Parenting Through a Toddler Sleep Regression as an Insomniac

I’ve written before about how adjusting to life as a new mom impacted my insomnia, and how insomnia in some ways prepared me for new parenthood as well.

Over the first 9 months of my daughter's life, she required at least 1 feeding during the night. This meant that for 9 months, there was not one single night that my partner and I both were able to sleep uninterrupted for more than 3 to 5 hours.

I think every new parent can tell you how tough this is!

Finding bliss when my daughter slept through the night

When we reached the milestone of my daughter regularly sleeping through the night, we celebrated. Now, my partner, who has never struggled to sleep in his life, went right back to his old sleep habits. I, as usual, felt some jealousy as my body still awoke in habit, checking the baby monitor and waiting to fall back asleep.

Eventually, I found a new normal. Honestly, it was really nice. My sleep habits went back to depending more on me than on motherhood, and I started working to find a balance in managing my insomnia without being too tired or groggy in the morning to work and parent.

We experienced about 7 blissful months when my toddler entered a sleep regression.

It was HARD.

Major disruption!

It disrupted everything - from our nap schedule to our bedtime routine with her, the amount of energy and time it took to get her to go down, the tears we all shed during that process, and the suddenly new night wakings that caught us off guard.

I found myself at 2:30 a.m., sitting in a rocking chair in my daughter's room, with her dozing on my chest, for the first time in a really long time, feeling torn between wanting to provide her safety and comfort and being frustrated that I wasn’t asleep (or resting even) in my own bed.

Triggering a fear in me

After a week of this regression, the nighttime wakings became almost triggering for me. Not necessarily for the way that they had thrown my entire sleep schedule and routine off track, but for the fear they dredged up.

I have struggled with insomnia since I was a kid, still crawling into my parent's bed during thunderstorms or early mornings when I couldn’t sleep. Is my daughter destined for the same fate?

We will all be okay

Each time she cried out during the night from her crib, I cringed, wanting to know she could still soothe herself like she’d been doing for months on end, wanting to know that she could find peace and rest, and selfishly, that I could too.

I called my pediatrician, frantic, asking what to do. How to help her. If this was normal.

The answer was yes. This is a phase. It will pass. She will be okay. You will be okay. You will all be okay.

What will the future hold?

We’re hopefully about 3 weeks past the end of this specific sleep regression phase, but its impact on my heart I fear will be long-lasting. I think about all the ways that little kids learn how to sleep, and all the things I can do to support my daughter's sleep hygiene and development, but also, that insomnia can’t be prevented or ignored.

If you’re a parent with insomnia, have you thought about this or struggled with this as your kids grow from baby to toddler to child? I’d love to hear any suggestions you have come up with to manage your own feelings or expectations along the way!

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