Babies’ sleep patterns tend to change at around four months. Known as the four month sleep regression, most mums assume that bub will grow out of it and everything will return to normal.
Sometimes this works, however most of the time, it doesn’t. But rather than assuming that this change in sleep is a regression, it might be time to start using this sleep problem to your advantage. Here’s how you can use this stage to instil healthy sleep habits.
It’s pretty standard for new mums to be sleep deprived. It’s part of the code, really. While it’s possible to function on very little and broken sleep, you are never going to be functioning at your best. This is also the case in babies, which is why many babies who aren’t getting the sleep they need are cranky and harder to settle.
But just when you thought you couldn’t be any more tired, your baby hits a sleep regression. And sleep pretty much ceases to exist entirely.
The four month sleep regression…what is going on?
Around the four month mark, your baby is starting to get used to this new world. The fourth trimester is coming to an end and bub is learning some pretty awesome new skills (rolling, sitting up, etc). He is more active, both mentally and physically, and he really doesn’t give a stuff about sleep.
Is sleep regression a sign it’s time to sleep train?
Most of us assume that a sleep regression is simply a minor set back and that it will resolve itself naturally. However, it could also be a sign that bub is ready for a sleep routine and to learn how to fall asleep on his own.
So how in the world do you do that? Here’s our suggestions to follow:
1. Start by following bub’s body clock
We all have highs and lows of energy bursts during the day. Babies are no different, except most four month olds cannot stay awake for longer than two hours. Use two hours as a basis and watch your baby. Track his sleeping patterns, write them down, watch for sleep cues and adjust nap time and sleep time accordingly.
2. Make napping part of the daily routine
Babies can sleep pretty much anywhere, especially on you and on the go. During your child’s four month sleep regression, start planning to be at home for nap times (as much as possible). Aim to be home for a morning and afternoon sleep and plan the activities (the groceries, the errands, the play dates) around them. That way bub learns to recognise his regular sleep space and this can help him settle easier.
3. Try an earlier bedtime
Last year we asked some of our mums to share their successful sleep routines with us. One of the things that all of the mums agreed on was an early bedtime. Most babies who slept through the night, or at least most of the night, were in bed before 6:00pm.
This can be tricky, especially if you have other kids and dinner duties to attend to, but try it for a week and see if it works. You may need to adjust family dinner to after bub goes down but it also means you might actually get to eat without having to hold a fussy baby.
4. Finally, aim to stop putting bub to sleep
Putting baby down before he is in a deep sleep is the key to a longer night’s sleep. If a baby falls asleep in your arms, in a car seat, with a dummy, etc, then when that sleep cycle ends and he starts to enter a new one, he most likely will wake up, wanting to recreate the way he was before you put him down.
Babies who are given the opportunity to fall asleep rather than being put to sleep have an easier time staying asleep through each sleep cycle. So, whether you rock him, pat him, feed him or cuddle him before bed, try to put him down a little earlier than usual.
Keep in mind that some babies simply won’t go to sleep independently without hours and hours of tears.
While allowing bub to cry and learn to self settle works for some, it doesn’t for others. This is your decision to make. Many mums also opt for additional sleep aids to help lull bub to sleep. Whether it’s a white noise maker, a dummy, a special teddy or a swaddle, bub will learn to recognise that it signals sleep time and that playtime is over for the day.
Good luck to all the mums about to embark on the four month sleep regression! Take this time to learn your baby’s sleeping cues and hopefully help him develop healthy sleep habits.
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