How to Slay the 4-Month Sleep Regression: Five Tips to Maintain Your Sanity
Sleeping well comes and goes when it comes to little ones. Sometimes they sleep well, and other times they don't. The four month sleep regression can be a frustrating and tiring time for any parent. Sleep expert and consultant, Hadley Seward, goes through how to begin combatting this regression period.
If you’re a new mum, then you’ve probably heard of the dreaded four-month sleep regression: the time when your adorable wee one turns into a howling demon who refuses to sleep. To make matters worse, it often hits just as you’ve finally found a sleep rhythm that works for your baby. So unfair!
Let me help you to level the playing field. Believe it or not, you can sail through the 4-month regression unscathed. (Already in the middle of it? Scroll down to the bottom to learn how you can get your baby’s sleep back on track).
First off, a note about this sleep regression: Unlike others, you can’t ignore the changes to your baby’s sleep habits and hope they’ll go away. They won’t. Around 16 weeks, your baby’s circadian rhythm fully matures and the anatomy of his sleep permanently changes. The result? If he’s not on an age-appropriate sleep schedule and doesn’t yet know how to self-soothe to sleep, then you’re likely to see super short naps or lots of overnight wakings destined to drive even the most even-keeled mum insane.
So how should you adapt? Let me explain.
1. First, get serious about when he sleeps. Right now, your baby likely naps for as little or as much time as he needs -- whether that be 30 minutes or 3 hours. The random, unpredictable schedule will need to change. After 16 weeks, most babies do best on a 3-nap schedule (morning, mid-day and later afternoon catnap) with bedtime approximately 1.5-2 hours after the last nap.
2. Next, focus on where he sleeps. The good news is that your baby is becoming more alert to his surroundings. The bad news is that this will make it more difficult for him to fall asleep when there are more interesting things to see and do. Even if he does manage to drift off, keep in mind that on-the-go sleep for babies isn’t nearly as restorative as sleep in their cots. (It’s like an adult sleeping on an airplane: it might technically be sleep, but who feels rested afterwards!?). Time to prioritize naps at home, in the cot--at least most of the time.
3. With these basics covered, begin to wean your baby away from any sleep associations he may have. A lot of new mums rock/nurse/bounce their babies to sleep and then transfer them to their cot. No shame in that! But as your baby gets older, he’ll initially fall into a much lighter sleep than before, making it nearly impossible to transfer him. Begin to slowly introduce him to the idea of falling asleep in his cot, even that means simply leaving him to happily spend some time awake there.
4. Create a sleep time routine. Babies thrive on consistency, so create a predictable routine before naps and bedtime. (Aim for 5-10 minutes for naps and 15-20 minutes for bedtime). It doesn’t have to be intricate; your aim is a series of events that cue your baby’s brain that it’s time to wind down. For example, changing his nappy, putting him in his sleeping bag, reading a picture book together and singing a song or two.
5. Last but certainly not least, create a baby cave. Babies sleep best in dark, cool and quiet sleep environments. Invest in high quality blackout curtains and an inexpensive white noise machine to create a cave-like sleep space for your little one. If you’ve been using a musical mobile, time to ditch the noise once lights are out.
It can feel overwhelming to overhaul your baby’s sleep schedule, especially if it means changing habits and routines that have become familiar. Keep in mind that this sleep schedule won’t last forever--and having your baby on a more consistent schedule will allow you to always know when your next break will be! Good luck, mama!
Hadley is a certified sleep consultant, working to help families get a better night sleep. She focuses her time on gently guiding babies to sleep, but also is great at offering solutions for mamas to get a better night's sleep too. You can find out more about her on Bonne Nuit Baby.
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