New parents are oftentimes surprised to learn that hitting certain development milestones in their baby’s life will interfere with their sleep habits. One of these first development milestones happens at around four months of age. Commonly referred to as the four month sleep regression, it’s a huge mental and physical growth spurt, and it is no joke! Babies’ sleep patterns shift during this time and you will find that they wake often during the night and have a hard time going back to sleep.
From the moment they are born, babies' brains are constantly evolving and adapting to the new environment. During this time, your baby may be learning new skills such as rolling over or sitting up. This intense time of physical effort and growth can interrupt even the best sleeper’s habits.
If your awesome sleeper of a newborn all of a sudden starts waking at all hours, and it’s left you thinking “what in the world is going on?” then you may have entered the four month sleep regression. Newborns typically sleep around 16-18 hours a day, but by the age of 3 to 4 months, babies begin sleeping a little less at around 15-16 hours per day. This adjustment can be tricky for baby to navigate and can also result in additional night time wakings.
So what can you do?
First, it’s important to watch Baby to understand what is going on. Is this a sleep regression caused by developmental milestones, or might there be something else at play such as an illness?
Second, since this is an intense period of learning new skills, it’s a good idea to allow your baby uninterrupted time to practice these new skills during the day. It can be easy to want to step in when they are struggling with things like rolling over or grasping an object, but allowing them space to attempt a new skill, will also help them to exert effort and become more tired when it comes time to nap or sleep.
Third, make sure Baby is taking in full feeds during the day and right before bedtime. Any period of brain development and growth requires more caloric intake for babies. Ensuring they are full and satisfied will keep hungry tummies from waking baby when they should be resting. It’s ok to offer a quick snack feed about 20-30 minutes before you get Baby ready for a nap to top him/her off.
Lastly, as I always recommend, stick to your routine and keep Baby’s room dark. Having a consistent and predictable bedtime routine will cue Baby to the fact that it’s time to sleep. When wakings do inevitably happen, keeping the room as dark as you can will aid in helping Baby to fall back asleep.
You can’t avoid sleep regressions altogether, but you can control how you handle them. Remember that babies can’t tell us what’s going on, so we want to respond with love and comfort. From a few days to a week or two, the regression will end. Remind yourself that this is a short term hiccup and baby will go back to sleeping at night soon.
Let's hear from you! Have you made it through the four month sleep regression? What worked for you?
If you’re not sure if it’s the 4 month, or any other sleep regression, book a free 15-minute call with me and we can talk specifically about your situation to determine what’s going on.