Until recently, I didn't really think sleep regressions were a real thing. I do now...
One Monday evening I put Izzy to bed as always. An hour or so later, she grizzled and Simon went to settle her. 45 minutes later, same again. And then again. Gosh, we thought, this isn't going to be a good night. At 11 o'clock after the 4th time settling her, I decided I couldn't do that all night so brought her into bed with me for the night. She slept soundly for the rest of the night, and we thought we were in the clear. Until the same thing happened again the next night...except it was accompanied by an hour of screaming. Nothing we did could settle her so...in to bed she came. And then the next night the screaming went to for even longer until she was brought into bed.
Three bad nights in a row? That's tough. The next two nights she slept in her cot, but woke every 2 hours or so and took a long while to settle. Then back to screaming and into our bed. Things came to a head on the 7th night when she woke at 11pm and screamed for two hours straight and NOTHING worked - including bringing her in to bed. Simon and I were tired, she was exhausted, and we were all frustrated.
So, what on earth was the cause? Welcome the '9 Month Sleep Regression'. I had heard of the 4 month sleep regression, which we had no issues with, but never one at 9 months, so it caught us off guard and knocked the wind from our sails. After some hasty Googling, we found out that we were not the only people to have their baby SCREAM at them for no apparent reason, and with no way to settle them. These other people had also experienced the 9 month sleep regression, and there was a general consensus on the cause. Imagine you have a big meeting tomorrow, and you have practised and practised what you need to say. It's likely you'll go to bed, have it all spinning round in your head, and have trouble falling asleep. Well, that's the same with Isabelle. Except, she doesn't have a big meeting, she just has LIFE.
Simon and I have said a lot in the last month just how much she is changing, and how much she has learnt to do lately. Every day, she seems to be doing more, and be doing things BETTER than before. She is stronger, understands more, can move better - she just has so much going on! So it's no wonder that when she goes to bed at night she has a little trouble switching off. The problem seems to be that she isn't getting in to a deep enough sleep, so she wakes more. And that is frustrating - I hate waking up during the night, so I understand why she gets cross. As Lauren from Mrs Hippo and Me said to me once "You can lie and stare at the ceiling, but they can't, so they cry". It makes so much sense. Isabelle's brain is churning with 'stuff', she isn't sleeping deeply so she wakes, gets mad about it, and cries.
1// Understand what's happening - once you know why your baby is waking more often, I think it makes it easier to deal with. It definitely made me more sympathetic. Rather than getting cross that she was sleeping so badly, and screaming so much, I felt bad for her that she couldn't sleep when she wanted to.
2// Put a plan in place - when you figure out it's a regression you are in and not just a few bad nights, figure out a plan that helps everyone get some sleep. Ours was: soothe her back to sleep until 11/11.30pm (when she would wake screaming) then I would feed her. Simon was in charge from then until 2.30am, and I took over after that. Once we had that in place, everyone got some sleep, the screaming stopped and things started to get better.
3// Be consistent - I've read a lot that you can neither 'sleep train' or 'sleep untrain' during a regression. Basically, it's not the time to try and get your baby into a new routine but, similarly, you can't really break the one you had before. Despite that, I still think it's important to be consistent with what you do. The first 6 nights we were all over the place so it's no wonder Isabelle cried - she was confused about what on earth was going to happen next! Once we were more consistent, she seemed much happier.
4// Don't do anything that you wouldn't normally do - even though you supposedly cannot create new habits during a regression, don't do anything you wouldn't normally do, just in case! So if you do NOT want your little sleeping in your bed full time, don't let them during the regression. If you wouldn't normally let them cry it out, don't do it now.
5// Do whatever it takes to help them out - as long as it complies with #2 and #3, do whatever it takes to soothe your baby and help them get more sleep. I sat in the nursery for 30 minutes after she fell asleep every time she woke, just because I knew she was only sleeping lightly and it was comforting for her to know I was still there. I didn't get much sleep those nights...
6// Have patience - I know it feels like it will never end...but it will.
7// Invest in a blanket and a onesie - sitting in Isabelle's room, cradling her in the rocking chair to help her fall back in to a deep sleep at 3am is chilly. My onesie was invaluable.
Now, maybe your baby won't hit the 9 month sleep regression; if not, you are so lucky! It is apparently the worst regression, so I am unbelievably thankful that it's (almost) over. It was tough, without doubt the toughest 8 nights we've ever had with Isabelle, but we survived! There were tears and screaming along the way, and not just from Isabelle, but the only lasting damage are the mental scars which Simon and I now bear!
Has your baby suffered from a sleep regression? Any top tips to get through it?