Okay, first things first. Yes, the 4 month sleep regression is a real thing.
However, the 4 month sleep regression is not the first regression your baby will experience, in fact, it is likely your baby will experience multiple.
The ages of likely sleep regressions include:
– 8 weeks
– 4 months
– 8 months
– 12/ 15 months
Now to be honest I prefer to call these sleep progressions. That is because they are happening as a result of your baby’s development progressing. I find that putting a positive spin on this always helps to and definitely makes those catnaps, frequent night waking’s, and light sleeping easier to handle at the time!
So let’s start by covering the basics…
What is sleep regression?
Basically, babies go through several massive stages in the first 24 months of life. These stages involve your little one experiencing a huge mental and physiological shift. In some cases, babies have to re-learn sleep skills (like in the 4 month sleep regression). This is due to the parts of their brain responsible for sleep changing and maturing.
Although this seems totally frustrating, remember that sleep regressions are signs that your baby’s development is on the right track. The bad news… their sleep and coincidently, your sleep is likely to be affected. The good news… I’m here to teach you how to support your bub through a sleep regression, and help your bub re-learn those sleep skills.
How do I know if my baby is experiencing the 4 month sleep regression?
If your baby was previously sleeping well throughout the night and now all of a sudden, they’re not, it might be a sleep regression.
Signs of sleep regression may include:
– A sudden worsening in sleep patterns around 4 months of age.
– Multiple night waking’s.
– Less napping.
– Changes in appetite.
I think my baby is experiencing 4 month sleep regression, what can I do about it?
Take a deep breath, and remember that sleep regressions are temporary. Your baby is likely frustrated with their fast-growing body and mind. They’re now more engaged and aware of their surroundings, including you.
Before trying our Birth Beat Sleep suggestions below, always be sure that there is not an underlying issue such as bub being unwell and therefore waking more often. If your baby is unwell, has a fever or you have any concerns at all, please do not hesitate to visit or call your doctor.
1. Let your baby show off all they are learning during the day.
Your little bubba is working hard to master new skills like smiling, laughing, rolling, push-ups, etc. Give them time to practice and show you these things during the day.
Applause and let them know how proud of them you are and let them repeat over and over during the day. This is a good way for bub to use their energy throughout the day, and feel tired during the evening.
A bit of repetition is key. You want bub to learn that day time is practice time and night time is sleep time.
2. Up the feed and calorie intake during the day.
All this learning is going to result in a hungry baby who may want to also be feeding more often.
Frequent feedings during the day and just before bed can help prevent your baby from getting hungry in the middle of the night.
At this age, they are incredibly curious about the world around them and might shift their attention away from feeding before they are full. Try eliminating distractions by feeding your baby in an environment that’s less likely to stimulate their curiosity.
Once your baby starts sleeping through the night, try not to feed them if they do begin to cry at night. If your baby is always fed to make them stop crying at night, they may come to expect this response every time they wake up.
3. Introduce ‘drowsy but awake’.
This is key, we want your baby to learn to go to sleep not to be put to sleep. Help your baby soothe him or herself to sleep. Sit by their side and offer reassurance, both physical and verbal, as they close their eyes and drift off to dreamland. We have a step by step guide on how to do this gently in our sleep module inside the Birth Beat Ultimate Online Birth Course.
If your coaching is not helping, and they’re still crying, you may decide to pick them up and hold them or rock them to sleep. It’s OK if your baby isn’t ready to learn how to put themself to sleep yet, as it takes time and support.
4. Keep the room dark.
When you put baby down for a nap, keep the room as dark as possible to encourage better sleep. If your baby wakes up too soon, the darkness will help encourage them to fall back asleep. Likewise, in the morning when it’s time to get up, make sure the room is full of natural sunlight. Light helps signal the brain about the sleep-wake cycle.
5. Establish a bedtime routine.
Babies and children thrive off routine, it is often all that they know! At this age, babies need roughly 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night and a couple naps during the day. Now is the time to start regulating your baby’s sleep patterns and naps.
As adults we have our own wind down before bed, it may be washing your face, brushing your teeth, reading a book or scrolling through your phone. Although this may not seem like it, this is your wind down routine. It is pretty hard to expect a child to go from a brightly lit lounge room that has had the TV on and lots of stimulation, to then be placed into a cot and fall asleep. They need to wind down. Especially babies, they can become so easily overstimulated.
If you haven’t done so already, establish a bedtime routine and stick to it. This can include a bath, changing clothes, reading a bedtime story, or singing a lullaby.
You can do whatever you’d like, as long as you are consistent with the approach. Also, it’s okay to wake your baby in the morning if they are sleeping longer than usual, as long as it’s at the same time each day.
6. Adjust your own routine.
Adjust your own daily routine to fit in with your baby’s nap and sleep schedule. Mealtimes and play times should also happen on a consistent schedule. Factor in your baby’s schedule when you plan your day.
7. Make it quick.
If you hear your baby wake up at night, wait a few minutes before you get up to see them. If they continue to cry, it’s time to respond.
However, try to make these night time awakenings for changing and feedings as quick and quiet as possible. That means avoiding any talk or play and keeping the lights low. Light from mobile devices or computers either can stimulate your baby, so try to keep screens off as well.
When you take a low-key, quiet approach, you’ll reinforce the idea that night time is for sleeping.
8. Pay attention to sleep cues and act quickly.
Yawning, rubbing their eyes, fussing, and disinterest… these are all classic signs of a sleepy baby. When you notice them, try and get your baby to a quiet space to rest. Your response time to these signs can mean the difference between getting them to sleep and trying to console an overtired baby who is resisting sleep.
9. Stick with the program.
Your child is going through a lot of changes that may feel uncomfortable. In the short term, continue using the same soothing practices as your little one adjusts.
This could mean nursing to sleep or rocking them to slumber. While you’ll have to wean them off of these sleep patterns later on, they will bring comfort to your baby right now.
Some other soothing techniques include shushing your baby gently and giving them a pacifier to suck on.
10. Offer extra love and affection.
Lots of hugs, cuddles, and kisses will comfort your baby and make them feel loved. It will also mean a lot to them as they grow and develop.
11. Call in the village
As much as your baby needs sleep, you do, too. Don’t be afraid to turn to your family and friends to watch and play with your little one while you take an hour (or two or three!) to sleep.
A sleep regression won’t last forever. You can do the best you can, but it still might not make your baby sleep through the night. Try to get as much sleep as possible during this time and be as consistent as possible with your baby.