Do you have a that is fussy, and is suddenly not sleeping well? Is it driving you crazy? The is a real thing! If your is around 12 – 18 weeks old, and their are getting worse, not better, this might be what you are struggling with. Read on to discover the best tricks and the best building methods for your .
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is often turned to when your gets worse rather than better, but there are actually some things you can do to improve your that doesn’t need you to pay a .
Your takes time to develop its ability to well, and is very very normal right through life, the trick is learning to go back to without needing help.
What is the 4 Month Sleep Regression?
The four month sleep regression is exhausting. If you have had a baby and managed to avoid the 4 month sleep regression, then you should count yourself very lucky!
Although there are also other common sleep regressions, often at 8, 12 and 18 months, the 4 month disrupted sleep pattern is the most common and the most drastic by far.
To help to understand what’s happening to your baby during this stage, you need to know a few things about how humans sleep in general first.
Sleep has a number of different stages, and they make up the “sleep cycle,” which we all go through several times a night.
This is that initial stage we’re all familiar with where you can just feel yourself drifting off to sleep, but don’t really feel like you have actually fallen asleep yet.
This is considered the first “true sleep” stage. It is still quite a light phase of sleep, but if you are woken up, you will know that you were asleep.
Stage 3 sleep is deep and regenerative. Also known as “slow wave” sleep, this is where the body starts repairing and rejuvenating the whole body. You need this deep sleep to heal and grow.
This is the dream state also known as REM sleep (rapid eye movement). This is where the brain consolidates information and memories from the day before.
Once we have gone through all of the sleep stages, we either wake up or come close to waking up, and then start they cycle over again until the morning.
Sleep cycles in babies
Newborn babies under 4 months of age only have 2 stages of sleep; stage 3 and REM, and they spend about half their sleep in each stage.
It is quite normal for them to just have a short nap and still get through all their stages of sleep. Their ability to live with only short naps ensures their survival as it keeps the adults close to them at all times.
But at around the third or fourth month, there is a change in their sleeping patterns as they swap to the 4-stage method of sleep that they’ll continue to follow for the rest of their lives.
With more time being spent in the lighter sleep phases, the more likely they are to struggle with being woken or waking themselves up.
Waking up is absolutely natural, and we continue to wake up many times a night into adulthood.
The challenge is learning to resettle back to sleep without waking up fully.
This change is a permanent change in how a baby sleeps. Things never go back to what they once were.
Your baby now cycles in and out of sleep cycles, light sleep and deep sleep, something he or she didn’t do as a newborn which means they will probably now wake every 45 minutes to 2 hours.
While some babies will learn to sleep well after this change, many need your help learning how to sleep through the night or take longer naps. For some children this can take many years to fully adjust.
Is the 4 Month Sleep Regression a Myth?
Sadly, no. There are a lot of myths out there when it comes to raising children and being a parent. The 4 month sleep regression is very much real and it can be a real nightmare for some parents.
The four-month regression, everybody agrees on, and for good reason. It’s the real deal, and it’s permanent.
What are the Signs of a Sleep Regression?
- Baby suddenly wakes frequently during the night.
- Baby fights/refuses sleep in general after previously sleeping well.
- Suddenly shorter naps during the day, seldom lasting longer than 45 minutes.
- Baby has difficulty falling or staying asleep.
When does the 4 Month Sleep Regression Start?
The time that the 4 month sleep regression starts does vary from baby to baby as they all develop differently and none of them can read a calendar.
Many parents begin to have sleep problems when their baby is between 3 months and 5 months, but it can start as early 8 weeks old.
How Long does the 4 Month Sleep Regression Last?
These sleep problems can last days, weeks, even months and years! For most babies a sleep regression lasts anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks.
Sleep regressions don’t look the same for every baby. For some, it only takes a few days to a week to adjust to their new sleep cycle and other developments. For others, it can take weeks.
Does the 4 Month Sleep Regression Always Happen?
Yes, but some parents will barely notice as a baby adjusts to their new sleep patterns. A baby’s body will always need to change to the more adult 4 stage sleep cycle, but thankfully some babies simply just change and go with the new regiment.
10 Effective 4 Month Sleep Regression Solutions for Coping with a Baby that Won’t Sleep
These 10 solutions to helping you through the sleep regression stages are simply suggestions. As always follow your mama instincts and what works best for you and your baby.
1 Slowly Break Sleep Associations
When your baby is very little, they may use a pacifier or need cuddled or rocked to sleep. Ideally, to make the transition through the 4 month sleep regression, you would ideally wean your baby off of these things before the 4 month mark.
If you have hit the 4 month mark and you are in the midst of a sleep regression, don’t change anything suddenly, continue to get baby to sleep how you have been.
My babies have always needed rocked and cuddled to sleep up until 9-12 months of age, and you know what? I am OK with that. We did what worked for us.
Slowly adjust your bedtime routine, changing it a little bit each night rather than trying to change to good sleep habits and sleep associations all at once.
2 Swaddle or use a Weighted Sleep Sack
When your baby wakes after one sleep cycle, they are going to want to feel like you are nearby and that they are safe and secure. One of the easiest ways to do this is to swaddle them firmly or try a weighted sleep sack .
3 Put Baby Down Drowsy
Now, full disclosure, this has NEVER worked for my kids. But I know it does work for many. The idea is to put your baby in to their bed wrapped up and ready for sleep, cuddled and drowsy but still awake.
This allows baby to learn that they can be in bed awake and be safe, and lets them put them self off to sleep. If this works for you, do it. I will never recommend leaving a baby to cry alone in their bed to “self soothe” as research shows this has a lasting effect on brain chemistry, attachment and long term behavior (1) .
Independent sleep is a long slow process to learn and it can take years for their little brains to master it. There is no rush, they will learn it in their own time. Adding stress to bedtime only makes it take longer for your baby/toddler/child to fall asleep.
4 Dark dark dark
Our eyes are sensitive to light even when we are asleep. Keeping your baby’s room suuuupppper dark during the night and nap times will improve the length and quality of their sleep. Improving their sleep environment will improve their sleep.
You can tape cardboard to the windows, or even tinfoil blocks the light really well. Proper blackout curtains are a great investment, as even adults sleep better in real darkness. If you can see your hand in front of your face, it isn’t dark enough.
5 Keep your Routine
One of the best things you can do anytime someone is having trouble sleeping is to improve what is called their sleep hygiene. Weird term, but all it means is the routine that you do before bed.
Start an hour to 30 minutes before bed. A bath, massage, PJ’s a story, some cuddles and maybe a sing song (calm songs!) are all good things to include in that last wind down time before bed.
Babies in the midst of their 4 month sleep regression will be struggling with staying asleep and resettling during the lighter phases of sleep. Keeping ambient loud noises to a minimum is key.
We have found that a white noise machine made a HUGE difference for my boy that really struggled with staying asleep. In fact my husband still sneaks in to Mr 3’s room to share the white noise machine if he is having trouble sleeping too!
7 Early Bedtime
As your baby is adjusting to having less sleep during the day (the same applies when they are trying to drop a nap) it is good to arrange your evening to cater for an earlier bed time for baby for a time.
Humans get their best sleep before midnight, so if baby needs a 5 or 6 pm bedtime for a while, just go with it. Keeping a sleep schedule during the day, and in the evening, will help develop babys sleep patterns and improve babys sleep cycle. Your circadian rhythm is based on both the sun and darkness variations, but also in waves of hormones, so if you keep nap time and bed time regular, their hormones will start to rise and fall at predictable times too.
8 Use Movement
When a baby gets over tired and all wound up it can be really difficult to get them off to sleep, this is also a great way to get them to re-settle mid nap.
Pop baby in the stroller, front back or baby bed swing and as baby starts to get in to a light phase of sleep, get them moving, this might be enough to convince them to stay asleep.
If you are attempting to get and over tired, worked up baby to sleep more vigorous movement is required until they start to settle, then slowly make the movements more and more slow and calming as they settle and relax.
9 Increase the Feeds
The 4 month sleep recession also coincides with a pretty substantial growth spurt. If baby seems extra hungry or wanting to feed a lot, go with it, they probably need it.
This is not a sign that your baby needs solids! It was common practice to feed babies solids from 3-4 months in the past, but it has been found that this is not beneficial and babies really are not ready for solid foods until about 6 months of age.
10 Get some Support
You do not have to survive this alone. There is a reason they use sleep deprivation as a torture!
Talk to your partner, family and friends and see if you can get some help with baby so that you can catch up on much needed sleep. It might be that your partner might do alternate nights, or a few nights for you to get the sleep you really need.
Things to remember during a sleep regression
You are not alone! Many of us have been where you are, and it is HARD.
You are allowed to cry, feel frustrated and ASK for help!
If it really is too much for you to handle today, take baby somewhere safe before you get too frustrated. Shaken baby syndrome is only one frustrated moment away, get help before it gets too much.
Remember, this really is just a phase, and it too will pass.
Try and spend some happy bonding time with baby and try to steal a nap whenever they do.
Sometimes it is also reassuring to know that very wakeful, alert babies are usually the ones with higher IQ’s later in life! Gifted children classically struggle with sleep.
The best way to get through any sleep issues, or parenting challenge in general, is to stay connected and supportive of baby, the better attached they are to you, the more secure they will be as they grow.