So you're baby has finally begun to sleep all night, and you're high-fiving yourself for all the hard work that got you up to this point (or working tirelessly to get there!) then BAM: baby is waking up at night- AGAIN. You start to go through all the guess work: "Is he hungry? Does he need me? Is he cold?" You think "This isn't supposed to be happening!" If your little one has already been sleeping soundly at night for over 8+ hours uninterrupted, or has begun to wake more frequently, you are most likely experiencing the:
DREADED FOUR MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION
What is the 4-Month sleep regression? The science stuff: During the 4th month of life, there are some BIG neurological and cognitive changes happening within baby's brain. Also sometimes referred to as "Wonder Week 19", these changes are so massive to such a tiny's baby world that they often greatly disrupt sleep. Another factor is the increase in melatonin the pineal gland secretes in baby's brain during NON-REM (deep sleep cycle) , helping baby sleep deeper. Melatonin, a natural muscle relaxer, makes it easier for your little one to enter NON-REM, and sleep though a dog barking or sibling yelling- however when passing through sleep cycles, they will awake more abruptly than before, feeling more rested and therefore have a more difficult time falling back asleep. While this happens all the time with adults, we usually know how to get ourselves back to sleep- while most infant's do not.
How do I know if this is the regression? Maybe my baby really IS hungry..... by this age, doctors will agree that healthy babies should be able to sleep for 8+ hours uninterrupted at night without a feeding. It's just science- sleep is a product of the brain, NOT the tummy (after 6 weeks gestational age). However.....have you noticed your baby becoming extremely distracted lately with siblings, art on the walls, the cat walking around, etc- during feedings? Therefore he/she might not be getting a FULL feeding (20-30 minutes for BFing Mommies, 4-8oz for bottle babes) in due to all the distractions they are beginning to notice. So it's POSSIBLE......but if you attempt to feed baby at night during one of these wakings and they aren't acting as though they are completely starving....it's most likely the regression. Keep this is mind though, it was worth a mention.
Wait, let's go back to that Wonder Week 19 real quick, doesn't that alone cause my baby to wake more often? The short answer- YES. During this growth spurt, baby can also act as though he/she is hungry nonnnnn-stop, which means the usual 3-4 hour feeding cycle could creep closer to every 2 hours. So again, hunger at night is completely possible. Aren't newborns fun?!
Ok so now I'm totally confused....what can I do?? So this can go one of two ways: if your baby was already sleeping through the night, the problem should eventually resolve on its own over the course of a few weeks, as long as you are keeping interaction to a minimum, if choosing to interact at all (I like to give babies at this age about 15-20 minutes to settle themselves back down before I intervene).
NOW….if your baby was not sleeping through the night and has now began to wake more frequently, it’s time to get to work. Four months is my favorite time as an infant sleep consultant to begin establishing healthy sleep habits. First you’ll want to work on putting down your baby “drowsy but awake” at night, with minimal-to-no parent help to lure them into sleep land. I know….rocking/walking/feeding is the only way they’ll pass out, I get it!! BUT think of the payoff: this alone will most likely decrease night wakings once baby has mastered this skill, which is all the easier for them to put themselves back to sleep during this crazy month in the middle of night. If you MUST check on them, keep the lights off, no diaper changes (unless there is a BM, then keep it quick, in the room, and as dark as possible using a black out shade, I LOVE this one) , and BORE THEM…..some babies become even more stimulated at just the glance of Mommy or Daddy, so act accordingly. And don’t be afraid of some tears when attempting to break bad habits….it’s ok for baby to cry for short periods of time while learning new, healthier habits- sometimes you just have to hear it from someone else who’s been there ;) However you respond, keep it consistent.
So now my baby is 5 months old…and things aren’t any better! HELP! This is one of the reasons why I started my consulting business- as Moms we already feel crazy enough with crying, bottle & crib transitions, nap battles and trying to remember when the last time baby ate, that often we take the path to least resistance just to get some SLEEP. If you’re sleep-deprived or simply overwhelmed parent that would greatly benefit from a good night’s sleep, visit my package options for baby HERE or toddler package HERE and let’s go over your situation, lifestyle and make a customized plan for your family that everyone is happy with!