Regression or progression?
The four month sleep regression is the most talked about event in baby sleep during the first year of baby’s life. Almost everyone has their own story of what happened to their baby during the four month regression, and often are continuing to tell the tale of where it “all went wrong”. But here’s the thing, the four month sleep regression is actually a developmental leap for your baby. If anything, they are progressing as their sleep begins to change and moves its way more towards that of an adult’s sleep.
However these changes in sleep cycle development can cause difficulties staying asleep for some babies.
What happens to baby sleep at 3-4 months?
During roughly the three to four month mark, the way your baby sleeps will start to change. Whereas before they could sleep for longer chunks of time and maybe even were sleeping almost through at night time, they now start to wake several times a night and if really unlucky, every hour!
Pre four months, your baby was not hugely aware of how they fell from one cycle to the next and so they were able to link their sleep cycles fairly easily. However at four months, your baby starts to become more “awake” between sleep cycles and therefore if they are used to having help to fall asleep, you will find that they will start to wake up more during the night time and take shorter naps. Possibly even finding it hard to get to sleep as well too. This in turn means they start to get overtired, which then causes more night time and early waking too! As you can see, it isn’t the prettiest cycle to be stuck in!
What are the signs of the four month sleep regression?
If your baby is experiencing the four month sleep regression you will likely find that they are:
- having shorter naps
- finding it more difficult to go to sleep (perhaps what used to be working, no longer does)
- waking up more during the night and perhaps needing to feed more
- feeding less during the day (given increased night time intake)
- waking early in the morning
If this sounds like your baby then please don’t stress, it can all be resolved and you don’t necessarily just have to “ride it out”. You have one of two choices; firstly, do something about it! Your baby is waking more because they need help to move between cycles and fall asleep. This is something that you can very easily help them learn to do without your support – whether that be a dummy, rocking, feeding or rocking to sleep amongst other examples. Your second option is just to see what happens, your baby will likely sleep a bit better in months to come and if you are happy to just go with the flow and deal with the unpredictable night time waking then that works just fine – this is more the “they will sleep well once they are ready to” type approach.
Introducing sleep training to a four month old baby
If you are hoping to do something about it, then there are lots of different approaches you can take and which one you decide will depend on the sort of person you are and your parenting style too. This will be your “sleep training” for want of a better phrase. Sleep training gets a bad press but really is just about helping your little one slowly learn to fall asleep on their own. Contrary to what many believe, this does not have to involve shutting the door and leaving your baby to cry and can be done in the most gentle way if you wish. You might also want to look at getting your baby into a routine, so that they are less likely to get overtired and therefore reduce their likelihood of early or night time waking.
Ultimately, your baby is progressing and experiencing change which is all going in the right direction, so try not to see the four month sleep regression as a set back and more a chance to really look at your baby’s sleep and decide what it is that you would like out of it. There are no right or wrong ways of approaching this, but do know that you can make changes if you have to and that you don’t necessarily need it to end – because it may not “end” anytime soon and in todays busy world where parents are expected to juggle, be and do everything, then it is totally realistic to want to get a little bit more sleep for your whole family.
Can you avoid the four month sleep regression?
Finally, I often get asked whether it is possible to avoid the four month sleep regression and the answer really is yes and no. You cant avoid the development of your baby’s brain or indeed the way their sleep cycles change (and why would you want to), but you can help them set up sleep habits from early on so that by 4 months, they are already able to fall asleep unaided and linking their sleep cycles, which will make for a smoother transition at four months and also mean that their sleep is very unlikely to go backwards at this time.
Heidi Skudder, Parenting & Baby Coach
For more information on helping your little one sleep well, Heidi runs an Online Baby Sleep Course www.theparentandbabycoach.com.
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