Updated: Feb 17
What is the 4 month sleep regression?
You will probably have heard of this ‘regression’ but I want you to start thinking of it in a different way. The word ‘regression’ gives the impression that it is a really bad thing when in fact the cause of it comes from positive developmental milestones in your baby’s life.
Before I delve into what happens to their sleep at this age I want to highlight the other events that occur to help shift of mind-set around this ‘regression’. Your baby is developing physically and mentally at a rapid, rapid rate. And in that fourth and fifth month, there’s a huge amount of developmental growth. So really it’s all about progress. They’re not going backwards. It often comes when you baby has learnt or is learning how to roll, and they also start having longer periods of being awake and wanting more interaction. They can see clearer now and want to start playing!
They are also reading your cues clearly now and may start fighting what they are used to at nap time because they just don’t want to go to sleep when there is so much going on around them! There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. It just means that their needs are changing and that means their sleep needs too.
So when your old tricks of getting them to sleep stop working, or they start cat napping instead of having longer sleep periods it is time to change your approach to meet the ever changing needs of your baby.
Although it is known as the 4 month sleep regression it can happen just before or up to a month after this too. It will also look different for every child so if you are expecting your second child to react the same way your first did, or for your child to do the same as another child the same age, this just isn’t the case.
Classic signs to look out for are the above mentioned cat naps. But also you child may become distressed with their usual comforting techniques as they are just not cutting it anymore. They may start waking more frequently during the night, wanting you to put them back to sleep because they do not know how to do it for themselves.
As their parents, this is the time to start teaching your child ‘how’ to sleep and stop doing it for them.
But how do you teach your child to self-settle?
There are a number of things to consider which will help at this age. First of all we will look at naps.
These become much more organised and predictable at this age and you should be able to anchor down at least one of the nap times. Up until now, naps have probably been quite haphazard, snapped and grab, short and often, and not really very predictable. And that’s very normal for the first few months, but you’re coming into a stage now where they may be taking better shape.
They’re a bit more structured. Your baby is managing to be awake for a chunk of time and then needs to sleep, and then awake for a chunk of time and needs to sleep. And it’s much more rhythmic and patterned and structured. You could be there already, or maybe you are not there, but the fact that your baby’s sleep might be looking like it’s regressing at night-time is possibly because they are looking for that structure.
The second thing to think about at this stage is the bedtime routine. It really is key. Bedtime routine. This is absolutely key at this stage because if you haven’t had one you are going to want to get one. So it’s imperative that you do this now, having those same steps in the same order every evening, that lead up to bedtime and then enable your little one to know, first of all, this is bedtime.
Bedtime’s coming. It cues them. It sets the scene for them. They go into a dimly lit room or a dark room, finish off the routine, have the milk, and then one more step and then down.
So, it’s not milk sleep. You’re going to help your little one learn that they can get to sleep after that. It’s really, really important to have a bedtime routine now. So, if you haven’t got one, that’s your homework.
To conclude, I just want you to consider that at four or five months, your baby’s sleep, isn’t regressing. Everything else is progressing and your baby is looking for your help to just line things up a little bit and help them to get where they need to be, and where they’re ready to be.
Because sometimes they’re ready and able to do a lot more than we give them credit for. And your baby is ready to learn some better sleep skills, practice a bit more, go down awake rather than asleep. Get those naps in where they’re needed and for a better length of time, rather than just going completely with the flow because the flow might be off.
So don’t think, ‘it’s a phase and will pass’. Instead take action and implement changes to your day and night routines, giving your child the chance to learn how to go to sleep themselves. Create a bedtime routine that does not end with feeding to sleep and create a mini version of this you can recreate during the day and look out for cues from your baby to help anchor down some nap times.
I hope this has helped you with the topic of the four-month sleep regression. If you know any friends that this would help, please do share it with them because the more people we can reach and help the better.
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