It’s been 3.5 months since you’re beautiful baby was born. You’ve established a pretty decent sleep routine. Every night you bath her, followed by comfy pajamas, a bedtime story and a good feed. On the whole, your precious little bundle sleeps for 5 or so hours before needing some more of the good stuff. You pat yourself on the back because you have totally nailed bedtime #parentingwin.
Enter the 4 month sleep regression. It sneaks up on you when you least expect it, when you’re finally feeling comfortable in your adjustment to parenthood, when you’re less #mombie and more #hotmama. All of a sudden your sweet baby is fussing before bed, cries when you put him down and is waking up every 1-2 hours for food or a snuggle. The sleep regression can start as early as 3 months or as late 5/6 months. So why do the Baby God’s torture us like this? Well, it happens for a bunch of reasons:
1) A simultaneous growth and developmental spurt —your baby’s brain is suddenly becoming much more alert. You may have noticed that she may be trying to roll over, hold her head up longer during tummy time or gain control over her tiny little extremities. Your baby is becoming more aware, which means that she senses when you leave her and well, that’s not okay.
2) Changes in sleep patterns — around four months a baby’s sleep gets more like ours. He’s now entering REM sleep for the first time, which is lighter and easier to disturb. So when he rolls over or gets a hunger pain he is more likely to wake up. Babies at this age are unlikely to know how to soothe themselves back to sleep which means he’s going to fuss or cry until he is comforted. What you end up getting is a very over-tired baby, exhausted parents and bad habits in hopes to survive the sleep regression.
3) Changes in sleep needs — this is the secret nobody tells you about as a new parent. During this time, your baby may also go through something called a nap transition, which means that she may be eliminating one or two of her daytime naps. The problem is that this transition isn’t complete yet and you may be letting her sleep during the day, not realizing that this is having a negative effect on her nighttime sleep. I bring you…a sleep schedule! This can be easily Googled (4 month sleep schedules) so that you can find the one that best fits your baby’s schedule now (with a few minor adjustments). It is at this age that most babies are ready for a more structured sleep schedule and this could be your biggest problem.
4) Bedtime is too late – our babies give us lots of clues that they are tired such as yawning, rubbing eyes, that “deer in the headlight stare,” burst of energy or excitement followed by a lack of interest in well, everything. Sometimes, that last nap should actually be when we tuck them into bed for the night! If your baby is showing you any of the signs above during your bedtime routine, that’s a pretty good indicator that his bedtime is too late. Try starting your routine 15 mins before you typically start seeing those cues. This will result in a baby that is “sleepy but not overtired” and ready for bed.
Our last bit of advice is to not give in to bad habits to try to survive this really challenging period in your baby’s development. Yes, most babies do need 2-3 feedings during the night at this age but he should not need to feed every 2 hours. Instead, try other soothing techniques like rocking, swaying, singing or reverting back to your bedtime routine (i.e. bum change, sleep sac etc.) And putting baby back to bed “sleepy but not asleep.” The sleep regression isn’t easy and it isn’t always short, so please don’t hesitate to reach out for help.
We are now offering virtual sleep support! After tracking your baby's sleep patterns for 3 days, we'll connect over Zoom to discuss suggestions and create a sleep plan. Not into a Zoom call? That's OK! Send over those notes and I'll create a plan just for your baby. We can continue to connect over text or e-mail for additional support.
Found this helpful? Be sure to check out my other blog post about sleep regressions and how to make a plan HERE.