Sleep regressions are hard – there’s no two ways about it. They seem to come out of nowhere following weeks or months of a wonderful routine and flip everything upside down, leaving you feeling frustrated, exhausted, and at times possibly miserable. But they also pass. During Ben’s last regression (which lasted over 6 weeks), I wrote down a few notes on how to survive it the next time round.
We’re currently going through his 3rd regression, and we seem to be handling it much more gracefully – so as a reminder to myself for next time round and also to help any other parents out there going through a regression, I thought I’d share these notes with you.
Bear in mind that I’m no professional, but I’ve been through 2 tough regressions with Ben (and he still consistently wakes up every 2-3 hours or more at night so sleep deprivation is sort of my thing now) and I’ve also done my fair share of research on the matter. So while no two babies are the same, I’m simply sharing my own experience and what’s ‘worked’ for us.
NB: By “worked for us”, I mean it’s helped me survive it (alongside maaaany meltdowns), not prevent or stop it. There’s no way to prevent or stop a sleep regression, it just needs to run its course.
Remember, sleep regressions are ultimately a good sign* – they mean that your child is growing and developing, reaching new milestones and maturing mentally and physically. So even though these phases are extremely difficult, try to keep that in mind for a little bit of solace. And on that note, I’ll get straight into how to survive nap time sagas and night time terrors:
Put Yourself In His/Her Shoes
Have you ever been so anxious, excited, overwhelmed, uncomfortable or in so much pain that even though you were really tired, you just couldn’t sleep? I’ve personally dealt with all of these (and insomnia) several times and it’s incredibly frustrating… Your mind races, you wiggle around like you’ve got ants in your pants, no position seems comfortable, and you’re exhausted beyond belief but just can’t fall asleep. Sometimes you need a cuddle, sometimes you need a snack. Sometimes you just need to give up, do something else, and try again later. This is exactly what’s going on with our babies when they go through a regression – so being empathetic and understanding what they’re experiencing can REALLY help to keep some perspective during this phase. And speaking of phases…
Remember: It Is Just a Phase. It WILL Pass!
I know that right now it feels like this will last forever. You start to question how you’re going to survive, thinking “I can’t spend the rest of my life like this.” You won’t. It’ll be over soon. You’re gonna get through this. I promise. ❤
A Skipped Nap is Better Than a Meltdown
This was one that took me awhile to accept – I’d think “he’s tired and needs to sleep so we’ll stay here until he falls asleep” – but that would result in both of us having a complete meltdown and spending more time trying to get him to fall asleep than the time he’d actually spend sleeping. Utterly useless and incredibly frustrating. So when it seems like sleep isn’t going to happen anytime soon – I give up and try again later, or skip the nap altogether and get him to bed a bit earlier. This has definitely saved me the meltdowns this time round!
Speak To Your Baby
I talk to Ben as though he fully understands me – and whether he does or not yet is beside the point. Ultimately, talking to him through it helps me to:
A) Let out my thoughts and frustrations
B) Remind him that I’m human and I’m not perfect
C) Model to him how to deal with his own frustrations in the future
So I talk to him. This would sound something like: “Sweetheart, I know it’s frustrating. It must be so exhausting to be so tired but not be able to sleep. I’ve been there. I’m here for you. Mummy is also starting to lose her patience because she’s tired and hungry. So let’s try to relax together and I will help you fall asleep if you need to. I’m here and I love you. So so much.”
You’d be surprised how speaking through it can help you to regain composure.
And for the times when composure isn’t coming easily… read on:
What To Do When You’re Going Through A Battle And Are About To Lose Your Sh*t…
– Breathe. Heavily. In and out. Blow out the candles of an imaginary cake. Keep at it until you’ve calmed down and feel a bit more grounded. Repeat as necessary.
– Do a grounding exercise. Think of 5 things you can see. 5 things you can smell. 5 things you can touch. Try to slow yourself down. Remember that your little one will feed off your energy, so if you’re anxious and frustrated, that’s not going to help them calm down any time soon.
– Don’t force sleep, but encourage it. And if after some time, it still isn’t happening, take a step back – ideally before you get too frustrated. Here are some ideas on what you can do:
– Go outside (if weather permits). Even if you don’t feel like it, just get up and go. A change of scene and fresh air will help you both. Go for a walk, a drive, go and play in your outdoor space if you have one – whatever works for you and your little one, just do it.
– Call someone. A friend, a relative, your partner, your therapist – anyone at all. Sometimes stepping away and having a conversation with a grownup and venting a little can make all the difference and help you calm down. Video calls are great to keep little one entertained through it too – so I really recommend doing this when possible.
– Find ways to make yourself (and your baby) smile or laugh. Have fun through it. Tickles, dancing, good music, books, peekaboo – anything that’ll lighten the mood and relieve some frustration. Distractions are not a hindrance in these situations, but will actually help you both significantly.
– Empathy and patience are key – BUT it’s okay to lose it sometimes. You’re not a bad parent. If you need a moment to yourself (especially if you’re experiencing rage), put your baby in a safe place and walk away for a minute to breathe and ground yourself. Yes, even if they’re crying.
Some General Tips To Help You Through This Stage:
– Do some research to understand your baby’s current developmental progress and how you can help them, and speak to your paediatrician if you have any concerns.
– Fuel yourself. You might want to live off cereal and biscuits but you need quality nutrition for energy right now. And be sure to eat something BEFORE a nap time battle because being hangry is going to be the cherry on the cake and you’ll lose your patience FAR quicker than if you’re fed! (Speaking from experience!)
– Keep a routine, but don’t overstress about the wake windows. Structure is good, but being rigid won’t help you right now.
– Stimulate your baby: Get him/her to use up as much energy as possible throughout the day, both physical and mental – BUT be wary about getting them overtired or overstimulated because contrary to popular belief, an overtired baby will actually sleep less and worse, not longer and better!
– Check for sleep cues, get to know and understand your baby so that you can anticipate his/her needs.
Some other things to keep in mind and tell yourself:
– No, you’re not doing anything wrong.
– Yes, your baby is fine. This is actually a good sign* (read intro).
– There will be tears. Yours and theirs. And that’s okay. Let it out.
– The goal right now is survival. Not perfect sleep patterns. Not independent sleep. Not sleep training. Just survival. So if you need to rock your baby or feed your baby to sleep (and maintain your sanity), then DO IT.
– You’ve got this. You’re doing great. ❤
I hope this can help at least one other struggling parent out there! Be sure to share this if you or anyone you know is going through this stage, and also get in touch to let me know what other survival tips you have!
Until next time,