The Infamous 4 Month Sleep Regression

And why everyone talks about it!

You’ve probably heard friends talking about it? Or you’ve seen a discussion on social media? Or worse; you’re bang smack in the middle of it! Whatever the reason, it’s important to understand why it happens and why it’s the most prominent “regression” for most parents.

The why?

Firstly, this (so-called – I’ll come back to this) regression can start as early as 3 months of age, and if you’re reading this feeling a little smug because your baby is nearly 5 months old and you think it’s bypassed you, you need to know it can start as late as 5-6 months, but it’s worth living in hope! 
Now, back to my “so-called” comment! As much as we believe this is a regression, it’s actually the biggest progression your baby will make in regards to sleep. If you are currently in the middle of the storm, you probably think I’m crazy, but I promise, it’s true!

“it’s actually the biggest progression your baby will make in regards to sleep”

Here’s why!

From newborn to around the 4-month phase, your baby sleeps in REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement). This stage of sleep is when we are most likely to dream and so important for the brain to mature, form and process memories. I guess that’s why newborns sleep in the phase of sleep for around 50% of the time; the rest is spent in a deep or very deep sleep.

This is the reason your gorgeous newborn can literally sleep anywhere and barely flinch at whatever is going on around them.
At around 4 months, your baby’s sleep starts to mature to a similar pattern of adults, spending more time in deep restorative sleep as opposed to the lighter REM sleep where newborns spend most of their time. The reason this is a progression, not a “regression” is that your baby’s brain is maturing. This is a huge developmental milestone, and you’re right on track.

As the sleep patterns are changing, your baby will now experience sleeping in REM and Non-REM sleep of all stages – this is from drowsy, to light, to deep, to very deep. The game-changer is that light sleep phase!

This is because as your baby transitions between deep to light sleep, there is a very high chance she will wake up…and once she’s up if your baby can only fall asleep with your intervention, you’ll be up too!

Linking Sleep Cycles

As adults, we know how to link our sleep cycles. In fact, I barely know if I’ve stirred in the night, but your baby will likely be very confused by this change, and if feeding/rocking/cuddling/needing a dummy is how your little one falls asleep, then you can expect to do exactly that, possibly every 45 minutes.

“if feeding/rocking/cuddling/dummy is how your little one falls asleep, many babies need the same to fall back to sleep as they transition sleep cycles, possibly every 45-90 minutes.”

That’s where I was at when my boy was 5 and a half months old – awake every 45 minutes and he’d be up for around an hour. So trust me when I say…I feel your pain!

Now, by all means, you can continue to do whatever it is you do to get your baby back to sleep, but the likelihood is you will need to continue that method for the long haul. If that works for you, that is great! I take my hat off to you – you wakeful warrior!

If you are like me, however, you might want to look at ways to get your baby linking sleep cycles independently. That sleep deprivation was all too much for me to bear! I happily sit in the “I NEED SLEEP!” camp.

TIPS:

  • My top tip would be to set your baby up for success if you can find your baby’s ideal wake window. This is going to help you avoid any over tiredness and trust me, trying to get an overtired baby (or child for that matter) is like wrestling with a hungry bear!
  • As well as the wake window, figuring out how much sleep your baby needs is another key factor. To help you get on the right track, here are the average sleep needs to consider.
  • If you haven’t already, get yourself a white noise machine. Although cute and fluffy ones are available, I would recommend a plugin (batteries are expensive when you’re buying 3 million a year!) with continuous sound for 12+ hours.
  • Don’t get up too early! Stimulating your little one by switching on the lights sends the wrong message to their brains. If you’re up early, keep the lights dim and keep any entertainment to books or a baby massage. Once it’s an acceptable time to be up; throw those curtains wide, lights on and excitable happy voices (even when you’re exhausted)!
  • If you can, try to have at least one nap a day in the cot/crib. Naps on the go are vital at times but you don’t want your baby to rely on the motion. Another downside to this progression is that your baby will be more aware and alert of everything that is going on around them making naps on the go, not as restorative as a nap in their own bed.
  • Get your pre-nap and bedtime routine on point. Having a consistent routine helps your baby know when sleep is about to happen. Dim the lights, make sure the room is dark and have some wind-down play before. This will help with the calming process.
  • Although scary, try to give your baby the time to see if they can fall asleep without you. If you master this, your baby will likely be able to do this through the night too. That means fewer wake-ups for you!
  • Try not to feed to sleep if your baby can only fall asleep by feeding, even if s/he’s not hungry! This was a game-changer for me. If you can, try to feed away from nap and bedtime. If that doesn’t work out, stop the feed before your baby is asleep and read a short book before putting baby down in the cot.
  • The dream feed! If your baby is waking at the same time every night and you are able to feed them straight back to sleep, you are already winning! But if you want to give your baby a chance to learn not to wake for a feed, you can introduce a dream feed. This was a godsend for me and if it works, you can at least prepare yourself for the wake up as opposed to being rudely awoken by a cry.

If you have tried all of the above, you’ve read the million other blogs out there on the matter too, and you just need to sleep, why not book a free 15-minute discovery call and find out how I can help you.

Keep safe and well,

Alexis  x

Alexis Halley Reade
Certified Sleepy Lambs Sleep Consultant at | alexis.halleyreade@sleepylambs.com | Website | + posts

Alexis Halley Reade is a Certified Sleepy Lambs Sleep Consultant™ based in Cheshire, England. As a mum of 1 adorable little boy, she knows the impact that sleep deprivation had on her baby as well as herself. After working with a sleep consultant, and seeing the incredible difference better sleep made for her entire family, Alexis became passionate about supporting other families on the journey to healthy sleep. Click here to learn more about Alexis, her sleep support options and to book a free discovery call.

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