ups throughout the night do to your psyche.


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