The 4 month sleep regression (progression!)

Just when you thought you had your baby’s sleep nailed, your baby starts waking more often, becomes harder to settle, fights naps and your restful nights are out of the window.

This ‘4 month sleep regression,’ tends to happen somewhere around 3-5 months old. However, its not a regression at all, it’s actually a progression in your baby’s development. It is a good sign that your baby’s sleep cycle is maturing – and this is not a phase, it is a permanent change in the way that they sleep.

Around this age your baby starts cycling through sleep in the same way that an adult does. Your baby will spend more time in a lighter, non-REM sleep stage, potentially causing more frequent wake-ups.

Although this is a permanent change don’t think that you will be stuck with permanent wake ups. The key is for babies to know how to fall back to sleep each time they naturally wake between their sleep cycles.

Learning to sleep independently can be hard for babies, but it is absolutely achievable over time. Some babies will naturally adjust to their newly matured sleep patterns and sleep well again within a few weeks, others need some help to learn new habits in order to sleep well.

None of us actually ‘sleep through’ the entire night, we stir and sometimes wake between cycles of sleep. However, we want the periods between these moments that we stir to be full of good solid, restful sleep.

There are other things going on at this time too, your baby may be learning to roll, absorbing language, recognising faces – there is a lot going on at this time!

So how do we deal with this ‘sleep regression?’ There are a few things that will help you get sleep back on track:

  1. Gradually work on building new sleep associations that your baby can control themselves. If your little one is rocked to sleep for example, try to transition to cuddling to sleep, then move towards putting your baby down drowsy or awake. At this stage it is all about practising independent sleep. Choose a method that sits well with your parental belief system and suits your baby’s personality.
  2. Set your baby up for success – it might be time to re-assess your little one’s day time routine. It is really important to get those naps at the right times for your baby. This will mean your baby will be more inclined to get to sleep, and to stay asleep. A predictable daytime routine can help all of us to relax and sleep well at night.
  3. Work on a great sleep environment. Black out your baby’s room and try to get them down in a nice dark room at bedtime. It can be tempting to let them fall asleep in front of the tv with you, but ultimately this will not help them sleep well at night. Having a lovely calm, consistent sleep environment will help your baby relax and sleep soundly.
  4. Ask for help – this transition is far from easy and we can forget about our own needs. Take help whenever it is offered. Get an early night and take naps wherever it is possible – all sleep counts.

It is very common and very normal to struggle with sleep at this age. It can take babies some time to adjust and get used to their new skills and to absorb the new experiences and things going on around them.

Give yourself and your baby time. Be consistent in your approach and seek help from others when you need it.

If you would like to know more about baby sleep and have some suggestions on how to achieve a well-rested night’s sleep then do check out our online courses. These are designed to teach you all about how your baby sleeps and to provide practical suggestions for settling techniques and routines to work towards.

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