There is apparently a stage of development for babies commonly referred to as the “4 month sleep regression”, and it is just as painful as it sounds.
The breakdown is simple: your baby is rapidly changing developmentally, learning new skills every single day (mine decided yesterday was the day he figured out that the rattle was fun to shake after weeks of just trying to cram it into his mouth), teeth moving around under the gums, attention spans getting longer… And all the stuff makes them very suddenly aware of their own bodies, which scares the bejeezus right out of them. And so, sleep regression kicks in, and baby starts waking up. Every. Single. Hour. The whole night. For weeks.
At first I thought there was something wrong with him. He had been sleeping soundly in his own crib for 3-4 hours at a time. Then this started. Now I stagger out of bed and three steps to the bassinet, pick him up, fed him a little, and five minutes later he’s asleep again. It’s like he’s just checking to make sure I am still there, that he’s still safe. He was crying in his sleep a few nights ago so I picked him up but couldn’t console him in the usual ways. I had to wake him fully up from slumber so he could see everything was all right. Once he woke, he was his normal happy self again. Of course then I had the unenviable task of getting him back to sleep.
It’s tough with just a baby. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like for the parent with more than one child. The old adage, “when the baby sleeps, you sleep” certainly applied the first few weeks at all hours of the day. Now that we expect it, the whole family goes to bed early on weeknights and spends weekend mornings being lazy. And since it’s been 5 weeks since this all started in our house, occasionally the baby blesses us and sleeps 2-3 hours in a row once a night.
It’s been a joy to watch him grow the last little bit: he found his toes, he’s rolling, he’s laughing and blowing raspberries – but man, I will be grateful when both of us can start “sleep progressing” again for good.