Don't Fear The 4-Month Sleep Regression!

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You may not know it, but your baby is already on a sleep schedule. That schedule is just very different than what is ideal for most adults.

You newborn is amazing, and is most likely a sleeping champ! However, she isn't a sleeping-through-the-night champ, she is a sleeping every-now-and-then-in-your-arms champ, and that is where the questions come in.

Is my baby getting enough sleep?

When should my baby be able to sleep through the night?

HOW do I get my baby to sleep through the night?

There are four stages of sleep that we pass through:

Stage 1 - As adults, we recognize this as the drifting off period where we are not asleep but could be soon.

Stage 2 - This is the first sleep, where if woken up in this stage we realize we were not drifting but sleeping.

Stage 3 - This is a deep and restorative sleep, where your body does the work to repair and restore tissue and energy, and working on growth.

Stage 4 - This stage is when your brain engages in processing, repair, and consolidating information, called REM (Rapid Eye Movement) Sleep. This stage is also usually when dreaming happens.

Newborns do not engage in stage 1 or stage 2 sleep. From the ages of 0-3 months, they go from awake to stage 3 and 4. It is part of the reason you can usually put your sleeping infant down, and they won't wake up because they are not cycling through "light" sleep stages that make it possible.

Once your baby is near four months old, they begin using all four stages of sleep, and they can feel much harder to put to sleep. But what often gets neglected when discussing babies and sleep, is that going to sleep is a skill that needs to be learned, which means it needs to be taught.

This ability to learn this new skill is also known as the "4-month sleep regression."

This new development in your baby's sleeping style can be a considerable nuisance. However, what this new skill also allows for is your child to learn the important work of how to fall asleep. Before this time, you would feed and hold your child, possibly bounce them into an adorable sleepy baby mound. Now, your baby is developmentally prepared to do things like putting herself to sleep!

However, parents are not discussing this time as a new opportunity to teach a new skill, because most parents are overtired themselves.

To take advantage of your baby's new ability, parents can encourage behavior that could lead them down the path of sleeping more soundly, or sleeping, waking, and sleeping again without the aid of a parent to sooth them back to sleep. It has to do with 1 stage of sleep.

One of the ways parents can prepare their baby for sleep and encourage healthy sleep habits is to place the baby in their sleep space when they are still awake, but drowsy. Identifying that time is hard, mainly because the window of opportunity tends to be small! But by tracking your baby's naps through the end of their 3rd month, you can get an idea of a possible grace period that would be the "drowsy" time.

One possible senario:

  • Bring your baby to her sleeping space/room

  • Feed her to full but not to asleep

  • Change if the diaper is soiled

  • If using a sleep sack or arms out swaddle, put it your baby

  • Talk to your baby and share that you are getting her ready for their nap and you are going to put her in her crib, dim lights or close curtains, and turn on white noise machine

  • Place your baby in her crib and gently rub her tummy in a clockwise motion, or softly stroke her head from back to front

  • Once you see your baby's eyes get droopy, slowly walk to the door and close it behind you

The goal of doing this routine when your baby is still awake, is they see their surroundings and recognize them, know who put them there, and feel comfortable as they are drifting off to sleep.

As you continue to use this pattern when putting your child down for naps, they learn to associate feeling rested and calm with the room and view they have. They can learn to anticipate feeling calm and relaxed, and many babies have reached out eager for the peace they associate with that space.

If you want more information about creating peaceful sleep routines Maine Doulas are happy to help you.