It’s been over 3 months since your little one arrived, and your baby is sleeping well. You’re probably thinking “Hey, we’ve got this.” but then your baby’s sleep pattern suddenly starts to go haywire. What’s going on? Welcome to 4 month sleep regression! Here’s what we know about it and how to deal with it.
What is 4 month sleep regression?
As your baby grows and develops, their sleeping patterns will periodically ‘shift.’ This means that instead of sleeping like a new-born, your baby’s sleep cycles are dividing into light sleep and deep sleep. Up until now, your little one has probably been sleeping for 14-17 hours a day but in periods of 1-3 hours at a time. As they get older, that starts to change. They will still nap during the day but will sleep for longer at night. However, this change takes time, and this transition period is known as sleep regression.
Why does it happen?
At the 3–4-month stage, your baby is going through some changes and is leaving the new-born phase behind. They are starting to wake fully between sleep cycles and need help falling asleep again. This is due to a leap in your baby’s mental development. You will see more of these ‘leaps’ as your little one grows so be prepared!
What are the signs?
You will see a sudden change in your baby’s sleep pattern with the following signs:
- They may find it hard to fall asleep
- More frequent night-time waking
- Increased fussiness or crying
- Reduced total sleep time
Bear in mind that at this time, your little one may also have a tooth coming in or there may be another cause for their wakefulness so it’s a good idea to check there are no other issues that might be causing your little one to wake frequently.
Does this happen to all babies?
Not necessarily. All babies are different, and you may not notice a 4 month sleep regression at all, while other babies will become more wakeful at this time.
What can we do?
This may seem like a backward step, but don’t worry. This phase just means that your little one is moving into a new sleep schedule where they will sleep for longer periods of time. It can take about 2-4 weeks for this stage to pass, but pass it will. In the meantime, here’s what you can do to help:
Keep a solid sleep routine: This can help your little one to recognise the cues that it is bedtime. Bath time, feeding, cuddles, quiet time and a story will help put your baby in the right frame of mind for sleep.
Look out for signs of tiredness: Watch your baby for symptoms of sleepiness such as yawning, eye-rubbing and fussiness. This will tell you when it’s time to prepare for bed.
Put your baby down to sleep while drowsy: Instead of waiting until your baby is asleep to put them in their cot, put them in while they are still awake but sleepy. This will help them to associate the cot and the room with sleep. A musical mobile or the warm glow of a nightlight will help to soothe them off to sleep.
Cultivate a sleep-friendly environment: Make sure your little one’s room is quiet, dark and at an adequate temperature. Not too warm or too cold. Blackout blinds can be a great help during summer. A white noise machine can help to block out sounds from other rooms and can be soothing for your baby.
Daytime activity: Make sure your baby gets some fresh air and daylight during the day. Keep them active and entertained when they are wide awake as this will help them to sleep better during the night. It will also help their internal body clock to develop.
Help them learn to self-soothe: If your little one should wake during the night, wait a minute or two before going to them to see if they will go back to sleep by themselves. If not, soothe them briefly and let them settle, but don’t linger. If they need to be fed or changed, do this, but keep the room dark and settle them back as soon as you can. As your baby grows, they will no longer need night-time feeding and will be more likely to sleep through.
Remember, sleep regression is a natural part of your baby’s development so don’t blame yourself if your little one’s sleep pattern suddenly goes haywire. This is a transition phase and will soon pass. You’ve got this.
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