Sleep – the holy grail of a new parent! I feel that sleep is actually the most stressful aspect of being a new mum. I definitely had the fear that I was getting into bad sleep habits, “accidental parenting”, as the baby whisperer calls it. I was worried that I had come up with techniques to manage sleep but eventually my randomly stacked pile of jenga blocks would come tumbling down leading to sleepless nights. As we approached the 4th month mark, I also had the fear of the dreaded 4 month sleep regression.
The 4 month sleep regression is a permanent change in your baby’s sleeping habits whereby their sleep patterns change from always being in a deep sleep to sleeping like any adult, in a sleep cycle from light to deep sleep. This is the only sleep regression your baby goes through that is a permanent change, all other regressions as 8, 10 and 12 months etc. are all phases. This means that the 4 month regression is often the worst sleep regression you will face. I found from 12pm onwards, my little one would wake up roughly every 2 hours (if not slightly more often) and he would be wide awake. Hence our problem – its not morning!
If you google 4 month sleep regression you get a string of pleas for information from new mums about how long the regression should last and how to survive it. I am no sleep expert, but thought it would be useful to describe my own experience. Please remember every baby is completely different and all react to things differently.
I found that my little one got into a sleeping routine when he would sleep through the night (or at least practically) most nights per week. So when the 4 month sleep regression hit us, I was exhausted! I forgot what sleepless nights were like and I quickly transformed into Zombiemum.
My strategy with respect to the regression was focussed on the day and night routine.
I tried to start introducing a day sleep routine. I roughly followed the EASY routine (being Eat, Active play, Sleep, You-time) by the Baby Whisperer. She actually provides day schedules for you but I found that trying to stick to a generic schedule just didn’t work for me. My little one was a cat napper, so I was stressing about not getting the 1.5 hour naps that the EASY routine talks about. Once I accepted that my baby might just sleep a bit differently, I became a lot more relaxed about the routine. I tried to keep track of how long he took between naps, as I never liked him to get over tired. I would typically get between 1 and 2 hours awake at any one time. Any more than that and he got over tired. Typically he would get between 2.5 and 3 hours sleep a day over 4 to 5 naps. I moved all his day naps at home from sleeping in my arms while I watched TV to sleeping in a dark bedroom to try and improve his sleep. I also introduced sleep associations into each nap, which consisted of singing twinkle twinkle little star while putting him in his grobag. I do this for every nap or sleep which helps him understand that it is time to go to sleep.
Night time routine:
We introduced a bed time wind down routine to help our little one learn that it is bed time. I play a nice relaxing track from youtube (link). During this time our baby would get nappy off time, his skin would be moisturised, he would get a leg massage, be put into his PJs and would get a short story read to him. We would then sing twinkle twinkle little star while putting him in his grobag and he was then fed to sleep.
Middle of the night wake-ups:
During the night I tried not to get into a cycle of always feeding my baby back to sleep. I knew he wasn’t always hungry, he was learning to resettle himself at night. So I did my very best not to feed him more often than once per night. I always first tried to resettle him with the soother, putting my hand on his chest or beside his face. I would also resort to rocking him if I felt he was just not settling, but tried to avoid this. If he wouldn’t fall asleep, I fed him to sleep. Using the soother helped me to start pushing his feeds out at night also. So if he woke at 2am the first night, I would not feed him until 3am. Then the next night he might wake at 2.30am and again I would try and push out the feed.
I also introduced a dream feed, typically at 10pm when I was going to bed myself, which gave me further confidence that he was not hungry during his early night time wakings.
Our 4 month regression lasted on and off for about 3 weeks. But the worst was the first week. I found that just as I was at the point of exhaustion, he would sleep through the night again.
My biggest piece of advice to anyone going through the 4 month regression is this too shall pass! 🙂