And today we tell the tales of the 55-week (13 month) sleep regression. Kamala and Kelly wrote me virtually identical emails detailing how their daughters were waking up and staying awake for more than an hour in the middle of the night, and crying hysterically if they were left alone. (The only difference was that Kamala’s daughter has been sleeping through for several months already, so the waking up was new, while Kelly’s daughter was still waking up twice a night but used to go back down easily, so the staying awake is new.)
Both girls escalate tension when left to cry, so the experiments Kelly and Kamala and partners have done have only left everyone shaky and unhappy and even more tired yet unable to sleep. Kelly is afraid that she’s scarred her daughter by letting her cry for too long for two nights. Both women are afraid that this is never going to end, and don’t know what to do when the kids wake up in the middle of the night.
I’d love to talk about some techniques for this period, and I remember clearly both my boys going through it. (I remember feeling extremely insulted by it both times. It wasn’t enough that we’d made it through the first year–things just had to fall apart for a month after that year? Honestly.) But I can’t remember for the life of me what I did about it.
I think there are two lesson to be learned from that: 1) It eventually ends, and 2) memory is merciful and you won’t remember all of the suffering. And if you don’t remember it, the baby certainly won’t remember it. So I don’t think Kelly should worry about having hurt her daughter with the crying.
Is there anyone who’s just come through this phase who has some good suggestions about how to make it through the hour+ awake sessions in the middle of the night? I think that if the kid is playing alone in the crib and isn’t getting upset, you should just sleep through it. But if the child needs someone there while s/he’s awake, there’s got to be something that will bore the child to sleep. I’d probably choose Food Network over Sesame Street, and keep the lights dimmed and the sound low to see if it would help mesmerize the child into slumber. But I’m betting someone out there has even better suggestions. Complaining about this phase is, as always, allowed.
FWIW, the skill developed during the 55-week leap is the ability to follow programs, meaning dealing with a bunch of little events. The example in the Wonder Weeks book is the program "eating lunch," which involves the ritual of sitting in the high chair, getting a bib put on, eating the foods, getting cleaned off, etc. No wonder kids start to seem so much more independent at around 14 months.
(Has anyone else been watching the BBC show–now on the Discovery channel in the U.S.–"Last Man Standing"? It’s 6 youngish American and British athletes who go to tribal villages and participate in their tests of strength and fighting rituals. I’ve been watching, thinking how lame it all is. Any woman who’d mothered a child through the age of 5 could beat any of these guys in tenacity, endurance, and feats of strength under adverse conditions. Brazilian piranha-tooth cuts on the legs rubbed with chile powder? Try 36 hours of unmedicated labor. Zulu fighting sticks? Try sleep regression after sleep regression. Running 30 miles uphill in sandals? Try nursing all night for months and still holding down a full-time job. Maybe I should work up a pitch for the show: kick boxer, triathlete, and bodybuilder vs. mom of high-needs baby, mom of twins, and mom of three kids under age five.)