Blakely and I are currently in the middle of what is known as the “four month sleep regression.” Just like it sounds, it happens when a baby’s sleeping habits get worse and can occur anytime between 3 and 5 months. Even though it seems bad, it’s actually due to the fact that her sleep cycles are becoming much more adult-like but she just hasn’t gotten used to yet. Furthermore, babies of this age are much more active than ever before and are increasingly aware of their environment. This means that they may somewhat lose interest in eating during the day and prefer to eat at night when their surroundings are boring. They also have a lot more trouble falling asleep in stimulating environments even if they are very tired. All of this combined can create some pretty restless nights for both mom and baby.
At 3 months old, Blakely was a decent sleeper usually waking up twice in the night but just eating quickly and going right back to sleep. She took a half hour nap every 2 hours all day long. Her sleep schedule certainly wasn’t ideal but I was so happy to not feel sleep deprived at all. I heard about the 4 month sleep regression but thought it surely can’t be that big of a deal. Just before she turned 4 months old she started taking much longer naps and even put herself to sleep a couple times. I was so excited to see progress!
I first started noticing something was different when she seemed to lose interest in eating. She definitely was hungry but couldn’t help looking all around at everything happening around her while she was nursing. If someone was talking she would stop and listen and there was no way I could talk while feeding her without her glaring at me. Suddenly she was eating much more at night to make up for what she missed during the day. This seemed reasonable and harmless so I didn’t think much of it. Soon things got a lot crazier though. She would fall into deep sleep in my arms but wake and cry every time I put her down. This went on all night long and her 6 hour stretch of sleep turned in to 2 or 3 at best. Luckily the worst of it occurred over a weekend so my husband was able to help but I was still miserably tired and completely overwhelmed.
I did what I always do in these situations and turned to Google. I read everything I could possibly find on the 4 month sleep regression. I was surprised at how much information there was and especially how consistent it all was. Here are the suggestions that stood out most to me and my experience trying them out.
Focus on Good Feeds
This was probably the first thing I did and it seemed to help a lot! During the day I made sure to wait to feed Blakely until she was good and hungry and then I would take her into a quiet, calm environment. I also bought a nursing necklace so she had something to do with her hands while she ate. This was a quick fix. She immediately started eating more during the day again and now when she wakes at night, it’s not usually because she is truly hungry.
Focus on Good Naps
Like most 4 month olds, Blakely needs a nap every 2 hours. If she goes much longer than that, she ends up getting overtired which just makes sleeping more difficult for everyone. Additionally, babies this age can’t fall asleep just anywhere as easily as they used to. So I tried to really focus on watching for tired cues and quieted our environment as soon as I saw them. I made sure to be aware of when her next nap time was coming up and then prioritize it over anything else I was doing. The idea is that the better she sleeps during the day, the better she will sleep at night! So far unfortunately, I haven’t seen that play out yet but she is much happier during the day and easier to put to sleep when I make sure she gets good naps.
Three Naps and an Early Bedtime
Many babies transition from 4 naps a day to just 3 at around this age but then require an early bedtime. Most of what I read suggested a bedtime between 6 and 7! I was shocked when I read that the first time. Blakely usually goes to bed between 8:30 and 9:30 so this was going to be a big transition for us. It was also really hard for me because truthfully we aren’t even home by 6 o’clock to start a bedtime routine. So I struggled with this idea for awhile and even put her down around 6:30 a couple times but she just treated it exactly like her 4th nap instead. Because Blakely still only takes half hour naps, I’m thinking this suggestion is just unrealistic for us at this point. Hopefully soon she will start napping for an hour or two at a time and then I can definitely see why she would only want to take 3 naps but for now I’m sticking to what we’re doing.
Establish a Sleeping Routine
We really didn’t have any kind of a bedtime or nap routine up until this point but at her age, she is now able to value the consistency and cues to make her sleepy. So I chose “Jesus Loves Me” as her lullaby which I often sing to her before a nap as I bounce her on my exercise ball. At night we often give her a bath, get her Jammies on, read her two stories, sing her song, and then I nurse her one last time. She usually falls asleep immediately after she’s done eating. I can definitely tell she’s starting to respond to the cues and is getting sleepy earlier and earlier in the routine. Hopefully this keeps working!
Drowsy But Awake Time
I’ve been reading about “drowsy but awake” time for awhile now and while I think it sounds like an amazing solution to our problems, I just struggle to have the patience for it. If you don’t know, this is the practice of putting your baby in her crib when she is drowsy but still awake. This way she can learn to fall asleep on her own. I’ve been trying this on and off for a couple months and just can’t get it down. First of all, Blakely seems to have a very short window. She will be wide awake one second and fast asleep the next so I often don’t get her into her crib soon enough. However, if I try to do it too early she just gets really upset and worked up and I have to start all over again to calm her down. Nevertheless I know the ability to put herself back to sleep in the middle of the night would be a huge leap forward in our sleeping troubles and my hope is the longer this regression goes on, the more motivation I will develop to get this right.
Do What Works
Finally, one of the best and most comforting things I read was to simply just do what you need to do to make it through this tough time. For Blakely and I, this means that it’s ok to let her sleep in bed with me sometimes because we both sleep really well that way. After all, I can’t be a very good mom when I’m tired out of my mind and if Blakely gets too overtired it just gets even harder to help her sleep. So I often wrestle with rocking her back to sleep in the first part of the night when I still have the energy but once my patience wears out she’s in bed cuddling with me and I have to say I do enjoy that time.
Overall, I’m just expecting that time will help her the most through this developmental stage and eventually we will both be getting good sleep again. To a sleep deprived mom, that can feel so far away but I’m trusting that it’s actually right around the corner.
UPDATE: We made it through! For Blakely, the sleep regression lasted about three and a half weeks. As I anticipated, time was the main thing she needed but if I had to pinpoint one thing that made a difference it would be that we let her sleep with us for a couple nights in a row without fighting her at all. That way, she was able to get totally rested again and I think she felt safe enough with us there that she learned to put herself back to sleep. She was soon sleeping through the night for the first time ever (although of course that didn’t last super long) and were happy to be getting rest again.
Did your baby struggle with sleep regressions? What did you find helped the most?