From birth your baby has probably been sleeping quite sporadically; at different times of day and for different lengths of time. Your baby does this because their body clock is not fully matured and they rely heavily upon you and your comfort and movement to put them to sleep. You may have noticed that approaching ten weeks your little one has started sleeping longer stretches during the night and then, BAM – you hit four months and out of nowhere any routine you thought you had has disappeared!
As you begin to approach the four month mark you may notice that your baby is becoming fussier around naps and maybe waking up more often in the night. A lot of the time this fourth month milestone is referred to as a sleep regression. Actually, nothing is regressing; nothing is going backwards, if anything it is moving forwards and quite rapidly. Your baby’s body clock is starting to regulate; they are developing into more rhythmic sleep patterns transitioning from deep sleep and active sleep, just like adults. Babies begin to wake up after being asleep for only fifteen minutes or so because when they are transitioning sleep cycles it affects the startle reflex which in return wakes them up. The downside is babies become upset and cranky because they don’t know how to deal with it and put themselves back to sleep. If they were rocked or nursed to sleep they will likely wake cranky looking for the thing that put them to sleep in the first place.
During this phase you may also notice your baby has a bit of an growth spurt and has outgrown clothes in a week, they may begin to roll over and they may be more mobile. It is an exciting and exhausting time and a lot for baby to take in! Often, parents are concerned of ear infections, hunger, teething or even reflux as a result of this phase, very often these things are not the case and it is just the fussiness of the transition. This phase can last from 2-4 weeks and during this time you may notice;
- Reduction in daytime sleep
- Waking up fifteen minutes after being put down
- Increased night waking
- Increased feeding
- Much more fussiness and crying
So, we have a vision of what is going on but how on earth do we deal with this?! Here are some tips to guide you through and help make this difficult few weeks a little easier;
- Accept that this is going to be a tough couple of weeks and you are unlikely to have anything but a steady routine. Do what works for you and don’t be so hard on yourself if things are not going to plan. Don’t be worried about creating bad habits. For baby, this is a big milestone and they will still need your help in putting them to sleep. So, rocking, shushing, feeding – whatever works then do it. Just start to practise placing baby down drowsy and awake. This will stand them in good shape for when they do learn to put themselves to sleep.
- Try to watch for your babies sleepy signs; yawning, rubbing eyes or increased leg movements are often signs of tiredness. Sleep signals can be very subtle or very frantic. Keep an eye on the clock – at this age your baby can handle being awake from 1-2 hours max. Anything over this will add to overtiredness making it more difficult to go to sleep. If you notice your baby becomes fussy or disinterested, this can be a sing of tiredness so opt for putting them down.
- When you notice that your baby is starting to become less fussy and you are over the worst of this phase it is advisable to begin to practise placing baby down drowsy and awake at bedtime. Stay by their side offering lots of reassurance through presence, touch and sound. This is a good time to start to help your baby to learn to fall asleep independently. If you find that they get too ramped up pick them up and calm then and do what you need to help them go to sleep. Don’t be put off by this, just try again the next night. Don’t worry about creating bad habits, you are not sleep training your baby, you are simply introducing good habits that will help your baby feel relaxed and reassured in their own sleep space for when they are able to fall asleep independently.
- Take advantage of this fussy milestone! Your baby is likely to be a little more upset than usual during this time so offer lots of comfort, snuggles and reassurance. Speak calmly to your baby and if you need a day on the couch have one!
- Be aware that at this stage your baby is likely to have a growth spurt and developmentally they may roll over or attempt to sit up. This is hugely exciting for baby but also exhausting so look for sleepy cues and put them down for extra naps if needed.
- Be flexible during this phase but try to implement a consistent routine at bedtime. Something simple like bath, feed and book can work really well and now your baby is much more aware it is a great time to introduce this to help them understand bedtime is coming. You can do them same for nap time too but make it much shorter.
This phase can be tough and even exhausting with multiple night time waking but remember, it won’t last and do what you need to help your baby take the sleep they need. It won’t last and you will find that you settle into a routine quite quickly again once it passes.
Laura, Babbaboo Sleep.
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