And how you can navigate this one and future ones!
Around 4 months, some babies who were going to bed easily or sleeping longer stretches are now waking up more or have a harder time going to sleep. This phase is commonly referred to as a sleep-regression.
The terminology – “sleep-regression” sounds a bit negative when these changes in sleep actually occur because of a developmental progression.
Commonly, children will go through periods of sleep changes in their infancy and toddler years which are completely normal. As they new skills like rolling, crawling, talking, and walking; you may see changes in their sleep patterns. All of these skills are exciting and new and they may be busy working on these (including at bedtime) OR their developing brains are prioritizing these activities and sleep is getting a bit disorganized for a little while.
Signs of sleep regression
- A baby who was sleeping well who all of a sudden is not
- There are no signs of illness
- Fussiness or change in temperament
- Multiple wakings or MORE wakings at night
- Less naps
The regression can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the baby, SOME babies don’t even have them!
How you can navigate sleep regressions
If they happen to be already sleep-trained or sleeping 11-12 hours:
Confirm that the regression is not due to illness (fever is a good example). If they are healthy, you can give their new sleep pattern 3 days and see if it settles out on their own. If not, you can sleep-train them with the method of your choice.
Whether you sleep-train or not, here are other tips:
- Give them play time during the day. Playtime during the day can help those utilize their new school so sleep time can be for sleep.
- Keep the room dark and with minimal distraction where they sleep. This will limit the stimulation of exciting things your baby wants to see or do.
- Continue placing your baby down to sleep awake when they show sleepy cues.
- They don’t need to be “drowsy,” but if you see them yawning or rubbing their eyes, it’s important to lay them down so this reinforces it’s time for sleep.
- Continue doing a bedtime routine. Overnight sleep at 4 months should be 10-12 hours and a bedtime routine can come right before that. This routine can help prime them for sleep if you haven’t implemented it already. A good bedtime for a 4-month-old is 7pm-8pm.
- If baby does wake up earlier than they are supposed to: practice pausing. Wait 3-5 minutes before going in. Allow them time to settle on their own before you attend to them.
- If you do check-in, keep the routine short and simple. We want to remind them that sleep is for sleep. If you choose to go in, do what you must and leave. Use dim lighting as well.
What not to do during the sleep regression
It is important to try not to introduce any new sleep associations. This means, if your baby was not used to being rocked to sleep and during the regression, you are now rocking them to sleep; you will have to train them not to do this. Rocking, cuddling, and loving your baby will always be okay, but try to always lay them down in their crib awake when showing sleepy cues so they get used to where they should be sleeping.
Remember, your baby WILL sleep again (and you too)!
Turn to loved ones for help. Regressions can be tough. You just got used to getting in a groove and it changes. Reach out to your partner if you have one, a friend, or a family member who can help you rest if you need it!
Be patient with this change. It is a good thing and will improve.