Just when you think that baby is sleeping well at night (usually 7-8 hours), and having regular long naps during the day, it hits like a big old slap in the face! Four Month Sleep Regression!
You now have a tired, cranky, fussy baby who just won't sleep. Their peaceful 7-8 hour night sleep decreases to 2-3 hours (if you're lucky). Oh yes, it's the 4 month sleep regression! One of a few to come.
The first thing that we often think of is teething or an ear infection because up until now, baby's sleeping patterns have been rather consistent and predictable.
Think of it this way. For the first 3 ½ months your baby has slept, well, like a baby! During this time, they only experience a deep sleep, hence being able to sleep literally anywhere, anytime and through anything. They don't experience sleep stages, just deep sleep.
Why? Around 4 months, babies experience a growth and development spurt. As baby's brain matures, sleeping patterns change and become more like ours. We experience different stages of sleep each night ranging from light to deep sleep and back. This changes the sleeping patterns, often causing shorter naps and more frequent night waking. When baby goes from a deep to light sleep, they will often wake up and not be able to get themselves back to a peaceful slumber like we can. It is during this time that they feel that they need your help to fall back asleep. It is also around this stage that babies begin to roll over on their own.
Now that we know why and what the 4 month sleep regression is, its time to get to the important part....COPING!!
IT'S NORMAL! Just like baby has to learn how to rollover, crawl, walk and talk. This is a normal part of their growth and development. When you hit this bump in the road, you can reassure yourself that baby is right on track!
IT'S GOING TO BE OK! Although sleep regression cycles at different stages in infancy, this is a great opportunity to teach your baby a new way to sleep.
FRUSTRATION AND EXHAUSTION IS EXPECTED! It's a fact that we all need sleep. Uninterrupted sleep to feel refreshed and be able to take on the tasks of each day. Baby isn't the only one who becomes cranky and tired. Remember how to care for yourself!
ASK FOR HELP! We all have someone willing to help with the new baby. Take advantage of these offers as much as you think is necessary. Caring for a baby during this stage (among many others) can be tough, and taking care of ourselves is the best thing for us and baby. Send the mom-guilt down the river and embrace the saying “it takes a village”.
During this time, continue to help baby fall asleep they way they did prior to this stage. We call these sleep associations. Example- rocking, holding, white noise, music.
Swaddle or use a pacifier.
Use a swing. The swinging motion induces a soothing nap that otherwise wouldn't happen.
Dream Feed! This is when you feed baby before you go to sleep while they are still asleep. This helps baby not to wake during the light sleep stage and experience feeling hungry.
Now that we understand what and why sleep regression occurs, let's talk TIPS!
Eliminate a day time nap. Slowly.
Slowly wean baby away from their sleep associations (we mentioned those earlier).
Teach baby to fall asleep alone. Put baby to bed when they are drowsy, but still awake.
Move bedtime to an earlier time.
When night time feedings are finished, baby will sleep through the night.
Baby will eventually be able to get themselves back to sleep without help from you when they wake at night.
It's important to remember that everyone is going to experience exhaustion and frustration during this time. I promise you, it will be ok!