Every parent has heard all the horror stories out there about the dreaded 4-month sleep regression. This blog post is here to address these fears by outlining what you can expect from your 4-month old baby’s routines, as well as some tidbits of knowledge and information to help you understand and get through this phase!
WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT?
DAYTIME NAPS & AWAKE TIMES:
A 4-month old bub will generally shift to having 3-4 naps throughout the day, with an awake time of 1.45 to 2 hours. As our babies grow, so does their ability to stay awake! The number of naps your bub will end up having each day will depend on the nap duration, those catnapping babies will usually need that 4th nap to get them through the day without getting overtired.
CATNAPPING & SLEEP CYCLES:
It is around this age that we see a permanent shift from 2 stages of sleep in a cycle to 4 stages. Which can be a reason why your bub might begin or revert to catnapping for their day sleeps. Lower sleep needs are not the explanation for catnapping at this 4-month stage, it is actually more related to their sleep cycles changing to include more wakeful periods during their sleep. Be assured that catnapping is not something you need to live with forever! You can definitely work to support your bub to lengthen their naps out again once they’re more used to this 4 stage sleep cycle!
4-8 hour sleep stretches with 1 or 2 overnight feeds is ideal for our 4-month old bubs. However, we can begin to see more wakeful periods overnight! There is usually a big growth spurt and developmental change that occurs at 4-months, which may result in bub waking more often or for longer periods, and looking for extra feeds. This may happen for a couple of nights, so please feel comfortable with giving them these extra feeds to survive! But if this persists for longer than a couple of nights, I encourage you to support them back to sleep in other ways to avoid establishing an unwanted routine.
That 4-month sleep regression is usually heavily linked to your bub’s progression in growth and development! Your baby may be beginning to practice rolling around this age and become more distracted through observing the world around them. The rolling stage will mean that you’re having to make changes to your routine, like unswaddling those arms at sleep time and shifting from the bassinet to the cot. Need more tips on managing the rolling phase? Check out this blog! Also, a distracted baby will usually mean distracted feeding! Engaging with that big exciting world can sometimes mean they forget to focus on getting a full feed, which can result in them waking sooner due to hunger. Try to ensure you support your bub to get full feeds during the day by moving away from any distractions (a calm, quiet dark room always worked wonders for me and my bubs) and keeping your usual feeding patterns throughout the day and night.
HOW CAN YOU SURVIVE?
I so often hear mum’s reaching out for help at the 4-month stage as their baby is suddenly waking more now than they were as a newborn and refusing to be put down! While we cannot control, stop or predict our babies developmental changes, we can control our thoughts, responses and guidance through this period of change.
Here’s a couple of pieces of food for thought, to help you to support yourself and your baby through this time!
1) Any development, be that leaps, growth spurts, or milestones, will inevitably lead to extra periods of fussiness for your bub. This may mean extra crying and upset periods which can be SO hard to handle. My tip for this challenge is to simply accept that this phase sucks, but it won’t last forever. Take a breath, and take the pressure off yourself to stop these natural responses in bub, and aim to respond to your baby’s needs calmly and with confidence.
2) If your baby has been sleeping like a dream until this point, go back to what has been working for you both to support those extra wake ups. Their little brains are going through such big changes so you want to support them without overstimulating them where possible. Keep to a consistent sleep routine that they know well, and utilise all those tools you have already nailed to guide them through with calmness, patience and understanding.
3) Some days you may need to resort to doing whatever it takes to survive your day, and that is 100% okay! If you’re exhausted, reach out for help – your needs are just as important and you need to look after yourself. At the very least each day you can aim to support them to get the right amount of sleep during the day to avoid an overtired, overstimulated and overall cranky baby at the end of the day. Night settling is always easier when bub is well rested during the day.
In the end, sleep is never perfect and even the best little sleepers will have rough nights throughout their lives, just like we all do as adults! If you are feeling trapped, overwhelmed or anxious, why not reach out for a free 15 minute consultation with Sleep Thrive Grow? Or, a great resource that is readily available 24/7 is our 3-8 Month Sleep Guide that can help you build your repertoire of tools to support your baby towards balanced and restorative sleep, both day and night. Maybe you haven’t yet hit the 4-month mark, why not check out our blog on preparing to breeze through a sleep regression.