M is nearly five months old, and she was terribly fussy last week. In most areas of development, I think she's about at 10 weeks old. My son went though a month of screaming at night, and my husband and I learned that his problem was being overtired and not knowing how to soothe himself. He simply could not relax and fall asleep. His arms and legs were jerky and fidgety, and we tried everything to wind him down at night. The only thing we found that even remotely helped was putting him in his carseat, plopping it into the stroller, and pushing him around and around our house until he fell asleep. I know every parent has stories of the ridiculous, so you can relate. But, how silly is that, pushing your baby in a stroller around the house for hours at night?! I think part of his problem was that his mind was far less delayed than his body, and I think it didn't help that he'd recently come home from a busy, bright, and loud NICU environment to a quiet home. But, more than anything, he was just overtired. He still has a tendency to sleep less the more tired he is--sleep experts say this, and even though it seems counterintuitive, it's so true for him. So, this time around, I told my husband that M probably just needed a bedtime and a regular sleep routine in her own bed. When babies are tiny, it doesn't seem to matter to them whether they're in a swing or a pack-n-play or a bassinet or a crib, and it doesn't seem to matter what time of day it is. Sometimes, M would fall asleep in her bouncy seat while I was cooking dinner or in her swing while I was playing with J, and all her naps were fairly short and random, just whenever she happened to be sleepy. But, suddenly it very much mattered to M where she was and what time of day it was. Last Wednesday, she went nearly 12 hours with only one 45-minute nap, and then she screamed and screamed at the end of the day because she was WAY overtired. (I think I did some screaming and crying of my own that day too.)
I'm sure most babies go through a similar transition, but one thing I'll most likely never know is if it's different with preemies. Is it harder for parents of preemies because we never know exactly where our kids are developmentally? Are NICU-grads more likely to favor loud, bright environments because that's what they know? Is it harder for preemies to get used to a quiet home environment? Or is this really more my parenting and my babies? All my pediatrician could tell me was that most babies have a peak in their crying around two months, so I figure that's probably true for my babies too, if you correct their age for their prematurity.
The good news is that last night I had both kids in bed by 7, and the house was so quiet and pleasant. And both kids woke up this morning so happy. Isn't sleep amazing!