The Dreaded 4-Month Sleep Regression
Hi there! My name is Lauren, the founder of Sleep and the City Child Sleep Consulting, and I was so excited to share my expertise with this subject when the Ollie World asked me to contribute and weigh in! The 4 Month regression is often the most difficult for parents, and there is actually nothing we can do to stop it. What does it look like? How do you know that your baby is experiencing it? And what can you do to stop it? Let’s dive in……
So your'e baby has finally begun to sleep all night, and your'e high-fiving yourself for all the hard work that got you up to this point (or working tirelessly to get there!) then BAM: baby is waking up at night multiple times- AGAIN. You start to go through all the guess work: "Is he hungry? Does he need me? Is he cold?". You think "This isn't supposed to be happening!" If your little one has already been sleeping soundly at night for over 8+ hours uninterrupted, or has begun to wake more frequently, you are most likely experiencing the:
DREADED FOUR MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION
The science stuff: During the 4th month of life, there are some BIG neurological and cognitive changes happening within baby's brain. Also sometimes referred to as "Wonder Week 19", these changes are so massive to such a tiny baby's world that they often greatly disrupt sleep. Another factor is the increase in melatonin the pineal gland secretes in baby's brain during NON-REM (deep sleep cycle) , helping baby sleep deeper. Melatonin, a natural muscle relaxer, makes it easier for your little one to enter NON-REM, and sleep though a dog barking or sibling yelling- however when passing through sleep cycles, they will awake more abruptly than before, feeling more rested and therefore have a more difficult time falling back asleep. While this happens all the time with adults, we usually know how to get ourselves back to sleep- while most infants do not.
How do I know if this is the regression? Maybe my baby really IS hungry..... by this age, doctors will agree that healthy babies should be able to sleep for 8+ hours uninterrupted at night without a feeding, especially if they’ve proven to you that they are capable. It's just science- sleep is a product of the brain, NOT the tummy (after 6 weeks gestational age). However.....have you noticed your baby becoming extremely distracted lately with siblings, art on the walls, the cat walking around, etc- during feedings? Therefore he/she might not be getting a FULL feeding (20-30 minutes for BFing Mommies, 4-8oz for bottle babes) in due to all the distractions they are beginning to notice. So it is POSSIBLE......but if you attempt to feed baby at night during one of these wakings and they aren't acting as though they are completely starving....it is most likely the regression. Keep this is mind though, it was worth a mention.
Wait, lets go back to that Wonder Week 19 real quick, doesn't that alone cause my baby to wake more often? The short answer- YES. During this growth spurt, baby can also act as though he/she is hungry nonnnnn-stop, which means the usual 3-4 hour feeding cycle could creep closer to every 2 hours. So again, hunger at night is completely possible due to daytime snacking. Aren't newborns fun?!
Ok so now I'm totally confused....what can I do?? So this can go one of two ways: if your baby was already sleeping through the night, the problem should eventually resolve on its own over the course of a few weeks, as long as you are keeping interaction to a minimum, if choosing to interact at all (I like to give babies at this age about 10 minutes to settle themselves back down before I intervene).
NOW….if your baby was not sleeping through the night and has now began to wake more frequently, it’s time to get to work. Four months is my favorite time as an infant sleep consultant to begin establishing healthy sleep habits. First you’ll want to work on putting down your baby “drowsy but awake” at night, with minimal-to- no parent help to lure them into sleep land. I know….rocking/walking/feeding is the only way they’ll pass out, I get it!! BUT think of the payoff: this alone will most likely decrease night wakings once baby has mastered this skill, which is all the easier for them to put themselves back to sleep during this crazy month in the middle of night. Always make sure you have a dark room, with white noise, and you’re using your Ollie Swaddle so your little one feels safe and secure. If you MUST check on them, keep the lights off, no diaper changes (unless there is a BM, then keep it quick, in the room, and as dark as possible using a black out shade, I LOVE this one) , and BORE THEM…..some babies become even more stimulated at just the glance of Mommy or Daddy, so act accordingly. And don’t be afraid of some tears when attempting to break bad habits….it’s ok for baby to cry for short periods of time while learning new, healthier habits- sometimes you just have to hear it from someone else who’s been there ;) However you respond, keep it consistent.
So now my baby is 5 months old…and things aren’t any better! HELP! This is one of the reasons why I started “Sleep and the City”! As Moms we often feel overwhelmed enough with crying and trying to remember when the last time baby ate (or when the last time we washed our hair), that often we take the path to least resistance just to get some SLEEP.
If you’re sleep-deprived or simply overwhelmed, visit my website at www.sleepandthecity.com for package options for children 0-6 and let’s take a deeper look into what’s going on with your little one, your lifestyle and make a customized plan for your family that everyone is happy with. Establishing healthy sleep habits is often MUCH easier than most parents think, and we work together over a series of week to ensure your baby and personal comfort levels are addressed. My goal is make parenting just a LITTLE bit easier, and it all starts with healthy sleep habits!
Sleep is possible!
For further information or to contact Lauren, please visit her website.