Right around 14-16 weeks you might notice your baby’s sleep starting to regress. Even if they were sleeping fairly well up until that point suddenly (almost overnight) they could start waking every 2-3 hrs. like they did when they were a newborn.
The reason for this is that at around 4 month’s your baby’s sleep cycles mature. They are moving forward developmentally but this can mean their sleep regresses. They will start to cycle between light and deep sleep more frequently the way adults do somewhere between 14-16 weeks. As they come to partial awakenings during the night they may wake and cry. Or you may just see that they are wiggling around and making noises more frequently than before. You will be tempted to go in and tend to them but I would highly recommend that you pause and assess before you do anything,
WHAT TO DO:
If you have a baby that you have been working on independent sleep with and they have learned how to put themselves to sleep fairly well by now, then the best thing to do is to let them work through it as much as you can without intervening. If you do need to intervene, offer the minimal amount of intervention needed to get them back to sleep. Assist without OVER assisting. As moms, we tend to over assist and many times we jump to feeding our baby when hunger is not the reason they’re waking. Remember the first 6 hours of the night is a baby’s deepest sleep and this is still the easiest time of night for babies to put themselves back to sleep. Intervening too soon or assuming your baby suddenly needs to be fed will only make the situation worse. If they are going through a growth spurt then offer more feeds or more ounces per feed during the day or cluster feed before bed. These are all ways to sneak in some extra calories.
WHAT TO EXPECT:
Once babies come out of deeper sleep (usually around 1 am) they will cycle in and out of light and deep sleep but the deep sleep won’t be as deep as it was at the beginning of the night. Your baby’s sleep cycles last anywhere from 45-90 min. so that means that they could potentially be waking every 1-2 hours for the remainder of the night.
A baby that has not developed solid sleep habits by this age will usually regress significantly. A baby that has solid sleep habits, is fairly proficient at soothing themselves and a solid age-appropriate daytime and bedtime routine in place, will probably not regress at all. Or if he does it will be minor and easy to manage.
This is one of the reasons I teach the importance of developing healthy sleep habits at an early age and to not using “sleep crutches” to get your baby to sleep. If you have worked on establishing good habits in the first 3 months of life, then you should have a baby who is sleeping approximately 9 -12 hours by about 12-14 weeks old. Then you will have about a month for your baby to be in the habit of sleeping solidly at night before you hit the 4-month regression. At that point, your baby has developed a solid habit of sleeping through the night (or mostly through) and soothing himself to sleep and back to sleep. This helps so the 4-month sleep regression will be a hiccup rather than a full-fledged regression.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Does my baby have a consistent bedtime routine?
- Is my baby falling asleep at bedtime and for naps independently most of the time?
- Does my baby have their own sleep space? (this is a good time to move baby out of your room as most babies sleep better in a separate sleep space at this age
- Is the sleep environment nice and dark? Am I using white noise for all sleep times?
- Do I understand my baby’s wake windows and I am confident that he is not overtired going to bed?
- Is my baby getting in at least 5-6 full feeds during the day?
If the answer to any of these questions is no then reach out to me so we can start shaping your baby’s habits now. 4-month regression or not, you can always work on making small changes to move your baby toward healthy sleep habits.
Also, try to remember that not only is this happening because your baby is going through a developmental leap but that it is TEMPORARY! It typically lasts 2-4 weeks ( I know this feels like a lifetime when you’re getting broken sleep!) but your baby will emerge from it and go back to sleeping well usually by 5 months, if not before. If that doesn’t happen then call me so we can help get him back on track and reshape any habits that have taken root during this time frame.