While I was pregnant, amidst the numerous “oooh you’re glowing” niceties, I vaguely remember a couple of people smirking “get your sleep in while you can” at me.
I politely laughed it off, thinking yes yes – I know I’ll have to get up every few hours to feed. How hard can it be?
But I wish someone had bounded a few other words my way. Namely: Growth spurt and sleep regressions. Oh yes and colic or teething might have been useful ones too but more on that another time.
After the first few weeks of the run of the mill nightly milk duty, something startling might be coming to a baby near you, or perhaps already has. If suddenly, the little fraggle which you have given birth to not long ago is transforming into a crying or perhaps more inconsolably and relentless night-time screaming, insatiably milk-guzzling, insanely back-arching, non-sleeping entity resembling the incredible hulk in miniature, then I bring you these two words again: Growth spurt and sleep regression.
I panicked in disbelief as I frantically trawled the net wondering what could have possibly occurred to make a baby act like she was totally possessed? My second thought was should I be calling the witch doctors in??
After emerging from the initial baby bliss where you don’t really care about sleep because you’d rather be coo-ing over your baby, the 4 week growth spurt, in my book, is a major and rather rude wake-up call, and one you should pay great attention to… as this, I’m afraid, could be the start of something not so beautiful.
Growth spurts occur at roughly around 7-10 days, 4-6 weeks, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months and 18 months; and if chaos suddenly descends on your little one’s overall demeanour especially in the night time hours, then it’s a likely suspect (along with teething and at the outset, colic). After which he or she will probably wow you with new awareness, skills and later on, probably tap dancing abilities.
Growth spurts and sleep regressions go hand and hand – with sleep regressions (read: forget about getting any sleep for a while) happening at 4, 8, 12 and 18 months, and 2 years; and the two seem to get worse with each one – please don’t shoot the messenger here. It doesn’t happen to all (if you’re overlooked, you’re a lucky bugger), but when it does, you’ll be wishing for those days when you only had to get up every few hours to feed and then could roll on back to bed once you’ve done your time.
Coming to a nursery room near you – you could very well be entertaining, placating or rocking a psyched out baby for hours on end at silly o’clock, and like there’s no tomorrow just hoping desperately they will succumb to sleep. This could go on for nights on end because the sleep regression bit can go on from a matter of days to….gulp….weeks! Those who have been through similar can probably very well understand why sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture. It’s no joke, believe me.
Then later you’ll be banging your head on a brick wall for all the sleep crutches you have introduced during those times in desperation – incessant rocking, patting, singing, walking, co-sleeping, breast-feeding to sleep, dummies etc. – just anything that will get you some zzzzs and then guess what? You’ll be paying for months after until your baby learns to sleep by themselves. Argh!
The good news is that after 12 months the developmental leaps and regressions taper off and become less frequent – one every 6 months seems like a piece of pie in the grand scheme of things. So after the last, I suggest breathing a very huge sigh of relief (it’s been a long road for us long-standing sufferers) and holding a massive piss up, preferably to annihilate all those ghastly wee-hours-of-the-morning memories.
Get your sleep in while you can. And I really mean it.