Four Month Sleep Regression

blog16Words that strike fear in a mom’s heart are “4 month sleep regression”!

There are misconceptions with that phrase. The word “regression” according to the dictionary means moving backward, return. That is not what is happening with your baby.

You brought your little bundle home from the hospital and maybe you were blessed with a good sleeper who only woke up to eat, look around and then easily fell back to sleep. You thought this parenting thing wasn’t that hard and could not understand why other parents could not get their baby to sleep.

Maybe your baby cried a lot and you have worked hard to find ways to get your baby to sleep. You have found that nursing, rocking, or bouncing work to get your baby to sleep.

Suddenly you are wondering what happened to your easy baby or why all your calming and soothing methods don’t seem to be working. Why is your baby waking up many times every night? Why does your baby suddenly only nap for 20 minutes? Why does your baby who used to sleep any where, suddenly fight sleep and seem to want to stay awake for hours?

Yes, it does feel like a regression to the parent, but actually your baby is progressing toward adult-type sleep. It is the result of brain development so the change is permanent, not something that is going to go away in a few weeks. Your baby’s brain is developing sleep cycles of light sleep and deep sleep. His/her body is moving toward a 24-hour rhythm of when it wants to be awake and when it wants to sleep.

You used to be able to nurse, rock or bounce your baby to sleep and then lay your sleeping baby in the crib. Now when you lay your baby in the crib, because the first part of their sleep is light sleep, your child will wake up and cry when you lay him/her down. You have to start all over!

So, how do we cope with this little sleepless baby?

1. Timing of sleep becomes very important.
As an adult you go through sleepy times when you want to fall asleep (maybe mid-afternoon). You have experienced other times when you can not force your body to sleep.Your baby has started experiencing times when their body craves sleep and times when they cannot sleep. So, it becomes very important for us to catch them at their sleepy times. The timing of naps and bedtime is important. Bedtime will move earlier. Naps will become more consistent times.

2. How your child fell asleep becomes important.
Your child makes associations with sleep such as location, sucking movements, bouncing and rocking. If these are missing, your baby will awaken and call for you to recreate the way he/she went to sleep.

3. Place of sleep becomes important.
At this developmental stage motion sleep, like in the stroller, car seat or swing, is no longer a restorative type of sleep. Now your little one is not as transportable during nap times. The quality of the sleep becomes more important.

Learning to adjust to your child’s developmental stage to keep a well rested baby can be tricky.
Let me help you.

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Arlene Fryling

Arlene is a registered nurse and certified sleep consultant for children 0-5 years. She has cared for premature, sick, and many healthy babies. For over 15 years she has taught expectant parents how to care for their newborns through classes teaching basic baby care, infant massage classes, and moderating support groups for new moms as they deal with parenting issues.

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