Dear Is This Normal,

Our 7 month old wakes up crying every hour and will only go back to sleep if we pick her up. We’re losing sleep and losing our minds. Please tell me this is normal and temporary?!

No Sleep in the Suburbs

Dear No Sleep,

Ugh, sleep is the best. Why don’t babies love it?! Every single parent reading this right now just looked off into the distance, remembering a time not long ago when they, too, though they would never sleep again. The good news is: this IS normal, and this IS temporary. The not so good news? It’s unlikely to change without some work. But fear not, No Sleep, you will one day sleep again.

Babies are a lot of things, but born with the skills to sleep is not one of them. They go from sleeping all the time as newborns, to just … not sleeping? With any regularity or discernible schedule? It’s a real buzzkill, let me tell ya. 

I’m going to share with you the two words that saved my nights, my sanity, my mental health, and in the long run, turned my kids into pretty good sleepers. SLEEP. TRAINING. Sleep training! My god, sleep training. I’ll probably get flamed for this, but I don’t even care. I did sleep training with both my kids (one at 7ish months, one at 9 months), and it was a game-changer and lifesaver. It was a few days of unpleasantness for many, MANY nights of blissful sleep. For all of us. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

So let’s break down what’s happening with your baby. Around 4 months, most babies hit a sleep regression. This is because their sleep cycle is changing to become more like the one we have; they cycle in and out of REM sleep (just like we do), but they don’t have the ability to soothe themselves back to sleep (like we do). So when they wake up, instead of settling back into slumber, they cry. Then we go in and pick them up, and rock them back to sleep, and thus begins a vicious cycle. Now, if your baby was able to settle themselves back to sleep, they may cry out but would quickly fall back asleep. This is where sleep training comes in.

There are quite a few baby sleep training methods out there. I’ll tell you what worked for me and literally ALL of my friends with babies: the Ferber method. I will warn you, there is crying involved. Both for your baby and, probably, for you, too. But, hey. No regrets.  Your baby needs to learn how to fall asleep on their own because that’s how good, lifelong sleep habits are built. The Ferber method is a way to help them develop healthy tendencies while letting you get back to your normal sleeping patterns. 

This is how it works: you’ll do your normal bedtime routine, rock your baby, give them lots of cuddles and love. But instead of putting them in their crib when they’re totally asleep, you’ll put them down when they’re drowsy. They may fuss, and yes, they may cry. So you’ll comfort them, and then leave the room while they’re awake. Wait a few minutes, then return for a minute to soothe your baby. Then leave again! Wait a bit longer, then repeat the soothing. Your wait times will get progressively longer until your baby finally falls asleep. But this is important: DON’T PICK THEM UP! It’s totally fine to talk to your babe, comfort them, pat their back, then skedaddle. It’s a rough few nights, but so, so worth it in the end.

Listen, everyone needs sleep. You need it, your partner needs, your baby needs it! And as much as we want our babies to just sleep, they’re not equipped for that—not without a little help from us. So my advice to you is: look into sleep training, and find a method that you feel will work for your family. Research shows that sleep training is a safe and effective way to help your baby develop sleep habits that will stay with them well into childhood and beyond. And I’m telling you, that first night’s sleep without having to rock a crying baby for two hours? Just about the best night’s sleep you’ll ever have. Godspeed, Sleepless. I’m sending you zzzzz’s from afar.

Sleeping in the Suburbs,

Is This Normal

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