Dr. Sarah Mitchell
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The 4 month Sleep Regression – The Reasons Why

We often hear mom’s say their child is going through a 4 month sleep regression. Is this an actual entity or an urban legend. My little one just turned 4 months and there have been a few changes in her that I’ve noticed.

1. Increased awareness and attention – at this stage of development, your LO (loved one) is becoming more and more aware of the world around her.

This is a lovely parenting stage as the smiles come easily and the giggles are heart melting. “This is the best stage”, I would hear myself exclaim, on a high from her connectedness. This increased awareness of surroundings is one of the reasons that I believe it is important to lay down good sleeping habits before 4 months.

Many authors out there say no sleep training before 4 months. The nuance here is “sleep training”. There is such a variation on what sleep training is that I find this sweeping statement to be too vague, and a disservice to many parents.

There are lots of things you can implement before 4 months that involve creating opportunity and expectations, without creating any stress or anxiety for you or your little one.

For example, if I rock my child to sleep every time its bedtime, that will become one of her expectations associated with sleep. However, if I lay my child down awake at each sleep time, this provides her with the opportunity to learn how to soothe herself to sleep, and it creates the expectation that I will not be rocking, nursing or holding her to sleep. She is responsible and able to put herself to sleep. Of course, there will be times that she needs help, but without giving her the opportunity to soothe herself, she will ALWAYS need that sleep crutch.

If you have been nursing, rocking, holding your child to sleep, at 4 months you will notice an increase in night time wakes. This is due to increased awareness of her surroundings. She wakes up and wants Mom, or someone, to put her back to sleep with rocking, nursing etc because she knows no other way.

2. Consolidated Night Sleep – at this stage, your LO will start to develop a regular wake up time. Usually sometime between 6 and 7 am, where previously it could have been between 7 – 9 am. This earlier wake up time can seem like a big jump for Mom and Dad.

3. Naps transition from 4 to 3. Somewhere around 4-5 months, your child may start to move from 4 naps down to 3 naps, and their bedtime becomes earlier, between 6:00 and 7:30 pm. During any nap transitions, parents and baby are working on adapting their schedule and the opportunity for overtiredness, due to not reading her signs accurately, can occur. Night wakings are a huge sign of overtiredness. Not getting enough daytime naps in, or having a bedtime that is too late.

Many new parents reason that if you keep a baby up later, they will sleep more soundly or sleep in later in the morning. This is actually the opposite. Rarely will a child’s wake up change due the time they are put to sleep. Keeping them up past the “window of opportunity” to go down easily, will make them overtired, resulting in night wake ups, not to mention a long process of getting them to go to sleep in the first place.

The 4 month sleep regression probably does exist due to the factors mentioned above, but will vary from household to household based on the baby’s aptitude to be able to soothe themselves to sleep.

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