March 6, 2019

How We Conquered Oliver’s Sleep Regression

We were spoiled with Lilly. And we knew it. She was an easy baby. A dream, really. She ate well, played nicely and quietly, would sit and read books for hours and she slept like a champ. Oh, how she slept. She’d take epic naps and still sleep in. For two summers, when Lilly was 1 and 2, we rented a house with friends in the Hamptons. Everyone had babies the same age. And everyone else would be up at least two hours before us. We’d stroll down around 8 or 9 to envious and sleepy faces who’d been up since 6 and already 3 hours into their day. What can I say, she takes after her mama who loves to sleep?!

Then came Oliver. Sweet Oliver. He is like his father, who is the worst sleeper in the world. When he was a newborn, he would grunt all night long. We debated turning the monitor off altogether but we’re not that lax. So we suffered through it, his interrupted sleep disturbing ours. That subsided eventually (I can’t remember the month, it’s all a blur!) and we had a brief respite where all was well. Then the early mornings started and never seemed to end. This boy was waking between 4 and 5am on a daily basis. For months in a row. As a result, he was a mess by 10am and his parents could barely make it through the day. It was negatively impacting us all.

We, eventually, seemed to phase out of that too and he started doing 5:45 or 6am starts, which seemed like a vacation to us at that point. But it didn’t last long. Right around the corner was the dreaded 18-month regression and he wanted to medal in it. Back were the 5am wakes. Zach and I were beside ourselves and often took it out on each other. We’re clearly not a couple who does well with lack of sleep.

Just when I was considering calling in a sleep expert (we used one with Lilly when our easy baby turned into a testing toddler, was demanding 10 things at night and refusing to go to sleep. We were even featured on The Today Show.), one DM’d me! Gotta love Instagram. Lindsey McGonegal of Little Lamb reached out about working together and, boy, was she needed!

For the next month, we worked with Lindsey, adjusting and adapting his schedule. She said it sounded like we were doing all the “right” things: consistent bedtime at 7, although, honestly, sometimes it was 7:30, bedtime routine of bath, bottle, books, one nap from 12- 2:30 or 3, enough nutritious and balanced food…

But she suggested we drop one of his bottles (he was still having 3), removing the one after his nap, and stick to solid food in attempts to help fill him up a little more. Done. He didn’t miss it. And neither did we.

She also said we should move his bedtime up a half hour to 6:30. It’s that whole sleep begets sleep thing with kids. While it makes for an early deadline if we’re out as a family, at home- which, let’s be honest, most of the time we are- it was an easy adjustment. In fact, it was kind of a relief as he was often a mess towards the end of the evening and it opened up our night a bit more. We’re now eating dinner earlier instead of waiting till after 8 and getting both kids down.

The first night, he slept till 5:50 which was about 50 minutes later than he had been. We were so hopeful. But the next nights it was back to 5, 5:15, 5:30…

Next, it was about more rigidity with his schedule. While Lindsay said we could be fairly flexible, I don’t think that works with Oliver. You have to know your kid and each is so different (Lilly for instance napped till 4pm and went to bed at 7:30). Previously, on days where Lilly had regular dismissal from school, I’d wake him from his nap around 2:30/2:45 in order to pick her up at 3. But, on days she had after school activities, I would let him go to 3ish. We decided to stick with 2:30, no matter what time she was dismissed. To be honest, this part was a bit of a bummer for me as those were my prime time work hours. Just when I’d get settled into something, after getting him down, cleaning up, eating, I’d have just have hit my stride and had to stop. But, I’d rather that than the early mornings and him struggling throughout the day. So 2:30 it was.

That helped slightly but not enough. We decided maybe he was getting too much sleep (at his nap) so we pushed it back from 11:45/12 to 12:30pm. Now, every day he naps from 12:30-2:30. That combined with a new clock (or rather Lilly’s old stop light one and she got a new bunny clock. I voted for this one but, as usual, was overruled). I’d considered the clock, but thought he was still too young. Lindsey said since he understands everything we say and takes direction, mostly, that it wasn’t too early to introduce it. She said it may take a little longer to grasp than at 3, when we started with Lilly, but it couldn’t hurt.

She suggested we role play with his baby (or stuffed animal). So there we were, turning off the light, setting the alarm clock for a minute ahead, saying “red light, ni-night” and all lying down to sleep and then when the green light came on, a minute later, we’d all pop up and say “green light, good morning!” We did this several times each night. You should’ve seen us. I wished I’d videoed it.

Verdict is still out whether the clock actually works for him. He loves turning it on at night but I’m not sure it’s responsible for helping him sleep longer. Although, since we’ve tightened up our schedule and used the clock, he’s not only sleeping later, he’s not crying when he wakes. Instead, he’s lying there, talking and playing, happily, which is game changing.

Lindsey also suggested we let him in there longer than we were. We were getting him around 6am. She said to push it till 6:30. And I’d say for the last month or two, we’ve had a consistent 6:30am wakeup time with him. I think that’s more where the clock comes in because he knows he’s staying in there till it’s green. Of course, there were a few days there he slept till 7ish and then one or two where it was after 8, which brought about a whole new problem- do we wake him to keep him on schedule? Or let him go? Parenthood! Lindsay recommended waking him. So now, on the fluke occasion that happens, we don’t let him go past 7:30 and still put him down at the same times for nap and bed, which by the way, Lindsay says should be 4 hours from when he wakes. So that works with our 2:30/6:30 schedule.

Of course, part of our “success” could also be attributed to him simply growing out of the 18-month regression as he’s now 20 months. But I’m not willing to test that theory!


Oliver’s Schedule

6:30 Wake (get him), Bottle

7:30/8 Breakfast

10am Snack

11:30 Lunch

12:30 Nap

2:30 Wake

3/3:30 Snack

5:30 Dinner

6pm Bath

6:30 Bottle, Books and Bed



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