Ever since my peers started having babies, I’ve heard about the ‘Four Month Sleep Regression’ – generally defined as “just when you think you’ve got a handle on getting the baby to sleep, everything goes to shit.” And there’s definitely something to it – our four- (almost five)- month-old has been going through some big changes over the past few weeks – and as a result his sleep has been negatively affected. Whereas not long ago we were able to put him in cot drowsy, sing a little and say goodnight and he’d drop off by himself, now bedtime can be anything from him passing out on the boob, to a full hour of inconsolable screaming (usually ending with him falling asleep on the boob). And this goes for daytime naps, too.
Nonetheless, I’m here to assert that this trying phase deserves a new name. I strongly believe that how we term and frame things shapes our experience – and that by choosing better words we can opt to bring more enjoyment and less suffering into our parenting.
Over the past few weeks, Gadi has been going through some crazy leaps and bounds in his development – both motor and cognitive. When I’m not playing with him, doing the laundry, feeding or writing, I’m loving just watching him learn and explore. He does this adorable little skydiver move, on his tummy with his arms and legs out and up, he giggles and chats and dribbles. He reaches for toys and gets entranced by noises and colors. To my reading, this huge influx of sensory information is keeping him wired, making it more difficult for him to relax enough to get to sleep. And I totally get that; I know that when huge things have been going on for me – like covering massive news events in years gone by, for example – I’ve found it pretty hard to wind down and drift off to sleep.
But why frame all of this as a negative? What we’re actually seeing is a developmental leap which we should be celebrating – not a regression. Gadi hasn’t stopped rolling over and he doesn’t babble to himself less – he’s just having some sleep disturbances. When our teenagers turn into maniacs during exam time, or our friends turn into Bridezilla during the stress of planning their dream wedding, we don’t say they’re having a regression – so why do it to babies? I think this ill-conceived concept that development is perfectly linear is playing a huge part in how difficult we experience these admittedly difficult patches.
Of course, it’s not just the words – it’s the mindset that comes with them. When we expect that everything will stay the same and refuse to roll with the ebb and flow of life, or that we’ll get more and more sleep or time to ourselves as time goes by, we’re kidding ourselves. And to be totally honest maybe it’s even kind of selfish. We made the decision to have kids – surely we anticipated some rough patches? Maybe really it’s us, the parents, that are having a regression when we view tough times without context, without zooming out to remember the big picture. To quote the Buddha:
Pain in life is inevitable but suffering is not. Pain is what the world does to you, suffering is what you do to yourself. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.
And so, in an effort to take out the suffering, I propose: The ‘Four Month Super Leap’! Who’s with me? Let’s marvel at our babies’ progress rather than getting ourselves all bummed out about a bit of screaming and tiredness.
One last thing: I highly recommend whipping up a batch of these delicious chocolate chili vegan cookies. They’re full of sugar, granted, but hey – they’re keeping me buzzed and happy at the present moment so what the hell. Just try not to leave out the baking soda if you can manage it – my first batch suffered from a severe baby brain-induced softness regression.