Pop quiz! Guess where Wonder Baby took her morning nap? Take a point if you guessed in the Ergo. Guess where she's napping now? Another point if you again guessed the Ergo. Last night? In bed with me (we aren't co-sleepers). How many times did she wake up? Every 45 minutes! When did she decide was morning? Five @(#&ing thirty. We're having a sleep regression. I'm having trouble making peace with it, but at least I always have sarcasm to sustain me.
Sleep regressions are the hellish points in a baby's development where a combination of things disrupt their sleep for a while. Factors can include: wonder weeks (cognitive development), teething, growth spurts, physical milestones (I can pull up, but how do I get back down?), and separation anxiety. The worst sleep disruptions seem to occur at 4 and 9 months with mini regressions at 6 and 13. Severity can range from a couple nights of waking up more often, to a couple months of endless and lengthy wakings. Some parents claim that their babies don't have sleep regressions. This is possibly true, but I can't vouch for it. All babies are different, but most of them go through times where sleep is rough for a while, and you start to lose faith in your ability to parent.
Wonder Baby, as I've mentioned previously, is not a champion sleeper. She usually does better than this, however. I blame our current 9 month sleep regression on teething/growth spurt (a painful combination for me) with a dash of pulling up/time change. We just got through the 37 week developmental jump, and there is another one looming on the horizon (when I checked the chart and saw the sunshine over this week I laughed, it wasn't a pretty laugh), so they will probably all blend together into one long sleep deprived mess. A plan of action is needed. I went through this all before with Toddler Girl (although she magically skipped the 9 month regression, sweet child) and I've survived the 4 month and mini 6 month regressions with Wonder Baby. I'm very nearly an expert on being horribly sleep deprived, here's what I've learned:
It's not my fault
I've been known to sob things like "if I was a better mother she would sleep better!" to my husband. Who gives me a hug and tries to snap me out of it. Being a better mother would not fix her teething or teach her to walk sooner or help with any of the other things she's going through. She is sleeping badly because of what's going on with her, not because of what I'm doing with her.
Do what works
You will not ruin your previous sleep training by helping them sleep during a regression. As long as you don't keep a habit going past when they need it (like co-sleeping, in my case), it's no big deal. It's so easy to be frustrated because you just taught them to fall asleep on their own, or sleep in the crib, or whatever, and you don't want to backslide. They will do these things again, but they need more help right now.
It's easy to obsess about the baby's sleep and forget that aren't the only person who matters. I currently have a house with a napping toddler and husband working night shift. They both really need to sleep right now, so I'm not going to spend an hour trying to get a screaming baby to nap in her crib. She will remember how later (see above), and probably will get so wound up that she won't nap anyway. Most of all, make sure that you get enough sleep to function. Sleep deprived moms are crappy caregivers and your family needs you! Do what it takes to catch up a bit; nap, go to bed early, cosleep. Mr SH tries to take the girls in the morning so I can sleep in as often as possible. This morning he came in off night shift and took the baby. I woke up two hours later to him making both girls breakfast and eggs coming out of the pan for me. Then he ate and went to sleep. I love that man. We're trying to protect each other's sleep so that we can still be half decent parents.
Try to stay positive
It's just a phase. A hideous phase, and sadly not always a short phase, but it will pass. This is easier to remember with your second (or third, or fourth...) child. It feels like forever, but it isn't. Try not to freak out when you wake up for the tenth time that night (just a phase, just a phase). Try not to snap at the baby (just because she's smiling, doesn't mean she's doing this on purpose). Make some tea, read a book, breathe slowly (write a whiny blog post). It will pass. You can't control it; you can only control how you deal.
After all, who can stay mad at this face?