I always imagined that I’d be a patient mother. I don’t know what made me feel that way considering that I’m about as impatient as a person can get. Give me instant gratification—or else. But somehow, I just knew in my bones that it would be different when I became a mother.

I was wrong, of course. Throw one more point on the board for reality. (So THIS is why experienced moms roll their eyes at the musings of moms to be! I get it now!)

We’ve boarded the crazy train that they call the 18 month sleep regression. If you’re anything like me, you saw mention of this impending regression and thought, “Hah! As if her sleep could actually get worse!”

Oh ho, delusional tired one—but it can! It absolutely can!

And that is how I found myself rocking my daughter (again) in her dark nursery at three o’clock this morning. And then again at 3:45. And again at 4:45. And at 4:45 she screamed if I even thought about trying to put her in her crib, so I held her in the dark until Catch came to check on us around 5:30.

As Catch stood watching us, Charlotte’s pacifier dropped from her relaxed little mouth and she let out a soft snore. I slowly—so slowly—leaned forward and stood up. I inched my way toward the crib, with my daughter’s limp sleeping body draped across my arms. I leaned carefully over the crib rail and as her body grazed the crib’s flannel sheet, her eyes flew open and she started to scream.

I looked at Catch and said, “I can’t deal with this.” I turned my back on my screaming child, closed the door—which intensified her screams—and shoved my way past my wide-eyed wife as she stood blocking the hallway in an attempt to calm me down.

I threw myself into our bed and cried. Charlotte’s screams filled the room—amplified courtesy of the baby monitor. Catch came in, comforted me for a moment and then took the baby monitor and closed the door behind her. I heard her open Charlotte’s door. Charlotte screamed louder. This time peppered with demands for, “Maaaamaaaa!” They made their way down the hall, Charlotte still screaming desperately, Catch trying equally desperately to calm her down. After a few more minutes of screaming, I heard the chanting from the beginning of Frozen. The screaming stopped. I wrapped myself around Twix and closed my eyes.

We’re going on two weeks of sleep difficulty now, and it’s just getting worse. It started with more frequent night wakings. Then naps started to become a challenge (and this girl LOVES her naps). Now she refuses to be put down again when she wakes in the night.

We dealt with this all throughout my bout with the flu last week, although thankfully it wasn’t quite this bad. Still, I am not 100% recovered yet and it’s most likely because I just haven’t been able to get enough sleep.

It would help if she’d let Catch rock her. We could trade off. But if the boob mama isn’t the one to walk through that door at night, all hell breaks loose.

I don’t know what to do.

I am fed up, and just so effing tired. Doctor Google informs me that this sleep regression can last anywhere from 2-6 weeks, and that there’s not much you can do about it. Great.

Even worse, I know Catch is feeling Charlotte’s flat out rejection. She’s getting frustrated and I know she wants me to wean Charlotte.

And you know? At this point, I will GLADLY wean her. I am done. I really am. But this child is ADDICTED. My attempts to distract her from her desire to nurse have been futile—heck, sometimes they even become violent (toward me). Also, I really question whether the middle of a sleep regression is the appropriate time to hard core wean.

Short of taking myself on a week-long vacation and leaving Catch to figure it out, I just don’t know what to do. My patience is shot. My health is questionable. My wife is frustrated. I am actually starting to regret the effort I put into making breastfeeding work. I regret breastfeeding! How many people can say that?!

How the hell do people do this?


24 thoughts on “Rockabye

  1. I remember this sleep regression. I thought it would kill me, or I would kill Evelyn (joking…mostly), or both. It fucking sucks. I also had a boob addict and she nursed until 2.5 because any attempt to wean always ended up in worse nights than sleep regressions did.

    But I wonder if – post regression – if you’re really ready to wean her, maybe a couple days/nights away from her would be a good way to get it started? You could get some sleep, she could get used to sleeping w/o boob, and then when you come back if she asks for it, you could explain nursies (or whatever you call them) are gone?

    Doing it during a sleep regression probably isn’t the best time to do it, as you said. She’s going through a developmental leap and the boob probably brings her more comfort than anything else right now. But post regression if you’re ready, I say do it.

    And I promise – you will survive this, and sleep will come again, and it will have never felt so sweet.

  2. This is one of the only reasons I’m actually almost glad I didn’t breastfeed – Baby MPB is happy with either of us. That said, if I could have breastfed I absolutly would have and I would have suffered through sleep consequences.
    I think the idea of a few days away might actually do the trick? Or even just no nighttime visits from you. I have absolutely no experience in this, but I do think she would learn to take fluid from Catch because she wouldn’t have a choice. And with you being away you might have a hope in hell of surviving the crying that is bound to happen. Of course, this plan might not be ideal for catch, but it might be worth it if she can handle it.
    Really I don’t know. But I currently understand what a lack of sleep does to a person and so I completely emphasize! And I’m wishing you more sleep asap!!!

    • It is SO much better when you can share these miseries with your co-parent. When she was an infant and I was struggling with nursing, she had NO problem with Catch giving her a bottle at night. I seriously miss those days. We will draw the line in the sand as soon as we get through this sleep regression. Catch is just going to have to suck it up for a few nights. (And I know she’s more than willing to at this point… she genuinely WANTS to be able to help.)

  3. Hey, you are way more patient than I could ever be! There’s no way in hell I could have gone without sleeping for as long as you have, it’s incredible.
    I second the suggestion of you not going in at night. It won’t be pretty, but she will accept comfort from catch after a bit, she really will.

    • I think that’s the next step. Remove me from the equation at night. I do think we need to wait until she’s through this sleep regression, though. Her brain is obviously doing some heavy lifting right now–and it makes sense considering her total language explosion lately.

  4. Oh man, this sounds so familiar and sooooo painful! I hope that one day you can look back at this phase and laugh. Or maybe laugh and cry. I’m casting one vote for at least a weekend getaway for you after the regression so you can re-charge.

  5. Funny how babies like to start a regression right when mom gets sick. It’s almost like they *know*.

    I don’t have any advice except that sometimes all you can do is walk away like you did. I hope this regression passes quickly for you and you can sleep again. Being sick and unable to sleep because you have a baby who won’t sleep is the worst, I have officially decided.

  6. I don’t think you should regret breastfeeding. I think you should used the huge sacrifices you made as a bargaining chip! One week of hell doesn’t hold a candle to the months you struggled to accomplish that goal not all the sleep you lost, and I don’t think Catch would disagree even after being the sole mama for a week with a very cranky Charlotte. So I vote for a vacation for you while Catch stays behind in the trenches. The non-nursing parent is usually pretty critical in weaning because they need to learn that mama milk isn’t an option and it’s so easy to give in when you’re THAT exhausted and a boob will mean sleep.

    • I don’t *really* regret it. I don’t think. I do think I’m just going to get through this regression and then I’m going to ditch them for a long weekend. They can sort it out while I stuff my bra with cabbage and get a pedicure. 🙂

  7. The eighteen month sleep regression is really, really hard. It’s weird, but I always felt like the older these regressions happened, the MORE irrational they were. As infants, it was like, I just won’t sleep right now. At 18 months – and again at 2, I’m sorry! – it was like it was an irrational need to PURPOSEFULLY fight ANY attempt to help sleep. It was crazy. Everything sets them off! It’s so exhausting and I imagine you are done. So, so done.

    Sleep will re-emerge for all of you. I promise. Until then, I hope you can find something – anything – that gives you a little bit of comfort in whatever form you guys need, especially if that means having to make some tough decisions about breastfeeding and what-not. You’ll get there. 🙂

    • Yes! Totally irrational! I mean when she was an infant, I could make peace with it because she didn’t understand. Now, she’s just manipulative. (OK, not really, but it’s a fine line sometimes!) And you know what made it even worse this morning? I was cold (my jammies weren’t as warm as hers) and she went berserk every time I tried to put a blanket over us. It was like, kid, you want me to sit here and hold you all night and I *will,* but just let me freaking be warm!

  8. This regression sounds truly, truly awful. You have done so well on so little sleep for so long. You’re going to have to change your claim to impatience.
    There’s some good advice in the responses above. Have you consisted a residential sleep school? Where you and bub stay for a few nights? Just thinking, after this regression passes, you could think about bringing out the big guns and going full out for a full nights sleep? A residential place might be able to help get closer to that.

  9. Ugh… No advice, only sympathy/empathy. I don’t know what the older regressions are like, but I do that self talk now when she isn’t sleeping: “she’s just a baby and doesn’t understand, she legitimately needs my comfort right now”. I’m sure my patience will be out the door so fast when we hit the older sleep regressions… Hang in there. Only a couple weeks left….?

  10. Hi, I am a occasional follower of your blog. My 20 month old daughter is very similar to your child when it comes to sleep and breastfeeding. After trying everything under the sun with regards to weaning and failing (including going away and leaving her with her dad), the thing that worked is putting band aids on my nipples and telling her mama has boo boo and pain. She understand the concept and after a bit of trying to suck through the band aids eventually gave up and in fact seemed concerned for mama and would hug and kiss me to make boo boo go away. I did this for a maybe 5-6 days before she stopped asking. And developed a new bedtime routine to replace the nursing. This was when she was 16 months. sleep has dramatically improved since weaning. She sleeps through some nights. but she still will wake up 1-2 times some nights when a quick patting puts her back to sleep or sometimes I bring her to our bed to co sleep if it’s close to waking up time. Good luck! I totally emphasize with your sleep struggles. I have been there. Sleep deprivation is a killer!

  11. The 18 month sleep regression is the first time we’ve been totally sure that J is actually in a sleep regression (which i guess means that we’ve made sleep progress?) It sucks. Even though J has been weaned for about 4 months she still prefers my wife at night – and like Catch, I find that hard, even though I think in general it’s harder for my wife to be the one who is wanted at all night wakings.

    I don’t know if it’ll make you feel better or worse, but for us, weaning didn’t radically change J’s sleep. It’s a bit better, but still pretty crap compared to a lot of babies her age. Her donor-sister is a crappy sleeper at age 7, which is… disheartening.

      • So many times I read the words “infants aren’t trying to manipulate you, they just need their needs met”. But toddlers? They need their needs met, but they’re also sometimes trying to manipulate you.

    • I’m really just hoping that weaning will help with the attachment issues more than the sleep. I want so much for Catch and I to have more equal footing. I think you’re right–as painful as it is to be the rejected parent, it is REALLY hard to be the one who never gets a break. I get so frustrated sometimes. I think there’s a lot of resentment surrounding something we really can’t control.

      • during the day I feel like parental preference isn’t usually a problem, but at night, sheesh. I’ve been trying to handle more night wakings to get J used to it since Di will be away for almost a week, but she screams and cries and calls for her mama. It’s terrible for everyone. And yes – definitely resentment, even if it’s totally irrational. Even though I KNOW that I don’t want to be the main Night Mom, I still feel slighted that J doesn’t want me at night. I hope that weaning both brings you sleep and helps with the attachment issues 😉

  12. Friend, the thing with these regressions is that there really isn’t a single effing thing you can do…you have to let it run it’s course, which i Know isn’t comforting at all, BUT they end, thank sweet baby jeezus! I know that there are lots of feelings about weaning, and only you know if the time is right for you to wean now or not. That said, here’s what we did with the frequesnt wakings…we gave them water. They got tired of waking up. 4 night feedings went down to 2 (11pm and 3am after a 7pm bedtime) Then, eventually went down to 1 feeding at 11, and up until a few months ago, they would have a cup of warm milk before bed, and then 7-7. I know that may not work for everyone, but it worked for us and couple of other families I know. It may work for you if you wanna try it. I hope this gets better friend, and that she ends up being a champion sleeper by 2 and you’ll hopefully wonder “Is she alilve?! When the heck is this kid gonna wake up!?!?” Love you friend…

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