What is the “4 Month Sleep Regression?”
This term refers to a common phase in a baby’s life, somewhere between 3-5 months, when their sleep becomes very disturbed. The first thing to understand about the “4 Month Sleep Regression” is that it’s not actually a regression at all. In fact, it’s a very positive step forward and marks major developmental milestones. However, you might not be jumping for joy as this change often causes more frequent night waking and shorter daytime naps too.
Why does this happen?
Actually, there are a number of factors which can contribute to this “regression”. Firstly, they are growing so many babies will start waking up for food more frequently than before. Secondly, they are developing, many babies start to roll around 4 months and find themselves stuck on their tummies and not able to get back on their backs. Thirdly, many start teething around this age and can begin waking more frequently due to pain and discomfort.
However the most common cause of the 4 Month Sleep Regression is changes in your little ones natural sleep patterns. Where as previously, in their newborn stage, they slept in one main phase of sleep, they are now having to get used to coming in and our of light and deep sleep and this can often cause more nightly wake ups as the transition from one stage to another. So, you might find that your child, who has happily slept for long periods, is now waking up very frequently and needing your help in order to get back off to sleep.
How do I cope?
If your little one was previously falling asleep well on their own in their cot, then avoid getting into any new habits such as rocking, feeding and bouncing your little one back to sleep. However, you can stay with your little one while they fall asleep and support them through this period with love and reassurance.
If your little one has been reliant on dependant sleep associations such as rocking, feeding etc to fall asleep, this is a prime opportunity to start the process of teaching your little one to self-settle – to fall asleep in their cot on their own. Whilst these dependant sleep associations might not have caused any disturbed nights before, now that your child’s sleep cycles have changed, this is likely to impact on their sleep in the long term. A child who falls asleep independently in their cot at bedtime is much less likely to wake up frequently during the night than a child who falls asleep on a parent and is then transferred.
Take your time with this, go gently and know that you do not need to leave your child alone to cry to make a positive change to their sleep.
Finally, take any help that’s offered and get some sleep during the day if you can.