We thought with all the talk of transitioning bigger kiddos back to school we just couldn’t leave out the babies. Anyone ever go through a change in sleep cycles with their babies? I sure did. It seemed to last about 20 years with our youngest. I surrendered to the idea of just never getting another full night of sleep again. Here is some great information and tips to get you through the dreaded 4 month sleep regression. As a mom of older kids I think many of these ideas can work for older kids as well. Happy reading!
Parents of newborns or small children everywhere will probably deal with the 4-month sleep regression at some point in time. It’s almost inevitable. If you’re wondering whether or not sleep regression is something you’re currently dealing with, ask yourself if baby is extra fussy, not napping, waking a lot during the night, and has a change in appetite. If your answer is yes to some or all of these then you’re probably dealing with the dreaded 4-month sleep regression.
Let’s Break It Down For You
What is Sleep Regression Anyway?
It’s more common in children, but in adults it’s more commonly referred to as insomnia. That’s a whole other monster. So, let’s keep the focus on kids, especially since that’s probably why you’re reading this article.
It’s a horrible sleep disruption that starts at about 3 or 4 months of age and then reoccurs around 8 months, 12 months, and then again at 18 months. Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Parents of 4-month-old kids are probably reading this and shedding a tear. Sorry, it’s not over, not even close.
What is the 4 Month Sleep Regression?
Before the age of 3 or 4 months, babies sleep almost all day. And it’s a nice, deep sleep, too. Hardly anything can wake them. But this is because it’s not exactly a rejuvenating sleep, it’s more of a restorative one where they are recovering from the trauma of being born.
Once this is over, babies begin to sleep a little lighter. They become more aware of their surroundings and even realize that they can manipulate their environments. This creates an active, curious brain and one that has vivid dreams. These factors can disrupt sleep because baby is eager to get up and experience the world.
Clear Signs of 4 Month Sleep Regression
Frequent Nighttime Waking
Change in Appetite
Inconsolable for No Reason
Restless When They’re Finally Sleeping
What to Expect
Loss of Sleep
More Time with Baby
No, not every baby has experiences with sleep regression. My son never had it, but my three-year-old daughter still wakes every night. She hasn’t slept through the night once in her life. It’s something you come to live with and work around.
It’s different because this is the very first one your baby is likely to experience. After this one has passed, and the next comes along at around 8 months, both you and baby are familiar with the process.
It’s always hard dealing with loss of sleep, but trust me, it gets easier each time. Easier than the last, anyway. You find your groove, figure out a routine, and learn what works for both of you.
So, aim for short, frequent naps of about 60 minutes each and trying to have periods of being awake in between for at least 30 minutes.
More Frequent Feedings
Don’t be scared to feed them more often. If that’s’ what they keep waking for and it’s the only way to get them back to sleep, then go with it. You can use feeding as a crutch, you just must learn how to break it later after the regression has passed.
Tip: If you use feeding as a sleep crutch (a way to get baby to sleep) then don’t add any others such as rocking, lying with them, etc. One crutch is hard enough to break later down the road.
Increasing Amount of Food
A big part of regression is that baby is going to grow. So, increasing the amount of food they eat isn’t a bad idea. During the day, feed them until they’re satisfied instead of stopping at the suggested amount.
During the night, frequent feedings are expected but don’t cut them short. Let baby eat as much as they want and then let them go back to sleep. Their bodies are crying out for something; more sleep, more food, more…everything.
Lots of Soothing
Even though it may feel pointless when you’re dealing with it, regression requires tons and tons of soothing. Hold baby, rock them, sing to them, play more during the day, give lots of hugs and snuggles.
Although they’re probably flailing arms and screaming at you, and it’s so very tempting to just give up, DON’T! This is one of the things that will help baby get through it faster and easier. At this stage, they are still realizing their world and need constant reassurance and comfort from parents.
Sometimes the smallest things help us get through a hard experience, but it’s often difficult to realize them in the moment. So, here’s a little reminder.
Babies feed off our energy. If you’re calm, they’re calm (somewhat). But if you’re erratic and stressed, baby will pick up on that and assume the situation calls for it. It’s hard, but stay calm. Learn some breathing techniques to help keep your cool.
This kind of goes hand in hand with staying calm, but patience is a must when dealing with regression at any stage. Just remember that baby can’t help it, they don’t mean to keep you up all night and they’re having just as much of a hard time as you are.
Ask for Help
This one, believe it or not, is sometimes the hardest tip to remember. Especially as a mother. It’s tough to give in and ask for help, it makes us feel like we failed a little bit. But the total opposite is true. Asking for help is one of the best things you can do, and can sometimes fix the whole situation.
You’re not good to baby when stressed, sleep deprived, and low on patience. But try and avoid letting it get that far. If there’s another parent, ask them to take over while you grab some Zs. Call up your own parents and ask them for a little bit of help. Even a close friend.
It may feel like it’s never going to end. This is your life now. Zero sleep and a baby that seems to hate you. But I promise, it passes…for a while. Then the next stage of regression sets in at about 8 months.
For now, depending on the environment and your baby’s individual temperament, it should only last a few weeks. Just try to use the coping tips and help baby deal with the situation as best as you can. It’ll go by much faster if you just “go with it”.
Is Baby Less Fussy?
Sometimes we just become so used to them being fussy that it’s hard to tell if it’s lessened. But after a few weeks it should, so pay attention and if you find that you’re both getting a bit more sleep and temperaments are calming down, it could mean that baby is getting over the regression and is open to sleep coaching.
Are They Waking Less Frequently?
Huzzah! It’s 4am and baby slept through the night! You slept for more than an hour at a time. This is a clear indication that baby is getting passed this stage and will be on board for sleep coaching.
Are They Eating Well?
If baby seems to be leveling out with eating habits and eating well, then that’s a sign that their bodies have adjusted enough to be comfortable. Now they should be ready to start a decent sleep routine.
So, you’ve made it. Both you and baby have come out the other end of the dreaded 4-month sleep regression and now you can both rest. Well, not exactly. Now you should jump on the opportunity to instil a nice routine. Help your child get on track and understand what it means to go to bed.
Pick a Bedtime
This means, choose a time in the evening and stick to that each night. For this age, anywhere between 6-8pm is perfect so choose a time within that. This shall be known as bedtime for the next foreseeable future. (which isn’t long with babies).
Start with a Warm Bath
After the day is done and dinnertime is over, run a nice warm bath for baby. Use some soothing scents like lavender or chamomile in the form of essential oils in the bath water. These scents are proven to help aid sleep.
After bath time, move into a calming massage with a soothing lotion to relax baby’s muscles and get them in the mood for sleep. By doing this every night, it tells them you’re getting ready for bed.
Read a Book
Part of establishing a good bedtime routine is habits. Reading a short book each night is a great way to set that regular pattern. Reading is also an important factor in your child’s brain development. Bonus!
End the routine with tucking baby into bed and singing a few songs to lull them into that nice, comfortable sleep. It may take a few nights for the new routine to kick in, but don’t give up. The worst thing you can do is stop after a couple of nights, it’ll restart the whole thing.
And that about wraps things up. Did you enjoy this detailed breakdown of 4-month sleep regression, what to do, and how to get through it? Was it helpful? If you’ve experience, or area currently experiencing, this stage of your child’s development, feel free to comment share below with your own story.