Let’s talk about regressions, in particular the 4 month sleep regression.
I wanted to join Alf to bring you some pretty handy advice when it comes to these things.
Firstly, it’s important to understand what regressions actually are and why your little one will experience these milestones. Around the 3-4 month mark, your little ones’ sleep has a developmental leap, so instead of sleep being a constant state, it becomes dynamic. This means your baby will begin to have set sleep cycles, cycling between light and deep phases that last around 90 min – 2 hours and at the end of these cycles they have a brief wake period. Their day sleep also becomes organised with cycles being approximately 30-50 minutes, hello the dreaded catnap. Some little ones are able to adjust to this change and settle back into good sleep patterns, although this isn’t the case for many.
So what can you do to help navigate this time?
Firstly regressions can just be a stage, but in my opinion the disruption to sleep shouldn’t last much longer than 2 weeks. If it has been longer than that there is a likelihood that your baby has become used to the extra assistance to get back to sleep time and time again. For some this works well and isn’t a problem - great! For others however it is a really exhausting state of affairs, and in that case I would look at ways to reduce the reliance on external measures. Remember, with age comes awareness. As your little one gets older they are more aware of associations, familiarity and routines. If they wake after these cycles and something is different to when they fell asleep you will get the call out time and time again. Working towards your baby being able to fall asleep from wide awake to asleep in their own sleep space, will help to reduce the dependency on you having to implement the same thing again and again to help bub back to sleep. It will also reduce their chance of waking alerted that something is different or missing since they fell asleep.
Be sure to avoid overtiredness but also ensure they have still have a sleep pressure. A little confusing right?! Let me explain. Basically, you want your babe to have the right amount of awake time for their age because over tired babes = harder settles and shorter sleeps. Then during that awake time make sure they remain wide awake and engaged, even on feeds so they have the appetite for sleep ahead and also so that the feeds in their awake period aren’t remaining one of those lingering external measures that put them to sleep, this will help your babe consolidate their night sleep too and make for much easier settles.
Stay consistent during these times and use this check list to rule out some other common causes.
- Does your little one need more awake time
- Is your babe wide awake on feeds so that they still have the appetite to go to sleep when it comes to nap or bedtime.
- Are there other things like the dummy, rocking etc that are now becoming problematic for sleep and no longer helpful to you or your little ones ability to rest.
- Have you tried running a feed, play and sleep schedule?
Lastly but importantly make sure you remain consistent and have a solid plan in place should issues remain or the roles you are playing to get/keep your babe to sleep seem unsustainable long term. You can absolutely support your babe during this time but consistency and solid habits around sleep are key to getting through these milestones.
Finally, just remember your babes sleep doesn’t need to be consistently inconsistent and it is possible to have great sleep even during these milestones.
The Gentle Sleep Specialist.
Mum. Leading Sleep Expert. Paediatric Nurse.
20 years working with children. 15 in a professional capacity. I've helped thousands of families from around the globe resolve sleep issues.
Sleep is the answer to so many problems that parents, babies and children experience. Having experienced this first hand in my own life, I now help other families overcome what they believed were insurmountable battles with sleep. It does not need to be this way. Head to www.gentlesleep.com.au or follow on Insta – The Gentle Sleep Specialist for more great advice.