Is the 4 Month Sleep Regression A Real Thing?
Have you just finished patting yourself on the back for getting your baby into a great sleeping routine at 3 months? Then all of a sudden, they hit the 4 month mark and it all goes out the window. Suddenly they are waking every couple of hours (or more), crying and unable to settle. Do not panic! This is a really normal phase in your baby’s development. The 4 month sleep regression is definitely a ‘thing’. I am going to demystify it for you now.
What Is The 4 Month Sleep Regression?
Did you know that your baby goes through sleep cycles? Every night your child (and you too) go through repeating sleep cycles of deep and light sleep. Light sleep is a time when your child might not even realise they are asleep, they can twitch, dream and wake easily. Deep sleep is where the real rest happens, it is thought that this is the time when the body heals and grows.
By 4 months your baby’s sleep cycles are becoming more defined. Generally during the day, they will sleep in cycles of 30 to 45 minutes, and around 2 hours at night. Between each sleep cycle children and adults stir and often fall straight back into the next cycle until they are ready to wake completely.
But this all changes at 4 months…
4 Month Sleep Regression
Often I find that parents are just starting to get into the swing of a good sleep routine and then the 4 month mark hits. Suddenly, your baby is waking in the night and you aren’t sure why.
Firstly, let me say that this is a very common thing. Around 4 months, your baby will go through the biggest biological shift in their sleeping patterns. Until now, your baby has simply drowsily stirred between sleep cycles. But at 4 months they will not just stir, they will wake completely.
Your baby will experience a profound sense of wakefulness and be fully aware of their surroundings. If they do not have the skills to settle themselves then they will be unable to fall back to sleep. They won’t know how to navigate to the next sleep cycle without your help.
So why does this happen?
Demystifying The 4 Month Sleep Regression
So why is your baby waking fully and is unable to go back to sleep like before? Well, as I just mentioned, they are now completely awake and fully aware of their surroundings. They might notice a sudden change in circumstance if they are no longer in your arms, and are in their cot alone. They definitely won’t like the change in circumstance, so will cry out for your help to go back to sleep.
A common mistake you might make is thinking that your baby is waking because they are hungry. Often this will cause concerns of a low milk supply and you may consider topping them up with formula. Extra feeds are not necessarily the solution, it may just be that they are waking at the end of a sleep cycle and are not able to get themselves into the next cycle.
What Can I Do About It?
If you have fallen into the habit of rocking your baby to sleep, or feeding them to sleep on the breast or with a bottle, then your baby will be used to this method. They will rely on it to get themselves off to sleep.
Picture this: You are your baby and you are having a lovely snuggly cuddle at bedtime. You peacefully drift off to sleep in Mum, Dad or a loved one’s arms. It is so cozy and warm and you can smell and sense their proximity. All of a sudden you wake up in a dark room, all by yourself. What else would you do but cry?
Instead of putting your baby into their cot when they are already asleep, put them in before they drift off. You can still have a cuddle, a feed and a rock if you want to. But make sure they go down into their cot while they are still awake. They will then learn to go to sleep by themselves in their warm, snuggly bed. Then, when they wake in the night, it will be easier for them to put themselves back to sleep as they are used to doing it.
The art of being able to self settle will help your baby through this stage of sleep regression and will set them up for good sleeping habits going forward.
If you are going through this right now, you can head over to my Facebook page where I have made a little video about the 4 month sleep regression. Also, if you are feeling overwhelmed by this stage and need some helpful advice, don’t hesitate to get in touch for a chat.