I think everyone on the planet knows that most babies are challenging when it comes to sleep. What I do find interesting is the controversy that surrounds it. If I post something about babies not sleeping someone will say that it’s bull because their baby slept well from day one, and if I post something about babies sleeping well, I’m told it’s horse shit because their baby is 18-months old and still not sleeping through the night.
To this I say, “Yep, you’re right.”
Some babies are great sleepers and some aren’t – all of them are awesome. If it works for you, great! Keep doing what you’re doing. But if you’re not in a good place and something needs to change, I just like to throw the occasional suggestion out there.
So when I saw how many people were talking about the 4-month sleep regression (I didn’t know there even was such a thing – I guess I was too tired to notice) I asked Alysa from SleepWell Baby to give a little insight on it.
Sure, she's a sleep consultant so she's going to have some strong feelings about sleep (it's like asking a dentist about teeth) but she knows a lot about the science around sleep and she’s not a dick about it so I value her input.
With that in mind, if you have heard about the dreaded ‘4 month sleep regression’ and are looking for ideas on how to minimize it, have a read.
The dreaded four month sleep regression is a hot topic of discussion for many new parents. Just when you think you’re in the clear, things are getting easier and WHAMO, your four month old baby is up all night, won’t nap during the day and you’re at a loss for what to do. Your friends assure you that it’s just the four month sleep regression, every baby goes through it and it won’t last forever. That’s one way to look at it. Or, you could dare to be different and try on a new perspective. The four month sleep regression is not really a regression at all. In fact, it’s an opportunity to guide your baby down the path to healthy sleep.
Why does it seem that your baby’s sleep has become a nightmare at the four month mark? The change is due to your child’s neurological development at four months old. Day and night sleep is organized which means that if we don’t follow our baby’s biological rhythms in how we offer sleep, our child will become overtired. Babies who are overtired have a difficult time falling and staying asleep.
Here’s how to re-think regression and opt for opportunity at the four month mark:
Follow Your Baby’s Body Clock.
We all experience the drive to sleep during the day. Many of us can relate to feeling a little sleepy after lunch and again after 9pm in the evening. This is a result of our body’s circadian rhythm or body clock. It’s this internal clock, which is regulated by light that promotes sleep at particular times during the day. If we sleep at those times we experience the most beneficial, restorative sleep.
Our four month old babies are no different. They have developed their own circadian rhythm. If we overlook their need to sleep during the times when their body temperature dips and melatonin production increases, we see babies who do not settle easily or sleep for long stretches. Most four month olds can tolerate about 2 hours of awake time. Babies who take longer naps will naturally fall into a rhythm of napping in the morning, after lunch and again in the late afternoon.
Use a Consistent Sleeping Space.
The days of easy napping on the go are over. Four month old babies are able to recognize their sleeping space and follow social cues. If you want your baby to settle into a restorative nap, the grocery store, car seat or baby carrier sadly won't cut it. Our children thrive in consistent environments and your baby’s sleeping space is no exception. In addition, establishing a regular nap and bedtime routine is a key component of cueing baby that it’s time to sleep.
It’s also important to note that motion naps are not as restorative as stationary naps as we can never reach the deeper stages of sleep while we’re in motion. This is also the time to ensure your baby’s sleep environment is slightly cooler than room temperature, dark and safe. A sound machine playing pure white noise, placed away from the crib on a low setting is also a good cue for sleep.
See the Benefits of an Early Bedtime.
All sleep has a purpose. The morning nap restores our babies mentally, while the afternoon nap offers physical benefits to growing little ones. It’s during night time sleep, specifically the first half of the night, until approximately midnight, when our babies receive the benefit of the growth hormone. So it’s important that we are getting our babies as much night time sleep as possible. We know that night time sleep organizes around the 6-8 week mark when day/night confusion ends. This means that an earlier bedtime is appropriate at that time and certainly by four months old. Most well rested babies do well with a bedtime between 6-7pm. Those who are napping poorly benefit from an even earlier bedtime to make up for sleep that is lost during the day.
Take a Look at who is Putting Baby to Sleep.
Babies who are put to sleep are often more wakeful in the night than those who are able to go to sleep independently. The reason for this requires an understanding of sleep cycles. When we fall asleep we enter a sleep cycle which lasts from 45 minutes to 1 hour. During that time we go through four stages of sleep which are followed by REM. After REM we have a brief awakening where we scan the surface of our environment. A person with good sleep skills will not even be aware that this brief awakening has occurred and will transition into the next sleep cycle. If your baby entered a sleep cycle in your arms, in a car seat, in the living room, with a bottle, at the breast or with a pacifier and has woken to find those circumstances have changed, your baby will likely require that you recreate that situation in order to return to sleep. Babies who are given the opportunity to fall asleep rather than being put to sleep have an easier time independently transitioning through sleep cycles.
One of the great things about belonging to a community of parents is that there is always support for whichever challenge you’re facing. From potty training to picky eating you will find someone who tells you they’ve been through it and it will get better. But if you are the parent to a four month old who has hit the dreaded four month sleep regression, consider a new approach. Re-think the four month sleep regression and opt for opportunity instead.
So, after all this sleep talk, I asked the folks at SleepWell Baby if they would be up for a little giveaway. They said "sure" and offered up their awesome Save Our Sleep package to one lucky winner.
Win a full "SOS" package worth $449
If you truly feel like you have tried everything and your child still isn’t sleeping, this is the consultation for you. The Save our Sleep package provides the most support including a 90 minute consultation and a 2 week follow up period.
This private consultation will take place either in the comfort of your own home, by phone, or even Skype. Our availability varies, but we can often accommodate a new client within about a week and sometimes even sooner.
This package includes:
A preliminary evaluation. This is a comprehensive questionnaire about your child’s sleep habits and routines that you’ll fill out prior to our meeting. Having this information in advance helps us make the most of our time together.
A private, 90 minute consultation where we’ll discuss strategies and troubleshoot possible problems. You will learn how to address bedtime, naptime, nightwakings, or any other specific issues you might be dealing with.
A detailed, fully customized sleep plan that your consultant will prepare following your meeting and will be sent to you promptly. Your input at the consultation will be essential to developing this easy-to-follow plan that will suit your family’s needs.
Four follow-up telephone calls that will be scheduled throughout the two week consultation. These follow-up calls typically last about 15 minutes, and we’ll use this time to deal with any setbacks you might be having or answer any general questions. As your child’s sleep begins to improve your consultant will also provide you with valuable information that will prepare you for challenges that may arise as you move forward.
Unlimited e-mail support throughout the consultation. You will be provided with your consultant’s email address so you can check in on those days when you don’t have a call scheduled or after your calls have been used. Your consultant will respond to your emails within one business day.
$449 value (Open worldwide)
Alysa Dobson is a Certified Child Sleep Consultant with SleepWell Baby. She works with families to help them get the sleep they need. Alysa offers support to parents with children ages 4 months- 8 years old through both in home and remote consultations. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.