Updated: Apr 6, 2020
I have been avoiding this topic since the very first blog, not entirely because I have touched on it within other topics, but as an entire post. Every time I think I’m ready to put it into words I manage to talk myself out of it. Baby sleep is this taboo topic where every whānau has a slightly different opinion. There is this shadow of silent judgment from other mums if you mention your pēpi is having a bad sleep phase, as if you must be doing something wrong because you just haven’t found the right solution yet that fits your whānau. On the other hand if you have a good sleep phase it can only be luck, not from anything you’ve done right. People forget that every pēpi is different and that that applies to sleep as well.
The rundown of our experience with sleep is like any other new māmā and pēpi combo. In our first 6 weeks I got roughly 3 sleeps a day, totalling no more than 6 hours across any given 24 hour period. Basically we didn‘t sleep for the first 6 weeks. Following that we entered this magical phase where literally overnight my son decided 9pm on the dot was bedtime and he would sleep until around 4am when he would wake for a kai. This lasted about 2 weeks. For those 2 weeks I was in shock and would rush to follow him to bed to get the maximum sleep time possible in case he changed his mind again. After 2 consistent weeks of this routine I relaxed a little on my own bedtimes which was nice and I was able to spend some time with my partner again without it being all about baby stuff. The routine continued and we were even managing to get back to sleep after that 4am wake up for 2 more rounds of 1hr sleep cycles. At 4 months old this miracle sleep phase ended, and it ended very abruptly. The first night felt almost worse than the first 6 weeks, although knowing the deterioration of my mental health as a result of the sleep deprivation in the first 6 weeks I know that is an exaggeration. I believe we had hit what everyone refers to as the 4 month sleep regression, which so conveniently comes around the same time as teething starts. Whether you believe in the sleep regression or not (I was undecided) something undoubtedly happens around this time. Every 2 hours on the hour it was kai time. We tried rocking, white noise, self settling/cry it out, more clothes, less clothes, waiata, EVERYTHING. In the end feed to sleep was the only way that worked so we decided to not waste our time with anything else, this also meant however (shock horror) only mum could do the night shifts again, and so we persevered. There are people out there who think feeding to sleep is a bad thing but if it works, it works. Sometimes thats how things have to roll being a māmā. And before someone goes being ”helpful” in the comments yes we also do the lights out, quiet sleep environment.
Each night the wake ups would come and I would whip the blankets off myself before even opening my eyes to wake my body up and tend to his cries. At 4 months the biggest perk of these wake ups compared with newborn wake ups is that your pēpi now has a more advance bladder and bowel so nappy changes aren’t required every wake up. Over the next month we figured out a very relaxed routine with nappy changes happening around the 2nd or 3rd wake up, depending on the firmness of the nappy at that time of course. There are also usually no overnight poos. Yay! This made getting back to sleep slightly quicker for us both. The downside is your pēpi is now more alert and so the slightest noise outside or accidental phone noise while you’re scrolling aimlessly trying to keep your eyelids from drooping back to sleep, may wake your baby up.
If you were looking for a light at the end of the tunnel I’m sorry I haven’t got that for you just yet. At 5.5 months we are still struggling through varied hours of sleep each night. In fact the first draft of this post was written at 3am after having been awake since 1am. In those 2hrs we had 3 feeds, 1 nappy change, 2 outfit changes, and several slow rocking trips up and down the hall and in circles around the room. In the end feeding back to sleep worked and we got 3 hours sleep before the next wake up.
I’m not going to tell you whether you should pay a sleep coach or whether you should get a sleep training book. That is up to you. My only intention is to reassure anyone in need that this is normal and it will pass eventually. You will make it through even if it doesn’t feel like it. One thing I have come to terms with is that sleep is not a consistent thing with tamariki of any age. One day you might have a “great sleeper” and the next day be running on 2 hours broken sleep (if you thought hangry was a thing then you’ve got another thing coming messing with a sleep deprived mum).
If you’re currently on struggle street with me, don‘t forget to sub your partner/mum/sister/friend in as you need it. Apparently it takes a village. Find as many people you trust as you can to join yours. You’ve got this māmā!