Just as you thought you’d cracked this sleeping lark with your lovely baby, the four-month sleep regression hits! The long stretches of sleep at night become disturbed and naps tend to be both shorter and baby may be hard to settle for any sleeps.
It isn’t actually a regression as such; it is a permanent change in your baby’s sleeping habits. Your baby is maturing and developing at an incredible rate as their brain develops and as a result their sleep pattern changes.
Signs you may have hit the four-month sleep regression:
- Baby difficult to self settle for naps and bedtime
- Relying on you to settle frequently in the night (often at the end of the 45 minute sleep cycle). Increasingly so during the early hours after a bigger block of sleep first.
- Shorter naps (often 30mins or 45 minutes)
- Fussy in the day – they are tired due to the broken sleep and also developing very quickly
- Developmental changes – more alert and interested in the world around them.
- They have found new toys, the best toy of all. …Really amazing…and even better they are always available to them …..their HANDS!
Why the four-month sleep regression happens:
- A change in sleep pattern as baby develops and matures. In the early days of your new baby sleep is a more continuous (excluding health issues such as reflux) most of their sleep tend to be deep (they go into deeper sleep very quickly) and restorative hence why younger babies often sleep through noises. Sleep is now getting more complex and much closer to an adult’s sleep. This means your baby will start going through phases of light and deeper sleep. Your baby won’t enter the deeper sleep state until they get past REM sleep, which is a lighter sleep state. It is usually the transition from the lighter sleep to the deeper sleep at around 40/45 minutes is what they struggle to get past.
- The amount and length of day sleep changes around this time.
- A growth spurt
- A huge developmental surge
Getting through the four month sleep regression:
- An earlier bedtime – they are over tired and easily over stimulated at the moment. Try 30 minutes earlier than before – you’ll be surprised this tends to give you later mornings not earlier ones! Have you read my bedtime blog?
- Have you got naps right? You should be on three naps a day – a morning one, a long afternoon one and a short early evening nap.
- Are they genuinely hungry at night? It is prime growth spurt time (feeding would have also increased during the day) so it might be real hunger not just a settling awakening. Perhaps try a dream feed if you haven’t got one in place.
- DON’T start early weaning. This is throwing a whole new developmental leap into the mix so will make things worse not better. If baby is hungry he needs more milk not a bit of carrot with very little calorific content.
- Try to put your baby down awake. He will need to be able to self-settle in order to get past this 45 minute first sleep cycle. This might not always work but make sure you try every time. It is easy to decide they just wont fall asleep alone and therefore don’t give them the opportunity to fall asleep alone.
- Be careful not to pick up bad habits which will be difficult to maintain such as popping the dummy in immediately, rocking, falling asleep in a swing or bouncing chair. I work on settling using a technique we can replicate in the cot such as patting but again regularly giving them the opportunity to fall asleep alone. Don’t be afraid to keep trying to put them down. What often happens is you are just so grateful they have finally fallen asleep you daren’t move them from your arms! This is a big backwards step.
- During the day give them lots of opportunity to practice their new skills – using hands, rolling, watching the world go by BUT be careful not to over stimulate.
Some babies (and parents) really struggle to come out the other side of a sleep regression without gaining bad habits in which case get in contact to discuss package details which would help encourage good sleep habits and get back into getting long deep sleep.