Hello 4 months. The 5th trimester perhaps?! You’ve just got yourself into a pattern it seems, and now what the hell has happened?
Feeding is suddenly all over the place, napping is a thing of the past and you’re up more at night that you were last month. The newborn days are over. Gone is your sleepy snuggly baby.
You Google it and you find it everywhere. The ‘4 month sleep regression’ and how to ‘fix’ it. You’ve just got to grips with your new baby and it’s all suddenly changed, and now you have to teach them to sleep too?!
Let’s unpick this a bit.
Around about 4 months (ish) – please note the vagueness in age is not a mistake – babies are changing a lot.
Notice how your little one can now co-ordinate shoving their entire fist in their mouth? Whilst amusing to watch and somewhat confusing to understand, this is a skill that is being mastered.
Those regular smiles, occuring for particular faces, another sign of development.
More coo’ing and gurgling, even the odd belly laugh, learning more about communication every day.
The playmat just got more interesting now that they can turn themselves in circles around it, or even roll over completely.
The world suddenly just got a whole lot bigger for your baby!
In addition to these major developmental milestones (they may seem small, but it’s a lot all happening at once), their sleep cycles are also changing up dramatically. Moving from newborn sleep to a mature sleep cycle – now including all the elements of sleep that we experience as adults.
That’s a heck of a lot going on for one little person. A lot of connections being made in their brains as they grow at a colossal rate.
Your baby is BUSY! Busy growing, learning, exploring and changing.
When a parent comes to me and discusses their 4(ish) month old in this way, my first thought as a Practitioner is of relief; ‘Excellent, this baby is developing as I’d expect’, before moving on to how best to support the parents through it.
There is no regression here, only progression. Sleep may be affected by all that is going on, as is commonly the case when any of us go through any major changes, but it will settle again and is an entirely normal part of the process.
So what do we need to do as parents?
We don’t need to DO anything to our babies, they don’t need fixing. The challenges that all this development creates are totally normal.
We DO however need to find ways to cope with it.
There are a few things that can help with this time:
Try to spot your baby’s signs of dysregulation.
Are they tired, bored, hungry? Do they need a change of scenery? What behaviours do they present to show you what they need?
Broad spectrum daylight can help with a lot; use what nature gives us. Get outside, look around your environment and use the natural release of hormones that daylight gives you and your baby in your favour.
Quite the opposite of forced independence and sleep training, babywearing and/or contact napping can be a great way to help settle babies who are resisting naps and getting overtired – a very common effect of developmental progression.
What can you do to support you? If you’re struggling, then your support systems need pulling in. Do you have friends and family who can take some of the load, or are you in a position to hire some help?
Know that this is normal
Don’t waste precious energy worrying about what you ‘should’ be doing. As with all parts of parenting, look to your child and respond accordingly. Trying to ‘fix’ them and enforce routines and schedules will most likely make the situation more tiring and stressful than ever. Going with it and making the necessary changes around you to manage is going to be a more relaxing approach to continuing to enjoy your baby and parenting.
Feed when sleepy
If your baby is very distracted at feeds (another common ‘symptom’ of being 4 months old!), to maximise effective feeding in the day, try to feed your baby when they are sleepy. Perhaps as they fall asleep, alongside some other sleep cues, or as they are waking from a nap. They require plenty of calories at this age, so don’t be fooled into thinking you need to start feeding them on a schedule or stopping feeding to sleep. It is a normal, natural and really quite useful way to get calories in and sleep happening!
Above all, try to enjoy your baby. If your days feel long and dull, they likely do for your little one too. Spending hours getting them to sleep, or stuck indoors doing nothing, will feel as boring for them as it does for you. It is more difficult for some at the moment (eg. here in there UK we are still in the 3rd national lockdown), but a walk outside, looking at the spring flowers or spotting some birds and talking about all of this to your baby can make a big difference to both you and them. Many baby classes continue to run online and can help to break your day up a bit.
For more information on sleep cycles and ways to help your little one settle please head to our Online Sleep Workshop – use code NMLM10 for 10% off.
We provide in-home Maternity Support in and around Norfolk and Suffolk for those who wish for support, another pair or hands or just a chance to rest.
I’d love to know, what helped you during this time with your baby and what do you wish you’d known before?