Maybe you were one of the lucky ones…4 months came and went and you didn’t notice any difference in your baby’s sleep?
Then your baby has a really good set of sleep skills and is likely very adaptive to new situations!
Or maybe your baby started sleeping better way earlier than you thought she would – you got on a great schedule and things were great – until one day it all just stopped working around 4 months and you wondered what went wrong?
Did you notice your baby waking up more often during the night, taking shorter naps, having a harder time falling asleep, being a “different” baby (less giggly and more fussy) and/or your baby’s appetite increased or decreased?
There are a few reasons WHY a regression could happen:
1. Developmental milestones are interfering with sleep
The average age that babies start rolling over is around 4 months. If she’s learning a new skill (like rolling), that’s waaaaay more fun to practice than sleeping, so she’ll be fixated on mastering that new skill instead of snoozing. Same goes for all the other milestones – sitting, pulling up to standing, walking…
Is your baby starting to roll? Here is a post on helping your baby sleep during milestones.
2. Your baby is more interested in what’s happening around him
New faces, toys and the family pet are probably much more interesting lately – and he doesn’t want to miss anything!
So not only does he resist going to sleep because he doesn’t want to leave the party, but feeding during this time can be harder (that’s why it’s recommended to feed in a quiet place free of distractions).
If your baby doesn’t end up eating enough during the day, he’ll wake up more at night looking to make up for those lost ounces and the middle of the night is dark and quiet – the ideal environment for him to concentrate on eating! But if this cycle continues, your baby will continue to snack during the day and want more of the feeds at night. So make sure that he gets the right amount of daytime feeds/ounces for his weight and age (your pediatrician can give you the guidelines).
3. Growth spurts
When babies are going through a growth spurt, they’ll sleep longer – this article highlights a study showing increased sleep duration during growth spurts. And once the growth spurt is over, the sleep changes a bit. That’s normal. Many babies end a growth spurt around 4 months, which will naturally change sleep patterns.
4. Reflux symptoms peak
If you have a baby with reflux, 4-5 months is the time that those symptoms will seem at their worst. And if the baby is uncomfortable, that will definitely affect sleep.
5. Introduction of solid food
Many pediatricians and nutritionists recommend waiting until 6 months to introduce solids, but some say anytime after 4 month is fine. I’m not here to tell you when to start them, but just to put it on your radar that when babies start new foods, their digestion is adapting and that can affect sleep. This is especially true when there’s a food intolerance or allergy!
These are just a few of the reasons I’ve seen that can cause a regression at 4 months, but there’s an additional factor to consider.
Because of these, you may be changing how you respond to short naps and night wakings!
Maybe you go in and offer a bottle more often, or rock back to sleep…THAT is going to be a problem because what baby is going to willingly say, “No mom, I got this. I don’t need that bottle!” And so the cycle begins and before you know it, you’ve got a baby that used to have one night feed eating 4-5 times a night or taking an hour or more to put down for naps!
So how do you get through the 4 month regression faster (and painlessly!)?
1. Get rid of the sleep props
If your little one needs you to rock him to sleep or feed him to sleep, every time he wakes up, you’ll need to recreate how you initially got him to sleep. Every. Time. He. Wakes. Up.
That will get tiring after that 8th or 9th time! Much better to put baby to sleep in the crib awake, so when he has a brief wakeup in between sleep cycles, he isn’t shocked by his surrounding and can fall back asleep on his own!
2. Don’t get overtired
Overtiredness is the enemy! When your baby is overtired, it makes it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep – so you’ll have more night wakings and early morning wakeups.
Make sure that your baby is on the right schedule and not staying up too long in between naps. If your baby is falling asleep in the crib in 5-20 minutes (after putting her down awake), it’s a good sign that she isn’t overtired. (Falling asleep in under 5 minute is a red flag that she is overtired!)
3. Track feedings
As I mentioned earlier, you don’t want your baby waking up because she didn’t eat enough during the day. Keep a log of feedings (can be incorporated into the sleep log you may already be using) to make sure she’s getting the right amount of ounces for her weight and age.
4. Consistency is key
If you decide you’re going to work with these sleep issues and watch your baby’s schedule and put her down for naps awake, but your spouse or nanny doesn’t follow the plan, your baby is going to get really confused! Make sure everyone caring for your baby is handling wakeups the same way (here is a helpful post if you need some suggestions for getting everyone on the same page during the process).
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