A newborn who sleeps well at night and also takes long naps during daytime is such a blessing to the new mothers. But around the fourth month, the same baby suddenly turns out cranky and refuses to fall asleep as easily as he did before and also the duration of sleep tends to decrease. Out goes the long naps or proper sleep schedules. With a tired and restless baby on hand, most of the mothers start wondering if the baby is acting like this because of an ear infection, teething, digestive issues, or some other health issues. But most of the times it turns out to be nothing but the dreaded four month sleep regression.
What Is 4-Month Sleep Regression In Babies?
Even though the changes in the pattern of sleep during the 4-month is called sleep regression, it is not actually a regression or deterioration of sleep. It is a healthy developmental change that all babies go through. Sleep regression changes the sleep pattern of your baby. Mostly, by this time, the brain of your baby matures enough and your baby begins to follow the sleeping pattern like that of an adult. So your baby who used to sleep through the night begins to wake up at night and/ or fights naps. This is because like us, your baby now starts developing the sleeping cycles. He starts cycling between deep and light sleep. The only difference is that your baby will get pretty confused. As he moves out of deeper sleep into light sleep, he may wake up in between and will need you to put him back to sleep. As he doesn’t know how to get back to sleep again, he wakes up in the night or between the naps and this can make him overtired and cranky. The sleep regression comes from nowhere and can last indefinitely.
Causes Of 4 Month Sleep Regression In Babies
The 4 month mark is a busy time for babies as there is a lot happening with their sleep at this time. Some of the most common causes of sleep regression in babies are:
- Earlier when your baby used to sleep, he would immediately fall into deep sleep. So when you rocked or nursed him to sleep and then kept him down he would not wake up. Your baby could sleep anywhere from your lap, to the car seat, from sleeping though the grocery shopping to long walks that you took with him in the stroller. But as your baby reaches the 4 month mark, his sleep becomes more adult like. So now instead of directly falling into deep sleep, you baby first enters the light sleep mode. So if you rock or nurse him to sleep and then put him down, he would be up, wide awake and ready to go. So the process of putting your baby back to sleep begins again and again and he gets overtired because of this
- 4 month is the time when your baby may begin to roll over. So swaddling your baby will no longer be safe. But some babies will still have that startle reflex, so keeping them unswaddled will lead to your baby waking up more at night or have difficulty remaining asleep during their naps
- The nap schedule of your baby changes as your baby hits the 4 month mark. This is a time when your baby is prepared for a more regulated routine for naps and an early bed time. As the day sleep consolidates, your baby’s sleep undergoes a transition from 4 naps to 3 naps during the day and an early bedtime
- 4 months is the time when your baby becomes aware of his surroundings so it becomes difficult for your baby to sleep on the go
Symptoms Of 4-Month Sleep Regression In Babies
The four month sleep regression can start as early as three months or as late as five months but as a mother you will notice distinctive change in your baby around the 4-month mark. Some of the symptoms that indicate the onset of sleep regression in babies are:
- Your baby will be more fussy or cranky and it will be difficult for you to pacify him. This will happen due to sleep regression as your baby will be tired
- Your baby will start to wake up during the night and it will take you around an hour or more to make him fall asleep again
- The duration of the naps will noticeably reduce
- Your baby will become clingier. He will not be satisfied with the playtime or bouncy seat. He will want to be held by you all the time
- The sleep regression is usually accompanied by growth spurt in your baby. Sleep regression kicks in around the time the wardrobe of your baby needs to be changed, or it is around the time when your baby becomes more active
- Nature of appetite changes. Your baby will start to demand more feeds. You will notice that your baby is endlessly demanding you to breastfeed him. Bottle fed babies also demand more and frequent feeds
4 Month Sleep Regression: Changes In Baby’s Sleep Patterns
- A newborn baby falls into a deep sleep instantly. But when your baby is 4-months-old, he travels little by little through different phases of sleep. Starts from snoozing to light sleep, and then gets into deep sleep mode
- A newborn drifts into deep sleep between each nap so their sleep is not interrupted. Whereas when your baby is four-months, he may start to wake up when he shifts from deep sleep to light sleep
- A newborn takes four or more naps during different times of the day. They sleep for longer stretches during the day and at night. However, a four months old needs at least one longer nap of at least an hour rather than catnaps in order to be well relaxed and active
How To Manage 4-Month Sleep Regression In Babies?
Other than 4-months, sleep regression happens around 10 months, 18 months, and around 2 years mark. Unlike these sleep regressions, which resolve on their own in a few weeks, the effect of 4-month sleep regression is permanent.
However, there are several tips that can help you through the four-month sleep regression period. Here are a few tricks that can be used to encourage your baby to sleep more during this phase:
- Do not change the way you used to put your baby to sleep: Till now you followed a particular method to make your baby sleep. Some of you nursed your baby, some followed the rocking trick while some of you hummed to your baby to put him to sleep. Whatever you did till now to make your baby sleep, continue following the same method when the baby enters 4-month sleep regression
- Do not change the room: Make the baby sleep in the same room in his crib. This will help the baby automatically get into the sleep mode once he gets into his room during bedtime
- Do not ditch the swaddle too soon: Continue swaddling your baby if he is not rolling over yet. When you are ready to ditch the swaddle you can transit to sleep sacks that will help your baby sleep better and are a boon during this period
- Stick to a routine: Create a bedtime routine like bathing, feeding, dimming the light of the room, humming softly, etc. (again find the routine that suits you and your baby). Never change the bedtime routine of your baby, according to your convenience. Making him sleep almost around the same time every day will help you manage sleep regression in a better way
- Use feeding as a support system: If your baby is waking up for a feed, feeding him is the only way to put him back to sleep. You can slowly wean him off this habit but this is not the right time. You can even dream feed your baby i.e offer him a dream feed or a top off just before you hit the bed. This will help him sleep better and longer. But remember this is not a fool proof method
- Pull bedtime earlier: If the last nap extends more into evening, it can interrupt the night time of your baby resulting in him waking up during the night or very early in the morning. Therefore, the last daytime nap of the baby should be finished by around 5 pm so that your baby can go to bed around 7:30 or 8 pm
- Ask for help: This is the time when you can ask your family members or your husband to pitch in and offer help by spending some time looking after your baby while you catch up on the much needed nap
So all the new mommies out there, it is clear that the four month sleep regression is absolutely normal among babies. In fact it is another developmental milestone, just like walking and talking. So if your baby is going through the four month sleep regression, let us congratulate you because your baby’s growth and development is on the right path!