Approved by the What’s Up Moms Medical Advisory Board
For those of you who are super into schedules…
…scroll down for a sample schedule at the bottom of this post!
If you notice that your baby is now waking more frequently at night, needing lots of cajoling to fall back asleep, and taking shorter and more fitful naps (and waking up from them fussy), that’d be the 4-month sleep regression. It can be really frustrating, but we promise that 1) it’s a real thing, it happens to most babies, and 2) you will — yes you will! — emerge on the other side of it.
What’s happening is that baby’s sleep patterns are changing and she’s now alternating between REM and deep sleep, just as adults do. Trouble is, when babies wake between cycles, they don’t yet know how to get back to sleep on their own. (If only they could scroll Instagram.) Plus, this is a peak time for baby’s brain development. Her brain is “on” all the time to help her absorb all manner of new skills. There are endless new connections being made, all of which are more interesting than sleep.
So, yes it’s a “regression” in that some of the long stretches of sleep you may have gotten used to have disappeared. But think of it as baby maturing. We know, we know, you’re tired as sh*t. But it’s a completely normal developmental stage, and a progress-making one at that! What a brilliant baby.
Hang in there. This is a temporary dip in the road, and rest assured, not all baby’s sleep learning to date will be lost. Do what you need to help baby (and yourself) get through these wakeful few weeks. Maybe this is a chance for some quality late night TV time?
Other goings-on in the sleep department this month:
- DO wake baby at the two-hour mark from any naps that go long
- DO continue to follow a structure that has baby awake for 1.25- 2 hours at a time in between sleeps. Baby’s longest awake times will be towards the end of the day before bedtime.
- DO continue to practice placing the baby down in the crib drowsy but awake so she can keep practicing independent sleep. Continue your same relaxing bedtime routine to help baby respond to wind-down cues. Keeping baby unswaddled is ideal so that she can learn how to use her hands as a soothing pacifier.
- DO hear from your pediatrician about night weaning. Once you get the pediatrician’s green light, you can embark on full sleep training, AKA night weaning.
- DO explore the various sleep training methods by reading and talking with friends (good news: research shows that all the methods can work, so long as parents are consistent). Note: you may have heard the phrase “cry it out,” but know that sleep training doesn’t necessarily mean “cry it out.” Some methods involve letting baby cry some, other methods are no-cry, and then there those that are in between. It’s a spectrum. It’s a personal choice as to when or if you do this, but in our experience, doing it sooner rather than later (with the doc’s go-ahead) means you won’t butt up against other milestones — like standing, or teething — that can complicate baby’s sleep learning.
Sample Schedule for a 4-month old
They’re still sleeping about 11-12 hours at night and three-four hours during the day, split up into three or four naps. If you’re lucky to see any long naps, it’s usually the first one of the morning; the others may be as short as 30-45 minutes (just long enough for a shower and a shovel-food-into-the-mouth for you, Mom). You’re still giving structure and shape to your day with the Eat, Play, Sleep structure, so as for schedules, exact times will certainly vary. Think of it as a 24-hour cycle that will depend on her waking times.
7:00a – Wake and feed
7:30a – Play!
8:30a – Nap #1
9:30a – Wake and feed
9:45a – Play!
11:00a – Nap #2
11:45a – Wake and feed
12:00p – Play!
1:45p – Nap #3
2:30p – Wake and feed
2:45p – Play!
4:30p – Nap #4 (catnap! it’s not always possible to have baby nap nap in a stationary place, as expert’s recommend. These afternoon naps, especially, are sometimes done on-the-go, in the car or sling/ carrier or stroller.)
5:00p – Wake and feed
6:30p – Start nightly wind-down routine
7:00p – After books, songs and whatever your ritual… lights out!
Nighttime feedings will vary, but 1-2 feeds per night is common.