One of the best things that happen to parents is when their baby starts sleeping through the night; the worst is when that sleep cycle stops …
All of a sudden naps get short, helping baby fall asleep takes forever, baby wakes up constantly, baby wakes up miserable, and simply won’t sleep. You cannot get your baby to sleep at night.
I get calls constantly from exhausted, sleep-deprived parents asking ‘why is my baby waking often and no longer napping as well as they used to?’.
Ruling out all the obvious causes of sleep changes – such as teething, colds, ear infections – we know this is normal. The sudden, frequent waking at night and no napping may occur three times in your baby’s life in the first year, at 4, 8 and 12 months. This is what we all dread … SLEEP REGRESSION.
The four-month sleep regression can start as early as three months and go on as long as five months and sometimes six months.
Reasons for the four-month sleep regression
Sleep patterns change around 4 months.
Babies at this age start entering REM (roll eye movement) sleep. REM sleep is lighter and your baby will be more easily disturbed. So before your baby goes into the next deeper phase of sleep, they wake.
Your baby could be going through a growth and development spurt
Baby’s brain is suddenly becoming much more alert, often at this age they are working on rolling over and they are gaining control of their arms and legs.
Your baby is hungry
The growth spurts can cause your baby to want to eat more frequently. When everyone is sleep deprived and your baby is going through a regression it is sometimes easier to give a feed so everyone can get back to sleep. In this way you can try prevent your baby getting overtired and waking up grumpy.
Tips for dealing with sleep regression
Be flexible but have a good bed time routine
Remember it is very important to have an early bedtime. You may have to make small changes but you should try to keep them to a minimum. Drastic changes will only increase your baby’s confusion.
Comfort your baby
On a similar note, comforting your baby is very important, this will give them love and help them calm and settle frustration. We don’t want your baby to cry incessantly during sleep regression. You need to answer the cries. Love, comfort, distractions and reassurances are what your baby needs. While this may disrupt your routine, and may go counter to what you’re used to doing, you also need to understand that your baby is going through a very difficult time; no one wants to be left alone when distressed.
Do whatever you need to do
If your baby does not have the skills to self settle, we can end up with an overtired child which makes sleep almost impossible. It is at this point that we will try what it takes to get your baby to sleep, music, swinging, massage and many other simple ways.
But remember it is only temporary
Sleep regressions are temporary. Unless you let it push you off course permanently. If a month has gone by and you’re still doing these things then you’ve fallen into the classic sleep regression trap. Don’t let a temporary regression become a permanent sleep problem.