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Surviving A Sleep Regression

By EmilyBMalone |

Are we going to make it through this?

To describe this past week as rough is a pretty gross understatement. My three-month-old that previously slept for 7-8 hour stretches and only got up once through the night is now awake every 2 to 3 hours around the clock.

It was one thing to do the whole “up every two hours” thing back when he was a newborn. I expected it then. I was prepared. He also slept all day long, which allowed me to recover during the days with naps and downtime. But now? He’s three months old. My days are a constant circus of dancing, singing, bouncing, walking, and finding other ways of entertaining him. Down time is something totally foreign to me.

Are we going to make it through this sleep regression?

Of course we will, but it’s getting ugly.  Just a few weeks ago Cullen would go down to bed at 7:30pm, and not wake until around 3:30am for the first feeding.  After that, he was back down until 7:30 or 8, and then we were up for the day.  This allowed me to not only sleep, it gave me enough time in the morning to shower, eat breakfast, and prepare before our day started.

And just a few weeks later, our nights now look like this:

7:30pm – bedtime for baby (because I physically cannot keep him up any longer – trust me, I’ve tried).

11pm – crying, needs to be fed.  Feed him and finally go to bed myself.

2:30am – up again, crying, and also needing a diaper change.  I change his diaper which wakes him up more than I would like.  Feed him and put him back in the crib.  He smiles up at me, with no intention of going back to sleep.  Spend the next hour standing by his crib, holding a pacifier in his mouth, and sending frustrated tweets to no one since the rest of the world is asleep.

3:30am – we both finally go back to sleep.

5:00am – up again!  not hungry, not wet — just ready to start the day.  I pull him into my bed and stare at him like a zombie for about an hour before finally giving up and conceding that we are not going back to sleep.

And then I spend the rest of the day in a sleep-induced haze, putting orange juice away in cabinets instead of the refrigerator, and sending emails full of typos and bad grammar.  A lot of moms have told me this is normal for an almost-four-month-old.  Can someone who has seen the other side please tell me this is true?  He IS going to sleep again eventually … right?

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Emily Malone shares her adventures in cooking and parenting on her personal blog, Daily Garnish. Read bio and latest posts → Read Emily's latest posts →

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29 thoughts on “Surviving A Sleep Regression

  1. T says:

    So real, and dangerous! He’ll get it figured out, just be careful to avoid creating any bad habits (always needing to be nursed/rocked/etc. to sleep) because then it might be months before you get your good sleeper back.

  2. Sarah Crosby says:

    My 3 month old is doing the same thing right now. I am able to get him back to sleep until 730ish but he has to stay in bed with me to stay asleep. Being in my bed makes him stay asleep but isn’t very restful for me because I am too paranoid i am going to roll on him or I am putting his paci back in his mouth before he wakes completely up! I am praying it gets better!

    Also, we don’t change his diaper in the middle of the night unless it is poopy. I thought this was super mean in the beginning but he used to wake up completely and not want to go back to sleep. My doctor suggested it to me and it has helped him remain in sleep mode. We are still using disposables so that might not be feasible with cloth, but a suggestion.

    Praying us zombie mommas get some serious rest soon!

    1. EmilyBMalone says:

      Sarah I am doing the same thing! I bring him into bed and he goes back to sleep if I do the side nursing, but then I can’t sleep because I’m afraid to smother him. Plus he sleeps on his stomach now, which makes me really nervous in our softer bed! I tried not changing the diapers but he has been soaking through the cloth in the middle of the night if I don’t. I find him laying in a pool of pee by morning – horrible!

  3. keri says:

    Overnight diapers might help you out if you’re a disposable diaper user. My daughter used to wake up wet above her diaper because it had gotten so wet overnight. Even with the overnight diapers, we have to get one size up to keep it from literally exploding overnight.

  4. Liz says:

    I agree with T! Avoid bad habits. I didn’t when my 3 month old went into sleep regression. Sorry to be a downer, but 7 months later, my 10 month old is still a horrible sleeper. I have long forgotten what a good nights sleep is.

  5. Lindsay says:

    I am dreading this regression with my almost 3 month old (he’s two weeks younger than Cullen). It happened with all three of my other children and, unfortunately, bad habits developed and none of them slept longer than a few hours at a time until they were over a year old! Sorry, I know that’s not what you want to hear. I’m really, really hoping to avoid that this time around, especially since with three other children I have absolutely no chance of napping during the day. But a lot of times, you just do whatever it takes to get your baby back to sleep because you are so darn tired!
    I bet Cullen will get past this and be a good sleeper again since he was such a good one before. Just do your best to be consistent, which of course is easier said than done. Good luck! I’m right there with you!

  6. MA* says:

    I am by no means educated or experienced enough to weigh in here, but could he do a disposable diaper just at bedtime?? It might help a little bit? Only asking because I know, as a new sleep deprived mom, sometimes I don’t think of obvious answers ;) Good luck; he’ll come around! And until then, I am reading your tweets :)

  7. janesnickers says:

    Going through this with my almost 4 month old. She would go down at 7:30, I would pump at 9:30 and my husband would wake her and give her the bottle at around 10:30 and put her down around 30 min later while I got a head start on sleep (only about a 15 minute head start, but every little bit counts!). Wake up time was 7am. This past week, wake up time kept creeping earlier and earlier, culminating in waking every 2 hours this weekend. Last night and the night before she’s managed to return somewhat to her previous schedule albeit now waking up between 6 and 6:30. Had my husband make the last bottle feeding less stimulating (yes it was adorable the way that she would grin and coyly bury her head in his shoulder as I greeted her when I would swaddle her halfway through the feeding, but I’ll take my smiles during the day if it means getting more sleep) and he would put her back down when she was waking multiple times, if he couldn’t calm her easily I would feed her, but I try to get her to take more during the day than at night, so the middle of the night nursing has only happened once. If I can recall (and my memory is hazy) this also worked when my 4 year old was a babe…hang in there!

  8. Fran says:

    Argh the comments are scaring me! My daughter is 5 days younger than Cullen and has just started doing exactly the same thing and it is killing me! I have no advice, this is just to say I feel your pain!

  9. Chiara says:

    Have you read Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child by Weissbluth? Its my bible. In a nutshell, you may try putting Cullen to sleep earlier in the night. Seems counterintuitive but with both my kids it worked. Also, when he wakes up in the morning to start his day and when you put him down for his first nap should be 90 minutes to 2 hours. Again, counterintuitive but one of the books tenets is how easily babies are overstimulated and then they have difficulty staying asleep or going to sleep. Its hard to tell because they may be perfectly happy and having a good old time in the morning even after being up for more than 2 hours. In any event, I dont know all the specifics of your routine but if any of the tips above resonate-you may want to try it. It wont hurt. Last piece of advice from the book-you wouldnt deprive your child of healthy food so you shouldnt deprive your child of healthy sleep.
    Good luck.

  10. says:

    YES to the overnight diapers, they work wonders for us. def. get a size up. the thing that stinks is that huggies stopped making them like last week? but pampers makes them now and they are almost as good. the sleep regression def goes away. atleast you know your baby is progressing like a normal baby because this is exactly the time they do it. at 4 months you can ask ur Dr. about sleep training and not feeding him in the night anymore (As long as he is an appropriate weight and a bond has been formed bw the 2 of you). each phase is so hard! we just got past teething and that was NOT fun. the hardest part is getting used to good sleep and then getting it taken away from you!

  11. Katie KS says:

    I agree with some sort of sleep training. I cut out all middle of night feeds at 12 weeks and both kids did fine. A few rough nights and having dad help but we made it. The 11 pm feeding could be ok. Esp if you can get him to go til 8. And I know you like cloth but I know some cd moms who use disposables at nite so their kids sleep. I know some who still nurse 14+ month olds in the wee hrs. If it works fine but that isn’t for me. Oh depending on when you start food that might help too but you are still several weeks away minimum. Good luck!

  12. Elle says:

    Oh man, this is EXACTLY what happened with us. Our little guy (5.5 months) slept just like Cullen for the first 3.5 months. Then he did the same thing, would sleep until midnight and then would be up every 1-2 hours for the rest of the night. I was so miserable and upset because I was sure it was going to be like that FOREVERRR! But I’m happy to report I was wrong – he was just going through a growth spurt and his sleep habits returned to normal about a week later. We recently had another regression around 5 months, but that involved rolling over onto this stomach in his swaddle, resulting in swaddle weaning…which you’ve luckily already done! I’m so, so bad about thinking every not-so-fun phase is here to stay, but I’m getting better about realizing you’re constantly in transition with babies. I mean, I knew this before I became a mom, but it’s taken me a while to really get it. You’ll have good sleep periods, and you’ll have bad sleep periods, but just remember…this too shall pass!

  13. Elle says:

    Oh, and I just wanted to add – don’t feel like you HAVE to sleep train in order to get him back to sleeping. I know for a lot of babies you do end up needing to do some sleep training, but like I said in my above post, it can also just be a phase. We kind of decided sleep training isn’t for us (so far!), just based on our baby’s temperment. I also decided that as long as it doesn’t become an all night buffet, I’m going to let him wean himself of night feedings. I freaked out for a while because everything I read said that by the time babies are 4-5 months old that they are capable of meeting their nutritional requirements during the day. Well, that may be so, but I also know that my baby would wake up in the middle of the night and would be completely inconsolable for hours, until I nursed him, and he went right back to sleep. Just remember to do what feels right to YOU!

  14. Melissa says:

    I’m right there with you! I sort of disagree with the whole creating bad habits issue, though we are doing our best to continue with as many good habits as we can. Our pediatirican and my lactation consultant both told us that we aren’t permanently ingraining bad sleep habits yet! My son, who is about 2 weeks older than Cullen, has been in a sleep regression since about 11 weeks. We have continued to do our bedtime routine and we keep him in his room/crib for as long as possible, but sometime between 3-4 in the morning we often bring our baby into bed with us. Side nursing will keep him sleepy and once I got used to it I could doze off as well- I’m not sure I would call it really sleeping, but it was still fairly restful. Last night we tried putting the boppy lounger between us in bed, and that bought us about 45 mins of extra sleep- which is a lot at 4 am! I’m also not super concerned about bringing our son into bed as I don’t think I will mind him continuing to snuggle with us in the early mornings as he gets older, though I am hoping our definition of early morning might change somewhat!

  15. Sara says:

    I agree with the night diapers! I am a cloth-diaperer, but I use disposables at night – the 12-hour ones – and get a size up. I found that not having to change a diaper at night helped SOOO much. It is worth it to me to not have to wake the whole house at 3 am to change a diaper.
    I can’t speak to the rest of your sleep problems – I co-sleep and nurse all night. I couldn’t function all day otherwise. But just try the 12-hr diapers and see if it helps any.

  16. Erica says:

    Yes, this has happened to me and my now 7 month old. Its gotten better but he is still up twice a night. In my opinion we have to remember it’s normal for babies to do this, it’s developmental. Six months is generally recommended for any sort of sleep training. It sucks, especially since I work during the day, but I try to side with my son too and know that it will be over soon. It gets better, hasn’t in there

  17. Erica says:

    Sorry, *hang in there, not hasn’t;)

  18. Laura says:

    We had to start using disposables at night. Still saving money since we only use one per night, but it helped a ton.

  19. Jill says:

    Get a hemp insert to stuff into your cloth diapers for nighttime. My 5 1/2 month old stays dry from 7pm-7am. It’s been a lifesaver. Makes for a huge fluffy butt, but that’s better than leaking!

  20. Rachel says:

    I agree with Jill, get hemp inserts! At night I use one microfiber insert, one hemp insert, and a strip of microfleece as a liner (pee goes through it but it stays dry against the skin, and you can get a yard of it at a fabric store really cheap). My C will sleep from 7:30 p.m. – 7 a.m. with that setup. But, if they need to be washed I use a disposable. Not messing with his sleep! (He is 1 1/2 weeks younger than Cullen.)

  21. Adrianne says:

    I have to admit I’ve been really jealous of how well Cullen was sleeping from the very beginning! Not that I’m happy he’s going through this phase (I know how miserable it is!), but it’s at least making me feel better about my baby girl…and reading the comments helps too.

    My daughter was a decent sleeper from the beginning (though nothing like Cullen). Around 3 months she got into her groove and was sleeping around 11-12 hrs total at night with one feeding around 5am. Then at 4 months, right before I went back to work, BAM! She started waking several times a night, every.single.night. She’s now almost 5 months and it seems she is getting a little bit better, but still nothing like she was before I went back to work:( It’s so exhausting! We’ve tried letting her cry a little bit and sometimes that works, but other times it just gets her really worked up and no matter what anyone tells me about “spoiling” her or needing to let her cry more, I can’t let my baby SCREAM in the middle of the night, when it’s dark, she might be scared and hungry. Just can’t do it.
    So I usually end up feeding her and yes, sometimes bring her into bed when she wakes around 4-5am because I’m not going to spend my last precious minutes of possible sleep before my alarm by fighting her to go back to sleep in her crib. I’m afraid of getting into bad habits, but at the same time, I’ll do what I have to do to get us all back to sleep. I don’t know. This mommy thing sure is difficult sometimes:( Good luck!

  22. Emily says:

    My son did the exact some thing at 3 months after sleeping 8 hour stretches at 2 months. He is now 5 months old, and last night he actually slept from 7:30 to 5:30am for the first time since the sleep regression and it was awesome. One thing that I think helped with my son was recently my husband started getting up and giving our son a bottle at his 1am feeding. After three nights, our son quit waking up at 1am because as I suspect – he just wanted to nurse. When he realized that he was going to get a bottle instead of boob, he started putting himself back to sleep. Whatever happens, remember that this too shall pass and Cullen will eventually sleep again!

  23. Jennifer says:

    I also agree with the comment and suggestion for “Healthy Sleep Habits,” great book. Another great book is “The Sleep Easy Solution!” which has step-by-step tips for weaning the night time feeding (after baby is 14 lbs and 4 mos) and a gentler form of sleep training. It does say, however, not to sleep train if baby is teething–is it possible this is the case with Cullen? Our baby started teething around 4 mos, and in the 3 weeks since then, there have been a few nights where she would wake crying every few hours. We weaned her from the night feeding, so it wasn’t hunger. Tylenol was the only thing that worked. Hang in there!

  24. Sara says:

    Since you’re using cloth, try doubling up the inserts. I stuff a hugely thick prefold in there, and she’s happy until morning. No extra diaper rash, no extra wakeups. I felt bad at first, but I was really waking her up changing her. It was a lose lose for everyone.

  25. Sara says:

    Also, about your other post about food – I find that if I diet at all, my supply drops to the point where she wakes up in the middle of the night for a feed. And it’s not even dieting, it’s more like, if I don’t eat to fullness at each meal, it drops. This sounds bizarre, but I’ve tried it a bunch of times now, and each time with out fail, she starts waking up. I would totally suggest eating to fullness for a few days in a row, and seeing if that helps. I’m really struggling, because it’s caused me to gain a couple of pounds, but I sure prefer that to so many wakeups.

  26. Erin M says:

    I feel your pain. My baby slept from 9-430 ate, then slept til 930 even as a newborn. At 4 months she started going to bed at 7:30 and was up every 2 hours. She is now 9 months, and not much better! I work full-time, and feel like I’ve aged 10 years since I had her! At about 6 months we started bed sharing full-time. At least I can stay partially asleep when she wakes up, and nighttime has become a very important bonding time for us. We are still nursing, and she’s become such a pro, I wake up and find she’s latched on and comforting herself, and I didn’t even notice. I’m still tired, but this seems to help. Plus, I now cherish this time I get to be with her. My husband says he loves having her there to cuddle with too. Often if she wakes up crying, he can cuddle her and rub her belly and get herself back to sleep. I know lots of people aren’t on board with bedsharing, but it ended up really helping me feel a little better, and being able to function at work.

  27. Susannah says:

    First off, at 3 months, it could be a growth spirt and it will pass in a couple days. I follow attachment parenting (loosely) and my son is still waking up several times throughout the night to nurse. He sleeps in his crib until his first wakeup and then he comes to bed with me. I nurse him while I’m sleeping in a laying down on my side. I can sleep while he nurses and when he wants to switch sides, he wimpers, we switch side and we both go back to sleep. I’m pretty happy with this arrangement. I also would recommend stuffing your baby’s cloth diaper with either extra soakers or use a folded up prefold (our favorite option). We don’t change at all between 8 pm and 6:30 or 7 in the AM. He drinks most of his milk at night since I’m at work during the day (about 16 ounces).

    Mostly though, baby’s sleep cycles change as soon as you get used to one. It’s part of their development. It happens with growth spirts, teething, colds, and just development. Try and sleep when the baby does. I’m sure your 3 month old takes 2-3 naps during the day. I got really good at napping during the day when my son was that little. Good luck to you and know that you’re not alone. This too shall pass.

  28. dezi's mom says:

    My 11 month old is doing the same thing and it is brutal trying to run after him, plus work as well. Is it normal for a baby to regress like that at his age? Because he was sleeping about 8 hours at night and doing at least two daytime naps. He’s been like this for almost a month now.

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