By Hadley Seward, Pediatric Sleep Consultant and Founder of Bonne Nuit Baby
Most new parents have heard of the four-month sleep regression. Just when you thought you’re in the groove, everything gets crazy again: short naps, multiple overnight wake-ups… the list goes on.
It’s true that sleep can get wonky around 16 weeks. Your baby’s body and brain are making huge developmental leaps, all of which coincide to disrupt sleep and leave us parents worried that we’ll never sleep again. And guess what? The changes to your baby’s sleep are here to stay, but the sleep disruptions that accompany them don’t have to.
As a new mom, I was TERRIFIED of this period, as I had heard so many horror stories. I got through it in one piece, and have since worked with hundreds of moms who did, too–so I can say with confidence that you will, too. Here are my top suggestions for surviving this first sleep regression:
The architecture of your baby’s sleep changes permanently around 16 weeks. That’s right–the four month sleep regression isn’t a regression at all, it’s a progression! If your baby’s sleep goes crazy around the 4-month-mark, then it’s time to make adjustments to her schedule and help her develop healthy sleep habits. Some things to bear in mind:
She is now more sensitive to her sleep environment. Just like it would be difficult for you to take a nap in a bright room, it’s tough for your baby to, especially as she becomes more aware of the world around her. Babies–especially after the age of 16 weeks–sleep best in cave-like conditions: super dark, cool, and quiet. You also want to prioritize crib naps whenever possible, as that’s where they will get the most restorative sleep.
Her sleep cycle has lengthened. It’s normal for newborn’s naps to vary widely: one nap is 20 minutes and the next is two hours. Once your baby turns 4 months, her daytime sleep cycle is approximately one hour, so aim for the majority of their naps to be at least that long. If your little one is waking often at the 30- or 45-minute mark, then you may want to consider nap training.
You’ll need to come up with a long-term plan. The great thing about this age is that you can begin to shape healthy sleep habits that will last throughout childhood. The bad news is that you will likely be tempted to re-introduce more overnight feeds or other interventions in response to more frequent wakings. Unless your child’s pediatrician suggests continuing frequent overnight feeds, try your best to stick to what was working before. Examine whether you’re feeding for comfort or for nutrition. If it’s the former, consider an overnight weaning strategy.
You’ll get through it. The four-month regression (or progression) is real and it might not be pretty, but, like true regressions, it will pass. Hang in there! If you make some changes now, you’ll set your little one up for sleep success down the road!