Whether you're a first time parent or a seasoned veteran, many of us have heard that around 3-5 months old, there is a definite change in your baby’s sleep patterns. The good news is that this change doesn't last forever, even though you may feel like you have a newborn again. Rest assured that your baby is old enough to not only learn and practice independent sleep, but they are also capable of self regulating and putting themselves back to sleep without help from Mom or Dad.
What Does the Four Month Sleep Regression Look Like?
I like to also refer to regressions as “sleep interruptions” -- changes that are occurring in your baby’s tiny body that are interfering with or interrupting sleep. It doesn’t mean that your baby is incapable of sleeping, nor does it mean that they've forgotten how to sleep. It just means they're waking up more often during times they used to stay sleeping.
- Waking between the hours of 4-6 AM laughing or talking to themselves, and eventually crying or fussing once they have been up too long
- Waking early from naps, moving around more or protesting when you know they are still tired
- Waking frequently throughout the night not out of hunger, but seemingly wide awake or alert
- Rolling around and grabbing for things while in their crib
- Yelling like a pterodactyl and entertaining themselves
- Much more needy and/or attached to Mom & Dad
- Fussier than normal
- Easily distracted during meals or during snuggling sessions
Why is the Four Month Sleep Regression Happening?
The good news is, there is SO much development occurring during this time. Their brains are growing and making so many new connections! They are learning new skills both cognitively and physically. They are transitioning to sleep that looks more like adult sleep patterns and further away from newborn sleep, where they were able to drift into deep sleep cycles more easily. They are making new associations and are learning to laugh and giggle. They are taking more interest in what is going on around them -- the list goes on! While all these things are wonderful and good developmental milestones for your baby to hit, it also can cause them to get overstimulated or overtired, which then exacerbates the sleep regression.
What Can I Do to Help?
There is no way to “fix” the sleep regression, but there are ways to have somewhat of a “game plan” to get through it. I always tell my clients, “This is the time where babies are smart enough to really start making associations, so it’s also the perfect time to instill good habits. It's also unfortunately the time where bad habits can be made rather quickly -- so choose wisely!”
Here are some tips to help make the four-month seep regression easier for everyone:
Put your baby down awake for naps and for bedtime. When babies learn independent sleep at this age, they are able to work through future regressions -- as well as this current one -- much more easily on their own!
Make the sleep environment ideal: safe crib, no stimulating colors or patterns, pitch black room, loud sound machine, and a room temperature between 68-72 degrees
Put your baby in the same place to nap every day
Make sure your baby is eating full meals during the day -- often times when they are distracted, they don’t eat as many calories and then end up waking in the middle of the night to make up for it
Keep with a bedtime routine that is sustainable -- you want your baby to really know what to expect and to form comforting and calming associations with bedtime
Don’t engage too much if they are just talking to themselves. They are just practicing their new skills, so the less attention you give them (in reference to the middle of the night -- not the day!), the faster they work through the sleep regressions
Again, these are just suggestions! Some will work better than others, but hopefully some of them can help you and your family. I know this can be a difficult and exhausting time, and I am here to help walk families through it as painlessly as possibly while still implementing consistent routines that help promote healthy sleep habits that can be carried through childhood. Remember -- these regressions are all signs of good things happening in your baby’s body, and we want to be remember this while simultaneously helping them get the sleep they need for their growing brains and bodies.
About the Author:
Melissa Brown is founder of Sleep Shop and is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Newborn Specialist with a Master's Degree in Counseling. Prior to launching Sleep Shop, she worked as a Chaplain and specialized in bereavement care and family counseling. Melissa has developed an approach to sleep training that is, through Sleep Shop, tailored to each individual family’s unique goals and parenting style. Having worked with thousands of families both locally and internationally, Melissa is passionate about helping families find their rhythm while also getting everyone much needed sleep. As a mother of twins, she is particularly adept at ensuring sanity for parents who are welcoming multiples themselves. She lives in Orange County with her husband Eric and their four kids Anniston (8), Grover (7) Augusta (4) and Sullivan (4). You can follow her on Instagram or listen to her podcast!