Welcoming a baby into your home is always filled with happiness and joy. So much to look forward to, countless new experiences and set of eyes that look at you all the time. You are preparing yourself, your home, and your surrounding for baby arrival for months.
You don’t want to miss anything, right? Truth be told no one can prepare you for sleep problems that you are about to experience. Moreover, no one can actually prepare you for sleep regression.
Sleep Regression In Babies
Your baby won’t let you sleep much, especially during the first few months. This is a period that can seriously interfere with your sleep and your overall health. Also, you need to understand that your baby can develop sleep problems in this period as well. Therefore, it’s helpful to know why babies don’t sleep and what sleep regression is.
What Is A Sleep Regression?
A sleep regression is known as a period when your baby frequently and suddenly wakes during the night and refuses/fights to sleep. This is common anywhere between the first 2 to 6 weeks. A sleep regression occurs even if the baby had a good sleep. Furthermore, the most common sleep regressions occur at 4 months, 8 months, and 18 months. The most common sleep regression is the one lasting for 4 months.
The 4 months old sleep regression is usually the first, therefore the hardest for parents. This sleep regression is also a sign that your baby’s sleep cycle is maturing. It means that your baby is growing and reaching a serious baby development milestone.
One thing is important to note here: sleep regression is not a real regression, it’s opposite of what your newest family member is experiencing. Also, the great thing about this four-month regression is that this is a one-time thing. Once this regression is over, your baby will step into own sleep cycle that will follow until the end of time.
What Causes The 4 Month Sleep Regression?
This four-month sleep regression is connected to a final change in the babies sleep cycle. During this phase, your baby will experience more time in a lighter, non-REM sleep stage and this will cause them to wake up more frequently. Also, you should bear in mind that sleep in babies and sleep in adults is similar, and yet very different.
When it comes to sleep in adults: adults cycle through the stages and either come close to waking up or wake up. Even when you open your eyes in the middle of the night or shift positions you will be awake for a split second and you will fall right back to sleep. However, it’s not how it works with newborns. Simply said, babies don’t get to experience the same sleep stages as adults do. Actually, they experience stage 3 and stage 4 and spend about half of their time asleep in each stage.
Babies jump directly into the deep sleep stage. You have probably noticed that when your baby was a newborn, you would be able to nurse or rock your baby to sleep and put her down without her waking. That’s because of their jump to deep sleep. It takes time for your baby to adapt to a new sleep cycle, which is what’s causing them to wake up more frequently.
This transition in the sleep cycle is usually followed with additional milestones. Around the same age, your baby might be in the beginning stages of learning to roll over, recognizing shapes and faces, even absorbing more language and in general, becoming more alert and more active.
How Long Does The 4 Month Sleep Regression Last?
The four-month sleep regression lasts between 2 to 6 weeks. Interestingly, sleep regression is highly individual for each baby. For some babies, it takes only a few days to one week to adjust to their new sleep cycle and other developments. For others, it can take weeks.
What Are The Signs Of A Sleep Regression?
If your baby was sleeping well throughout the night and then all of a sudden not, it might be a sleep regression. Usually, the main sign is a sudden decay in sleep patterns around 4 months of age. Some of the other signs of sleep regression include:
- less napping
- appetite changes
- multiple night wakings
Again, think about this period as a growing evolution of your baby. This is the time for learning new things. That being said, accept the fact that your baby is becoming more engaging with the environment around them.
Can I Prevent The 4-month Sleep Regression?
Think about this sleep regression as a mandatory part of your babies development. Simply said, this is inevitable. Your baby needs to go through those changes in sleep cycle and development. Therefore, no, there is no way to prevent or avoid 4-month sleep regression. However, you can prepare yourself and your family members for this change and make everyone’s life a bit easier.
To make the 4 months sleep regression easier on your baby and you, make a point of breaking these sleep associations before the 4-month mark. Instead of creating a sleep association or using a sleep aid, focus on creating a calming bedtime routine and getting into a schedule to prepare yourself for the following 4-month sleep regression.
7 Tips for Surviving The 4-month Sleep Regression
You should always bear in mind that sleep regression is temporary. Keep it in that perspective and recognize when your baby is frustrated. Yes, babies can get frustrated by their growing mind and body. That can be uncomfortable for them. They are engaging and discovering their skills, as well as the world around them, including you and it can be frustrating. They want so much, but yet they can do so little.
Babies can sense when you are present and know whether or not you’re around. This is also a great opportunity to teach your baby healthy sleep habits. But, before you start focusing only on sleep regression, make sure that any of the signs that your baby is demonstrating are not signs of underlying health problems.
After all, an illness can significantly disrupt their sleep. If your baby has a mild or high fever, you should see your doctor. If there are no signs of fever, follow these steps to ease sleep regression.
1. Baby Should Practise During The Day
Bear in mind that your baby is working hard to master its new skills and might even try to practice at night. That can be one of the reasons why your baby is up at night often.
Rolling over, moving hands, faster, or simply trying to sit is a bunch of fun for them, so they just might ask for extra help during the night. Make sure that you provide your baby uninterrupted time during the day to practice sitting up or rolling over.
2. Baby Should Be Fully Fed During The Day
At this age, babies are well-aware of the world around them and everything is interesting. That being said, everything is exciting to them and anything can shift their attention away from feeding. This can happen easily before they are full, so you should make sure to feed your baby in an environment where there are no distractions.
Think about feeding during the day and before the bed as prevention of your baby getting hungry in the middle of the night. Also, if your baby starts crying during the night, resist the feeding. If your baby is always fed to make them stop crying at night, just they may come to expect this response every time they wake up.
3. Keep The Room Dark
A dark room will encourage baby’s sleep. Therefore, when you put the baby down for a nap, keep the room dark. Actually, you should keep the room as dark as possible if you want your baby to have a peaceful and healthy dream.
Even if your baby wakes up too soon, the darkness will help them to fall back asleep. Likewise, make sure that the room is full of natural sunlight, when it’s a time to get up, in the morning. You are probably asking why this is important. Our brain is designed to recognize the time for sleep and awakeness by the light. So, basically the light helps signal the brain about the sleep-wake cycle.
4. Have A Routine
At this age, babies need around 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night and a couple of naps during the day. It’s just mandatory. This is also the time when you should start regulating baby’s sleep patterns and naps.
Make sure that you put the baby in the crib for naps and at night. The best moment to do so is when they are feeling a little drowsy. This is one simple step that will help your baby learn to fall asleep on their own.
Also, establish a bedtime routine and stick to it. This can be anything that you find fitting, and it may involve things such as changing clothes, giving a bath, reading a bedtime story, or even singing a lullaby.
You can do whatever you’d like, as long as you are consistent with the approach. Also, if your baby sleeps longer than recommended you can make early morning waking up. It’s important to put your baby to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.
5. Don’t Forget About Your Own Routine
Yes, it’s important to establish a routine for your baby, but you shouldn’t forget about your own plans. Think about adjusting! Adjust your own routine to fit in your baby’s sleep schedule and naps. Also, think about playtimes and mealtimes. They should happen on a consistent schedule.
You can make your own plans around the baby’s needs and supports your plans. You should have relaxing moments as well once the baby is asleep, such as a long bath in quiet or a nice herbal tea before your bed to support your sleep. As you probably know already, avoid drinking heavy drinks before you go to sleep, including alcohol.
6. Don’t Jump Immediately
If you hear your baby wake up at night, don’t jump and run toward the same second. Make sure that are actually sure that you heard a baby crying. So, wait a few minutes before you enter the baby room. If your baby continues to cry, it’s time to act. Although you shouldn’t be jumping immediately to your crying baby, you should handle these nighttime awakenings for feeding and changing as quick and quiet as possible. How?
- Don’t turn on the lights.
- Don’t play.
- Don’t talk.
- Don’t turn your computer or mobile device.
Any form of light might stimulate your baby. Simply said, you need to encourage the idea that nighttime is for sleeping.
7. Ask For Support
As much as your baby needs sleep, you need a good sleep, too. So, don’t be afraid to turn to your friends and family. Your loved ones are there to help you and support, so you should feel free to ask for help. They will be more than happy to take your little one for one or more hour of play so you can sleep.
You can always hire additional help for a few hours. Or learn how to have often power naps to help you freshen up. It’s crucial that you keep your freshness and don’t become tired all the time. After all, you should enjoy this period as well and watch your baby grow. Long story short, you need to think all the time about improving your sleep quality.
The best thing about sleep regression? It won’t last forever. Also, remember that it’s not all up to you and that you can ask for help. Furthermore, you can do the best you can, but it still might not take your baby sleep through the night.
Try to get as much sleep as possible during this time and be consistent with your baby as much as possible. Consistency is the magic formula that will get you through this challenging period.