If you’re up googling “how to get my baby to sleep through the night” TRUST ME, you’re not alone! I was so happy to get a few long stretches of sleep, then—BAM!—the 4 month sleep regression hit,, and some days you’re left questioning how to be a functioning adult.
If you can keep your eyes open long enough, I hope this post will help!
What Is the 4 Month Sleep Regression?
“The 4 month sleep regression is when a baby’s brain makes a developmental leap and his/her sleep cycles change. Though referred to as the “4 month” sleep regression, it generally happens between 3 and 5 months of age.”
A newborn’s sleep is not structured and is not directed by the circadian rhythm. They fall asleep easily, but never enter a true deep sleep, sleeping at odd intervals throughout the day and night.
Around 4 months, their sleep becomes more like an adult’s, with 45 minute sleep cycles governed by the circadian rhythm.
However, unlike an adult, your baby hasn’t learned to fall back asleep. So believe it or not, babies need to learn how to sleep!
This 4 month sleep regression is hard, especially since it often comes just as your baby was getting into a good sleeping groove! I was already back at work and not getting a good night sleep turned my world upside down.
It took a while for me to realize that this is not a result of anything I did (or didn’t do), and theres nothing wrong with baby! This too shall pass.
We started sleep training at 4 months, and at this time we moved the baby into his own room. It was very important to introduce a bedtime routine
· Dimming lights
· Giving a warm bath
· singing a lullaby and turn on the sound machine
· Reading a story and saying a bedtime prayer
· Final nursing session ( bedtime bottle)
· Goodnight kisses and rocking him to sleep until he was very drowsy, but not asleep.
Obviously before a certain age your baby needs night time feedings to make sure they’re thriving. After doing research I found a few criteria that your baby needs to hit before its safe to start sleep training:
4-6 months old
14 + lbs
Transitioned out of the swaddle.
Not to start when sick or cutting teeth
Here’s what we did for our training: disclaimer- if you’re not comfortable with sleep training you do not need to follow what we did! Keep in mind that there's nothing magical about these waiting periods. You can choose any length of time you feel comfortable with- just passing along what worked for us!
Put your baby in his crib when he's sleepy but still awake. Say your goodnights, snuggles, and kisses.
Lay your baby down drowsy but awake and leave the room. Do something that will distract you, catch up on chores, watch a movie, maybe have a much needed glass of wine. We had the video monitor close by but decided to turn the sound off. Decide on an interval that you’re comfortable with: the first night we started with 3 min, 5 min, 10 min, 20 min ext.
After the timer goes off, go back into the room for no more than a minute or two to pat and reassure your baby. Leave the light off and keep your voice quiet and soothing. Don't pick him up. Leave again while he's still awake, even if he's crying. It will break your heart but keep strong mama!
Stay out of the room for a little bit longer than the first time and follow the same routine, staying out of the room for gradually longer intervals, each time returning for only a minute or two to pat and reassure him, and leaving while he's still awake. I always did a quick check for dirty diapers when I went in.
Follow this routine until your child falls asleep when you're out of the room.
If your child wakes up again later, follow the same routine, beginning with the minimum waiting time for that night and gradually increasing the intervals between visits until you reach the maximum for that night.
It took us about 5 nights for him to catch on. 5 very hard nights! But in retrospect it was the best thing we’ve done.
Some practical tips.
Set yourself up for success- before you try sleep training, develop a daytime (we used Babywise and started this for a daytime schedule at 8 weeks) and nighttime routine and stick to it! Babies crave consistency!
Develop a solid plan and make sure you and your significant other are prepared before you begin sleep training – both practically & emotionally.
On the practical side, choose a weekend where you’re ready to loose some sleep.
On the emotional side, create the plan together to make sure you’re both on the same page and you set guidelines. That way you'll be able to support each other and prepare yourselfs for a few difficult nights.
We decided to work in shifts- Aaron took the 11-3 shift and I took the 4-7 shift. That way each of us at least got a few hours rest.
Once you launch your plan, stick to it. Consistency is the key. Unless you realize that your child simply isn't physically or emotionally ready and you decide to put the program on hold for a while, follow through with it for a couple of weeks. When your baby wakes you up at 2 a.m., you may be tempted to give in and hold or rock him, but if you do, your hard work will be wasted and you'll have to start over from square one.
Expect relapses. Even after you've "finished" sleep training, you can expect your child to regress occasionally, like when he gets sick or when you're travelling.
I promise it will get better, John is now 18 months and has been sleeping 12 hours straight and has consistently since he was 9 months. Make sure to take time for your needs as well. Ask for help, it takes a viliage :)