Breezing Past The Dreaded Fourth Month Sleep Regression
“Is all my hard work of creating routines, eat-play-sleep, and prioritizing sleep about to all be undone?”
Absolutely not! However, there may be a transition that will be occurring with your baby and I want to help you breeze past this “regression.”
What is the Four Month Sleep Regression?
First, it’s going to be helpful for you to understand what we call the four-month sleep regression weirdly isn’t actually a regression at all. I prefer to think of it as a transition.
At about 3-5 months of age, babies move from the newborn phases of sleep into adult-like sleep stages. As adults, we actually wake up five to eight times during the night as we cycle through our sleep stages of light sleep and deep sleep.
Why is this important? This is our body’s way to check that we are, indeed, safe. You and I have gotten so good at putting ourselves back to sleep after these wake-ups that we don’t even know we were briefly awake.
So you may be thinking, what does this mean for baby?
At this age, baby will begin transferring to sleep cycles that look like this: Heavy sleep for 60 to 120 minutes, a period of light sleep, and then they will slightly awaken.
If you have been working on teaching your baby independent sleep skills, they will look around their environment and maybe cry out but ultimately they will go back to sleep on their own.
Some babies sail smoothly through this transition because of these skills, however, some don’t.
Even the best of sleepers can struggle during this time.
But what if your baby is rocked, fed, walked, or uses a paci to fall sleep?
Baby, too, will enter this stage of new sleep cycles. Let me paint the scene for you: Baby will fell asleep in your arms and then is set down in the bassinet when they are already fast asleep in the heavy sleep phase of the cycle. After about 60-120 minutes, baby will awaken and check in with their environment.
Guess what baby’s brain will be thinking when they awake?
“Oh no, this isn’t right! This isn’t warm and cozy like mama’s arms. Where am I now? In this horrible, awful bassinet! Waaaaaa! Mama, come get me.”
Our bodies expect our surroundings to be unchanged during these wake-ups so can you really blame the baby for being upset?
Help! What Can Be Done to Avoid This?
Laying a strong sleep foundation PRIOR to hitting this stage will give you tools before you are struggling and can make this transition happen more smoothly. Again, remember that even some of the best independent newborn sleepers will need help during this time, but you can significantly shorten the adjust phase.
What’s the biggest thing I recommend here: Being prop free.
No paci (more on that in a second), no walking to sleep, and no feeding to sleep.
Truly work on setting your baby down while awake. (And no I’m not talking about cry it out and walk away, by the way!)
Okay back to the paci. I do believe that the paci can be a great tool when you have a newborn! It can help with extending nap times and by satisfying them during fussy periods. However, I don’t recommend it to my clients to use when they are laying down to sleep.
In the beginning, the paci will seem helpful, but eventually, it can lead to them having fragmented sleep as they either have to fully wake up and find it (hey mamas who have 10 pacis in the crib), or you physically have to help them re-insert it. Once paci inserts happen 3-4 times per night, you know it’s a problem.
Another great tip for managing this transition...When your baby awakens at the top of a natural sleep cycle, give them a few minutes to try putting themselves back to sleep. A bit of fussing or grunting may be heard. That’s okay! Just pause.
A big mistake I see many parents make is running to the rescue the second they hear their baby awaken.
If by 5 months of age your baby isn’t sleeping through the night, I can help!
Working with me gives you and baby a step-by-step plan to help overcome the issues that make your nights unbearable. Trust me, your nights don’t have to be exhausting anymore!