All new parents have heard of the 4 month sleep regression. Whether it’s from reading what to expect books or by googling ‘why won’t my baby sleep’ at 3 in the morning. Just when you think you had your baby figured out, baby starts to wake up every hour of the night, fights sleep and is generally cranky. So what exactly is the 4 month sleep regression and what can you do to get through it in one piece?
What is a sleep regression?
A sleep regression is a period of time when your baby suddenly wakes frequently during the nights and is an overall lousy sleeper. The most common sleep regressions occur at 4 month, 8-10 months and 18 months. The 4 month sleep regression is the first one, so it can often be the toughest.
I find it unfortunate that it’s called a regression since it can technically be considered a ‘progression’. It’s a sign that your baby’s sleep cycle and circadian rhythms are maturing. It’s a permanent change in how baby sleeps. Your baby is moving from newborn sleep to a more predictable sleep cycle of light and deep sleep, one that they’ll basically follow for the rest of their life. It’s big! As a newborn, your baby spent most of his time sleeping. Now you’re probably noticing that he’s staying awake a little bit longer and your usual methods to get him to sleep (and stay asleep) don’t work so well anymore. Overall, babies are affected differently by sleep regressions so one baby might adjust quickly and one might struggle for weeks.
What can parents do?
There’s no way to avoid the 4 month sleep regression but there are things you can do to make it a little easier.
–Make sure baby’s sleep environment is conducive to sleep. Make sure it’s dark as can be. Darkness turns on the sleep switch and tells their bodies to produce melatonin, which helps them sleep. Avoid motion sleep if you can. Motion sleep isn’t restorative and keeps the brain from going into deep sleep.
–Introduce a white noise machine if you haven’t already. It can help drown out a lot of the daily noises both outside and inside the house.
–Drowsy but awake. This one isn’t new for a lot of parents. This can help you break some of those sleep associations you may have created in the newborn period (feeding, rocking, etc to sleep). It will encourage baby to fall asleep on their own and if they are falling asleep in familiar surroundings (their crib), they will have an easier time staying asleep.
–Early bedtime. By putting baby down early, you are making sure he isn’t overtired which would only cause more problems. Early bedtime makes sure baby isn’t crossing into that overtired zone. They will sleep better overall.
–Routine. Have a pre nap and bedtime routine. Not only can it be relaxing, but having a consistent routine signals to the body that the time for sleep is approaching and will help them fall asleep easier.
Remember to be consistent with whatever you choose to do and both you and baby will get through it. If, however you are stuck, contact me for a free 15 minute consultation to talk about how we can get you back on track to great sleep!