Imagine you have a Furby. If you don’t know what a Furby is, imagine you have an Ewok. If you don’t know what an Ewok is I can’t really help you any further with popular culture references. Imagine that you take said Furby/Ewok very seriously and want it to be the happiest little fuzzball it can be but its instruction manual is printed in Swedish. Unfortunately for you, you don’t speak Swedish. But as you love your Furbyman so much you dedicate around 3 months to learning Swedish so that you can finally – just about – understand the basic workings. Hurrah! You (roughly) know when it eats, sleeps and what will make it giggle. Excellent, you’re sorted. Except wait, hang on now it’s about 4 months and someone has maliciously re-programmed your Furby-wok so that it now speaks Japanese and all the settings have changed.
Yes hello and welcome to another edition of ‘Oh God I’ve had a baby, what the hell do I do with it?’. This time we’re focussing on the dreaded ‘4 month sleep regression’. What is that I hear you ask? Well, imagine your Furbybaby has been sleeping for say, about 6 – 7 hours in one go. I’m aware to non-parents that doesn’t sound particularly impressive but trust me, it’s the best. Then imagine it goes off EVERY 45 MINUTES. No really, just IMAGINE it. Every. 45. Minutes. For no discernible reason. Good, well hello, welcome to the world of parenting a 4 month old. While your baby is working how to go from newborn sleep patterns (basically all the time but waking up every couple of hours for a feed) to adult sleep patterns (lots of 45 minute cycles put together so that at some point you sleep through the whole night) everything you thought you knew goes out the window and you’re back to square one. Ace. As with everything baby related though, there’s a book for that. Who am I kidding? There are a MILLION sleep training books out there, tired parents would buy a mouldy onion for £125 if you told them it would get their baby to sleep, we’re big business.
So, let’s take a look at the most popular baby sleep training tips.
- Don’t feed the baby to sleep
Sound advice of course, especially if you’re breastfeeding and don’t want to be pogoing in and out of bed with a boob out all night long. The advice goes that you should leave a gap of at least 20 minutes between feed and bed which, you know, sounds lovely. Sometimes we do that and then we feel very smug. Feed, bath and bed. Textbook. Unless of course Bambino decides he’s actually hungry again/not hungry before bath/teething/too hot and his routine slides and suddenly bedtime has crashed into feed time… Have you tried not feeding a hungry baby? They go BALLISTIC. Equally if you’ve just fed a baby and they’re about to settle down for the night have you tried poking them for around 20 minutes to keep them awake? I would rather put my head in an oven than try that again.
- The baby must sleep in their own cot and self -settle for all daytime naps…
Hahahahahahaha… you try telling Baby TGE that. In fact I have tried telling him that. I tell him this basically daily. And sometimes he agrees with me and immediately naps as soon as I put him in his cot (cue quick picture to send to your Mum friends whatsapp group to prove it did actually happen followed by a supermarket sweep style run around the house chucking all the little piles of mess into one big pile of mess and then putting a throw over it. Hurrah ‘tidy’ house). Babies bloody love sleeping on you, it’s their fave. They become like tiny Winston Churchills with naps not on you – they shall fight them in their cots, they shall fight them in their prams, they shall fight them in their moses baskets, they shall never surrender! At any given point in the country I wonder how many parents are desperately shushing babies in cots, desperately not making eye contact (NEVER MAKE EYE CONTACT!) with their offspring and patting them until eventually breaking and whispering to themselves, “tomorrow, we’ll start again tomorrow”, scooping up their victorious little monster and settling down for another baby pinned hour. Sometimes of course, you’re not the one to break first. You might have timed it right, you might have gone in with that fraction more patience than you did yesterday, or maybe your baby is in the right mood. Either way, you shush and their eyes droop.. and droop.. and close. You wait, daring to believe that it’s happened. You don’t move, you don’t breathe, you don’t even blink just in case… you crawl ninja style out of the room, closing the door as quietly as humanly possible. Then you allow yourself a tiny victory jig and why the hell not? You’ve just cracked sleep training! It’s worked! Hurrah! From now on, this will be how every nap goes… surely…
- You must be CONSISTENT with your method and NEVER DEVIATE.
“You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be.” No, not from a sleep guide, this is Churchill again, but could pretty much sums up the attitude recommended by most sleep books. You choose your method (crying it out, gradual retreat, shushing etc etc) and you stick to your guns no matter what. As with all the tips, it’s total common sense and I’m sure works if you can do this. And some days you can do this… as long as nothing changes in life then you’re golden but that doesn’t tend to be how life works, does it? Life does change, it’s sort of the point. You chuck a growth spurt, a cold, a heatwave or teething into the mix and suddenly never giving up in the face of your tiny screaming Winston doesn’t seem quite so easy. Especially if more than one of these things hits at the same time WHICH THEY DO. Colds are particularly shit when you’re a baby as you’ve only just discovered you have a nose when it stops working. You’ve been betrayed by your own face! Sometimes, when faced with a snotty, grotty, cross, sleepy baby the only option is to cuddle up on the sofa until you feel their hot sweet breath on your neck slip into gentle purring snores and settle in. There are worse ways to spend an hour.
What seems to true across the board is you need to stick to whatever suits you, allows you all to sleep at least a bit and makes you happy. You find your balance. Being too smug or distraught at whatever current sleep stage you’re at is a waste of energy as it’ll all pass… good sleeping babies go onto be wide awake toddlers and terrible sleepers can suddenly develop a passion for it (ask the Mothership, I was 5 before I slept through the night. Let that horror set in, I would have put me in the bin and tried again.)
To be clear, no judgement here on whatever you’re doing to get through the naps – if you’re heavily into sleep training regime then you go for it. If you’re not even thinking about sleep training, ace. If you’re doing a remarkably half hearted attempt at getting into better sleep training habits on days you can face it, you’re in my club. As a wise friend recently said, “you do you Boo.” To be fair he didn’t say that to me and it wasn’t about sleep training it was about getting a nose ring in your 30s but still, the sentiment stands.
Incidentally if you haven’t watched the Netflix series ‘The Letdown’, I highly recommend episode 2. DON’T LOOK THEM IN THE EYES!