The 4 month sleep regression can throw off even an experienced parent. Suddenly finding your baby up endlessly at night can be disheartening to say the least.
In this guest post by Certified Sleep Consultant Susie Parker of Sleep Baby Love Child Sleep Consulting, Susie will cover tips for how to combat the dreaded 4 month sleep regression. Susie is also available for personal consultation.
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It must be a baby sleep regression. It is probably keeping you up at night. You may be googling and wondering what happened – “4 month sleep regression” “baby isn’t sleeping anymore”, anything and every key word combinations to figure out what it is…
You were the lucky one. The one who could tote around your newborn baby with ease. Your baby didn’t have that fussy spell that your friends talked about. Sure you had a night feed or two, but that’s OK. It’s a NEWBORN baby.
Now you don’t feel so lucky.
Your baby is getting up a lot. Every 2 hours, sometimes every hour. And, what’s up, with the fussiness and crankiness and fighting his naps!?
Oh No, it must be a sleep regression?! The 4 Month Sleep Regression SUCKS!
What is a sleep regression?
A sleep regression is a result of changes that are occurring in your baby. Your baby is developing and so many biological changes are occurring in their little brain – such as making connections with the world… and you… Those social smiles mean that your baby is connecting…connecting with you and wanting to be with you. Not to mention, not wanting to sleep so well.
At 4 months you see big changes with your baby:
Sleep Becomes More Adult-Like: As a newborn your baby goes into deep sleep almost immediately. Now, your baby goes through various stages before hitting that deep sleep mark (drowsy, light sleep and finally a deep sleep).
You may be familiar with this if you are rocking or feeding your baby to sleep and it now takes FOREVER (about 20 minutes) to be able to finally put your baby down and if you do it too early you get an immediate wake up and you have to start ALL OVER!
Transferring from between sleep cycles isn’t as easy: Breaking news, this whole baby soothing-to-sleep thing is actually a skill and it’s not always an easy one to master.
Your baby now has to practice going in and out of sleep cycles, which typically end around the 35-45 minute mark. Until the soothing skill is mastered, you may see some short naps which end after one sleep cycle. And if your baby is overtired, that nap can be even shorter (less than 30 minutes). Bummer.
Short Naps Aren’t Going to Cut It: Your job with a newborn is to keep your baby well rested and do what you need to do to get your baby sleeping. A newborn baby’s sleep patterns are very erratic resulting in a combination of short and long naps.
Now that your baby is right around the 4 month mark, you may start to see that short nap after short nap may be a sure fire recipe for an overtired baby!
Your Baby is Aware of You: You know those smiles that melt your heart? They mean something! Your child is aware. She can look for you and sense your presence. Your baby wants to be with you and can sense when you aren’t there.
Let’s do the 4-3: As day sleep consolidates, the transition occurs from 4 naps to 3, right around the (3 – 5 month mark). Like other nap transitions, you may see changes in your baby’s wake up time or bedtime. Many parents forget that an earlier bedtime is the best way to get through the transition. So it’s possible that too late of a bedtime doesn’t work for your baby.
RELATED CONTENT: SHOULD YOU EVER WAKE A SLEEPING BABY?
If it’s not a 4 month sleep regression?
So now that you’re experiencing the 4 month sleep regression, and things go blissfully back to normal in a few days or a week, consider yourself lucky. You are out of the proverbial sleep woods. Your baby is able to get back to being a decent sleeper and all is good in the world.
But, what if you aren’t the lucky one? What if the regression is longer?
After 2 weeks if you are still battling on getting your baby to sleep and short naps and multiple night wakings are not your friend. Well then….
Maybe the sleep regression that are you experiencing is a friendly reminder to focus on healthy sleep habits?!
Now it’s time to Kick the 4 Month Sleep Regression in the Butt! Here’s How!
Focus on an environment conducive to sleep
Now is a great time to get your baby sleeping in his crib. If for the last 4 months the crib has been nothing more than an oh-so-beautiful, expensive decoration now is the time to start using it.
I know you’ll miss the car naps but, sleeping on the go is not working for you anymore. Hunker down and get your baby sleeping in the crib. The crib will provide the safest sleep environment and provide your baby a cozy place to call home.
For a slow and steady approach to get your baby sleeping in the crib, work on one quality nap a day in their crib (typically the first nap of the day is easiest) and bring the remaining naps to the crib over time.
Make your baby’s room super dark – I’m talking cave dark
The darker the better, especially if your baby is taking short naps. I am in love with this blackout shade covering to keep the dark away (while offering some nice heating and cooling qualities, win, win!). DIY remedies such as taping poster board or tin foil to the windows will work as well, albeit not as pretty. If you would like to shell out the cash, a combination of blackout shades and drapes help the light stay out.
Consider the sounds in the room
Don’t forget to plug in your white noise machine to offer a comforting “womb like” background noise. This will help drown out household noises as an added bonus.
Don’t rush to ditch the swaddle
Continue with the swaddle if your baby is not yet rolling and still shows that he has a strong moro reflex (twitchiness of his arm that typically wakes him up). When you are ready to ditch the swaddle you can transition into a sleep sack. I’m also a huge fan of the Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit if your baby still needs that cozy (look like an astronaut) feel.
Focus on an earlier bedtime
As sleep consolidates (especially as you go through the 4 to 3 nap transition), your baby’s bedtime will naturally move earlier and is extremely important to keep your baby well rested. On average a baby’s bedtime is between 6 and 8pm but don’t be scared so move your baby’s bedtime earlier on days when naps are less than stellar or that 3rd nap is missed. Most babies go to bed between 6 and 8pm.
Keep those wake periods short
Still at 4 months your baby can’t handle too much awake time before becoming overtired, no more than 2 hours and often times even less.
Night Feeds? No Problem!
Sleeping through the night starts to happen when your baby learns the golden rule of amazing sleep, focusing on 1) soothing skills 2) age appropriate nap times and 3) bedtimes at the right time. Until then, it’s not uncommon for your baby to continue to need a feed or two during the middle of the night. If your baby gets a stretch of 5 hours and another between 3 to 4 hours, you are a rockstar – if your baby is getting up every two hours in the middle of the night, there most likely is more going on.
Put Down Drowsy But Awake
As stated above, this baby sleep thing isn’t always so easy but the foundation to having your baby learn amazing sleep habits is focusing on falling asleep independently by putting your baby down drowsy but awake.
Since self-soothing is a learned skill for some babies, you have to allow your baby the opportunity to fall asleep independently by choosing a method that works best for you and your family philosophy.
This is where a support system (like me) can be really helpful especially since there is so much contradicting information on the internet.
YOU have to be ready to make a change when you are helping your baby learn healthy sleep skills. If you aren’t ready, you’re not ready and you can both wait until you are.
It’s real and the 4 month sleep regression may be the reason that your baby is not sleeping well. But, remember, the regression is a friendly reminder to instill healthy sleep habits for your little one.
Now is a great time to start focusing on teaching your baby self soothing skills – since that’s the important skill to make sure that your baby becomes a great sleeper. And, once you get over this little hurdle successfully, there are many sleep bumps in the road to get ready for.
Did you know there is another sleep regression around 9, 11 and 18 months? And to think, we didn’t even talk about the havoc caused by teething!
Tell us your experience. Did your baby have a sleep regression, did it go away on its own, or did you have to make some changes to make your baby become a rock star sleeper.