Nora has been sleeping through the night–in some way, shape, or form–since she was less than two weeks old. She started off by surprising us with six or seven hour stretches, and gradually worked her way up to twelve or thirteen hours. At her “worst,” she woke up twice a night to eat, but it was usually only one time, and then it was none. It appeared that we had hit the jackpot in terms of baby sleep behavior.
I have been so aware of and so thankful for this rare blessing that I have lived the last three months just waiting for the other shoe to drop. I was always afraid to talk to people about what a good sleeper Nora was because I was scared of possibly jinxing ourselves. Whenever I would mention it, I would feel like “Oh, I probably shouldn’t have said anything!” or I’d get the overwhelming urge to knock on wood.
But then, the last few weeks, I started to relax. I returned to work, and after a week of dealing with an overtired baby and not-so-great sleep during our transition, Nora fell back into her normal sleeping routine and I breathed a huge sigh of relief. And I figured, hey, if she can go through that and still come out a great sleeper, surely that’s just her nature. So I felt a little better talking about her sleep habits with people. I felt a little surer that things would not really change–of course, we’d have a bad night or two here or there, but nothing too drastic.
Oh, I was so naive.
Hellooooo, four-month wakeful period. It’s so NOT nice to meet you.
About 10 days ago, Nora started a pattern of restless sleep. On that first night, she woke up several times and I had to pop her binky back in repeatedly. We had experienced a handful of not-so-great nights before. I didn’t think much of it, though, because those nights were the exception, not the rule. But then the next night was the same. The only difference was that Nora had developed some nasal congestion and was having trouble breathing through her nose. As a result, we chalked up the less-than-stellar sleep to her being sick (even though her first cold didn’t interrupt her sleep at all).
But then on Wednesday night, something changed. Nora woke up in the middle of the night and refused to go back to sleep. All told, we were up for more than two hours with a WIDE.AWAKE.BABY trying to get her back down, and when we finally did, I was still up every hour putting her binky back in her mouth and shushing her back to sleep. After a few hours of that, I was desperate for some sleep, so I finally brought her into bed with us–and even THAT wouldn’t settle her. I started to worry, but remained optimistic.
Unfortunately, it has now been several nights of the same type of thing. I’ve come to the conclusion that Nora’s cold led right into the dreaded “four-month wakeful period.” She has all of the “symptoms”–she’s become highly alert and more aware of her surroundings, has shorter/more distracted daytime feedings, and, well, she’s just a few weeks shy of four months. She wakes up in the middle of the night and cries, but she’s cool as soon as we pick her up and hold her. But that doesn’t mean she wants to SLEEP, though; no way. She wants us to talk to her and play. And as much as I love her and her wide open little eyes and her smiles… holy moly, this SUCKS.
I hear every move she makes in her pack ‘n’ play, since it’s right next to the bed and I have developed the mommy hearing. So I’m awake before she even cries–I know it’s coming when I hear her start to grunt and writhe around in her swaddle. I lie there in the dark and I find myself wrestling with what I will do when she finally breaks into a cry.
I can put her pacifier back in. But that’ll MAYBE buy me 10 minutes (and it’s not like I fall back to sleep anyway).
I can try to shush-pat her back to sleep, but that hasn’t been very successful these days.
I can pick her up and try to rock/jiggle/pat/shush her back to sleep, and sometimes that’ll work… until I attempt to put her down, that is. Those eyes fly open faster than you can even imagine.
I can nurse her. But then I find myself debating whether she’s REALLY hungry, or whether I’ll be feeding her just to feed her and perhaps creating a bad habit. And well, unfortunately, nursing her has not proven to put her back to sleep, either.
I can let her cry for a few minutes to see what happens. I can do a little bit of “modified” cry-it-out, and well, we actually did that after being awake for a couple of hours last night. To our surprise, it did work. She wasn’t all-out wailing, but did cry, and we let her do so for about five minutes. At that point, I put her binky back in, shushed her, then got back into bed. She was quiet for a few minutes, then started crying again. We again waited a few minutes, repeated the binky and the shushing, then back into bed again. And she fell asleep, and stayed that way for over an hour. A small success, but a success nonetheless.
To his credit, Michael has been a real team player with these middle-of-the-night “episodes,” so we have been alternating. But even when we’re not handling the baby, we’re all in the same room, so no one gets any sleep. It’s a fun time, I assure you.
To top it all off, this is happening right as we have prepared to move Nora into her own room. And, we may be crazy, but tonight, we went ahead and did it anyway. We put her to bed in her crib. We figure that we’re already getting crappy sleep anyway, we may as well transition her to the nursery while we’re at it. Plus, I read that the four-month wakeful period is a good time to start sleep training (if you’re going to do it), so we almost felt like we HAD to move her now–after all, we don’t want to “train” her to sleep in our room.
I’m scared of how tonight will go, but at least we don’t have to work tomorrow (we don’t go back until Tuesday).
I’ve done some Googling and some accounts of the four-month wakeful period are encouraging. Some parents say their babies went back to normal after only a few weeks. And hey, we’re already more than a week into it, so… fingers crossed! But other accounts are so terrifying that it makes me want to cry. Some parents say that after MONTHS of this, their babies STILL have not gone back to sleeping through the night. *shudder*
Heaven help us.
The worst thing is that I have gone from looking forward to bedtime to absolutely dreading it. I find that with each passing night of terrible sleep, the pit in my stomach grows larger and larger and I feel more and more discouraged. The nights are SO LONG now. Instead of waking up in the morning feeling refreshed and looking forward to the day, I wake up feeling like “well, at least we survived” and I automatically dread the next night.
It’s a good thing she’s cute. :)
Any parents out there have any experience with this four-month wakeful beast?? What did you do to get you through?
AboutI'm Heather. I'm 32 and have been married to Michael for six years. Together, we have two beautiful little girls we love more than anything, and a miniature dachshund who drives us crazy. I'm a full-time working mom who has very little time for my own "stuff" these days, like home improvement, cooking/baking, cake decorating, and photography. Despite the team not making the playoffs since 1999, I'm STILL a Buffalo Bills fan, which I think speaks to my loyalty AND sense of humor. I can't wait to pick up the pace with travel again some day... you know, when we're done being ruled by tiny fists. Welcome to my blog.
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