This might be the first time you’ve heard of a sleep regression, or perhaps you already know it a little too well. But what exactly is it? What is a regression? And what can you do?
WHAT IS A SLEEP REGRESSION?
A ‘sleep regression,’ despite its name, is an extremely exciting time for your child’s development. During these significant “regressions,” your child is going through some mastery of new skills that, unfortunately, sometimes have a substantial impact on how they sleep. These are all very natural phases for your baby, but it can be highly distressing as these developmental milestones can manifest in:
- Increased fussiness
- Increased night wakings
- Difficulty going to sleep
- Difficulty soothing
- Eating Less or more frequently
The key to managing through these regressions is understanding what is happening with your child.
WHAT IS THE 4-MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION?
This regression is, by far, the most impactful on your child’s sleep. Many families describe this phase as a sudden change in sleep habits, where their child, who was once sleeping through the night after being fed, all of a sudden has started waking multiple times in the middle of the night and taking nothing but short naps. In addition, they seem to be awakening much more frequently. This may certainly feel like a big step BACK, but in fact, it’s your child’s sleep cycle actually maturing. Their sleep cycles begin to develop to look much more like an adult’s sleep cycle. Before this milestone, your child had two stages of sleep, starting in light sleep and then moving into a deep sleep. Once your child starts to develop their sleep cycle, they will have five stages of sleep, starting in a deep sleep, with every step afterward being lighter and lighter.
During the day, your child may be waking fulling at 45 mins and night every 2 hours as they have a more challenging time connecting sleep cycles without assistance. It becomes quite a vicious cycle as overtiredness can sometimes creep in due to catnaps leading to difficult bedtimes. This is why this time marks a huge opportunity to teach your child independent sleep skills so they can benefit from falling back asleep between their sleep cycles for more restorative sleep.
Unfortunately, however, this regression is permanent. Now, some children do not get impacted by this change as much as others, and those who already are independently sleeping may not feel the impacts of this either. Therefore, the only way to make it through the 4-month sleep regression is to either help your child connect each sleep cycle, which can be every 2-3 hours at night, or teach them how to independently fall asleep without sleep associations.
WHAT ARE SLEEP ASSOCIATIONS?
These are things that your child needs to fall asleep. It’s the vehicle they use to go from drowsy to asleep. As they become more aware and increase their lighter beginning stages of sleep, their dependency on this also becomes stronger around this age. Here is a list of typical sleep associations that require intervention and may hinder independent sleep:
- Bottle feeding or nursing at night
- Rocking, Patting
- Stroller, Carseat rides
- Pacifier if they are unable to replace it on their own
So what can you do to survive?
These are the best ways to restore as much sleep as possible.
- Identify your sleep associations and begin to wean them.
- Teach them independent sleep skills.
- It will be more critical than before to have a solid sleep space.
- Be consistent - in bedtime, nap time, and routines. Regressions can throw off the routine and, out of exhaustion, can lead to worse habits. Avoid this at all costs. If you haven’t incorporated a bedtime routine or a nap routine, start one that you can stick to and use as a sleep cue.
If you need help navigating through this, you can always reach out. Whether you are looking for 1:1 coaching or DIY options to create your own family sleep plan, I want to make sleep accessible to you.
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