When it comes to parenthood and its’ many challenges; sleep (or more precisely, the lack of it) has to be up there with some of the biggest. To make matters worse, when it comes to babies and sleep; they also like to keep you on your toes. Just at the point when you think you have got your sleep routine nailed and are FINALLY getting some much needed shut-eye – BAM! – your baby starts waking again every hour on the hour – it’s exhausting!
You would be forgiven for wondering what you’ve done wrong; but in reality, this apparent step backwards in your baby’s sleep is actually incredibly common and more likely to be the dreaded four months sleep regression.
The good news is, the impact of the four month sleep regression is short lived and temporary (thank goodness) and normally fixes itself within just a matter of weeks. Here’s what you need to know.
What are the signs of a four month sleep regression?
By four months of age, you have probably established a successful bedtime routine with your child and they will have started to become fairly consistent in terms of their wake and sleep times, both at night and during the day. Whilst they are likely to still be waking for during the night, they are likely to sleep in a few large blocks, meaning that at last, parents have had a few hours of solid sleep between feeds.
When the four month sleep regression kicks in however this can all change. Suddenly your baby may have difficulty falling asleep, taking far longer to settle at bedtime. You may find that they start waking far more frequently waking throughout the night and that they are aware for much longer when they do. As a result, these changes to their amount of sleep can leave them fussy and more irritable when they wake up as a result.
What causes the four month sleep regression?
The cause of the four month sleep regression is quite strongly linked to your babies physical and mental development. At four months of age, your baby is becoming more aware of their surroundings and the fact that they are a separate entity to you. They are learning about other external factors and the fact that people come and go. In conjunction with this they are also starting to develop sleep cycles – patterns of sleep that move between light sleep and deep sleep. If they wake during a period of lighter sleep, they may become conscious that they are alone and struggle to get back to sleep.
What can you do to help with the four month sleep regression?
Be consistent – as hard as it may be when going through it, try and stick with a familiar and predictable bedtime routine. This stability and predictable sequence of events will help your baby understand about night and day and the pattern of behaviours. If you have a bad night, try and reset and readjust to stick as close to your normal routine as possible.
Don’t rush in to them – you may find your baby is waking more often, but this doesn’t automatically mean they need you. Even adults have periods of wake during the night – give them a moment to try and settle themselves before rushing to their aid, as this will help both of you in the long run.
Finally, my best advice about the four month sleep regression is to ride it out. When it comes to parenting, it’s important to remember that everything is a phase and that whilst its hard at the time, in 2-6 weeks, things will start to return to a more manageable level. In the meantime, keep the kettle on – there’s always caffeine!