4 Tips to Conquer the 4 Months Sleep Regression
You have survived the newborn stage. WOO-HOO! It may have left you scarred and deeply exhausted, but you made it through. Hopefully you used my strategies from 5 Simple Ways To Solve Baby Sleep Problems and they helped you get the most sleep out of your child. But you’re probably fearful of the 4 Months Sleep Regression that is right around the corner. Don’t worry, I’ve got some tips for you to tame that beast. But do make sure that your expectations are set correctly. Sometimes, not matter what we do, our children just need time to find their rhythm.
Now that your child is 3 months old, you are likely getting a small reprieve in the sleep department. Your sweet little darling might be putting in 6-10 hour sleep stretches at night and might even be taking longer naps. It feels so good to finally start getting some rest. The only problem with this rest is that it’s short lived. The dreaded 4 Months Sleep Regression is right around the corner. It’s a scary time in any parents’ life, whether it’s your first time or not. In some ways it’s even scarier the second or third time around because you know there is no escaping it.
But it doesn’t mean you have to completely lose it while going through this sleep regression. Here are some tips for helping you restore peace to your household.
I think the most important part is to identify what is waking your child up at night. Knowing the cause will help you come up with the right strategy.
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1. Your child is waking up because you stopped swaddling.
Your little newborn has turned into a baby and is learning all about their limbs. They prefer those limbs free and ready to move but they still haven’t fully lost their Moro Reflex. Which means they can startle themselves right out of sleep and need your help to get back to it. So how can you prevent it without the swaddle? Well, you can use the Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit.
With my firstborn, I really did find the Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit to be nothing short of magic. My son started consolidating his sleep and doing great, only to grow out of his bassinet and needing to be placed into a crib. It was a big transition for him and one that he didn’t handle well. He started waking up every hour and the only way to get him back down was to nurse him. Needless to say, by day 2, I had ENOUGH!!!!! So I ordered the suit and never looked back.
The first night we placed him in the suit, he slept right till the morning. No more wiggling and no more wake ups. Plus, the sight of the cute little “spaceman” in his suit was one of the cutest things I’ve seen. He wore it until he learned to skillfully turn both ways and no longer needed the padded security of the suit.
For my second son, it was less magical but still helped. His sleep improvement wasn’t as dramatic. He went from waking up every 3 hours, to putting in 5-6 hour stretches. And when you’re utterly exhausted every little bit helps.
And again, look how cute they are in their little space suits!
2. Your child is going through a growth spurt
While a growth spurt can happen around 3 months of age, there are many times that it coincides with the 4 months sleep regression. It might confuse you why your child was content with the food they got just a week ago, and are now back to needing to eat at night. It may even make you question your milk supply. But don’t worry. All of this is perfectly normal.
Your baby is growing and boosting your milk supply. You can talk to your doctor about introducing solids around this age, and see if that makes a difference in the hunger level. But don’t push solids, if your baby is not ready. If they are pushing the spoon out with their tongue or gagging, wait for at least a week before trying again.
Also, be prepared that they will likely not eat more than a teaspoon of food during a meal. For now food is for introduction and staving off food allergies, not any meaningful nutrition.
3. They are not able to self-soothe yet
I know this goes against a lot of sleep training advice, but I don’t think it’s right to expect your child to know how to self-soothe the moment they leave the swaddle. It’s a skill that they develop and it takes some time. The sleep training school of thought believes that you must train your child to sleep, otherwise they will not. But that is simply not true.
Kids can learn to sleep and self-soothe all on their own. The problem is usually that their timeline for acquiring these skills doesn’t match their parents’ expectations. I’m personally more on board with Dr. Sear’s approach to self-soothing, and also believe that you need to wait till at least 6 months for your baby to learn to self soothe.
I don’t think CIO is bad, but it’s better done at a later age when your child’s cognitive abilities are more developed. I also think that starting CIO at a younger age (around 4 months) does not bring lasting results. I’ve heard from too many moms that they did CIO when their kid was around 4 months and it wasn’t too bad. It took about a week and the child started falling asleep on their own and sleeping through the night. I then also heard from those same moms how they had to “retrain” their children every time a major illness or a life change happened. In my opinion, if you have to retrain every time something major happens, what you’re doing isn’t actually working. In my experience, when you do it at the right time for your child, you only have to do it once.
I did CIO with my older son when he was around 9 months. It was necessary because he no longer fell asleep breastfeeding and rocking or holding him just led to a lot of crying. So one night, I was just too tired to continue rocking him and I put him in his bed. He was crying regardless of what I was doing, so it felt right to me. I would go in and check on him periodically. It took about 2 hours the first night, but he fell asleep and stayed asleep till the morning. The next night it was about an hour of crying and then he fell asleep. Third night was less than half an hour of crying, and the fourth night was peaceful and easy. I never had to repeat this process again, and my son is a great sleeper.
My youngest son didn’t sleep through the night till he turned a year old. It was a difficult year, I won’t lie. And we didn’t do anything to train him. We just let it ride. Which meant that at least 3 times a week we had “Levi party time” (as we called it) from 2:30-6:30am. And then it abruptly stopped right around this birthday. I can now count on him to sleep 11-12 hours every night with a 2-3 hour nap every day.
So feel free to continue offering help in the soothing department to your four month old. Use a pacifier to help calm them down, feed if they’re hungry, rock and shush or use vibration to help them doze off. I know it’s tough but the sleep regression ends and they learn to self-soothe, as long as you don’t stand in their way.
4. Don’t stop doing what’s working
And don’t forget to use your tried and true strategies from before. Continue to use blackout curtains and a white noise machine if they were working for your child. And most importantly don’t despair, your child will sleep again.
Quote of the Day
There was never a child so lovely but his mother was glad to get him to sleep. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Mental Health Tip of the Day
It’s easy to lose your sanity when your child is not sleeping much. All we want to do is fix the problem. But remember, your child not sleeping is not necessarily a problem. Sometimes all you can do is ride the wave and wait till they finish whatever developmental leap they are going through. Just do your best to get as much sleep as you can and just survive.