As a new parent, you spend a lot of time obsessing about sleep, primarily how to get more of that magic elixir. A few weeks back during a rare evening out (thanks to Alex for taking care of the baby and my friend Jo for having a birthday) I was talking to another parent about these first few weeks, months, “oh god please not years” of sleep deprivation. She pointed out that forcing prisoners to go without longer stretches of sleep (aka the magical 4 hours needed for a cycle of REM) is an actual form of torture and can lead to a lack of mental functioning similar to intoxication.
Here is a brief history of Baby Olav’s* adventures with sleep
The first five weeks – To be honest I am not really sure how we survived this, but Olav spent this period of time refusing to sleep on anything that wasn’t a human and with no real sense of day and night. So Alex and I spent our time in 2-3 hour shifts around the clock. Fortunately both of us were off of work AND we had friends and family nearby who would sometimes take an evening shift or early morning shift which allowed us some much needed breaks.
The introduction of the rocker – Starting at around five weeks, Olav finally discovered that he liked the rock and play. And glory be, so did we. This was our first adventure in all three of us sleeping at the same time and it felt glorious. Nights were still pretty broken up by feedings and diaper changing, but the idea that we no longer needed to have either Alex or I awake at all times was tremendous.
Transition to the bassinet – About a week or two before I went to back to work (both Alex and I took 12 weeks off of work), we finally got up the nerve to go back less solid sleep and see if we could transition Olav out of his constantly rocking nighttime routine and into the world of non-moving flat surfaces. And Olav did surprisingly well. In fact this is where I started to get some of those first glorious stretches of 5 to 7 hours of uninterrupted sleep.
The first routine – Around 3 months, Olav had started to form a routine that was really working for us. Down to sleep around 9pm or 10pm, up for the first feed at around 3am, sometimes even as late as 4 or 5am, then back down for an hour or two before up for the day. While that wasn’t as early a bedtime as I would have liked, that made for some pretty bearable nights that included that golden 5 to 7 hour stretch of uninterrupted sleep.
The four month sleep regression – Starting around 2 (or 3?) weeks ago, Olav decided to do what babies do and regress! According to my extensive googling and reading of sleep books, this is a stage that all babies go through when they transition from newborn sleep habits to the sleep cycles they will continue to have for the rest of their lives. Unfortunately for Olav (and me!), this means he needs to relearn how to put himself to sleep. So far, with a few exceptions, Olav has been failing at this task. Our new reality looks like this:
- Down to sleep between 9pm and 10pm
- Up for the first feed between 11pm and 12am
- Then up every 1.5 (booo!) to 2.5 hours later the whole way through the rest of the night.
Since all of these wakings are responded to with nursing, there is little Alex can do, so while he would love to help, most of these nighttime wake-ups are responded to by me. Which means I am back to that blurry tortured world of intoxicated sleep deprivation. Although unlike those first five weeks, I am still expected to show up for work every day and function like a real adult.
Now I didn’t intend for this post to be a whine fest about how tired I am, just a window into my reality at the moment. The good news is that so far I am doing a pretty decent job of reminding myself that this is just a phase. And if I have learned anything over the past 5 months is that most phases of parenting are short, or at least shorter than you realize. And second, despite the drunken torture that Olav is inflicting, he remains a fantastic lovable and adorable baby. There continue to be so many amazing moments to savor where I am oh so glad I get to be this little one’s mama.
*Not his real name, but one that was on our list of finalists