I have been a little absent this week, and I might be a little absent for the next month or so (we’ll see!), because my daughter has run head first into the 4 month sleep regression. My daughter is a much more adaptable baby than my son was, and I had tricked myself into thinking that maybe her journey through this sleep regression would just be a little blip on the sleep radar, but gentle readers, I was wrong. Oh, so wrong!
Sleep regressions are a normal part of a baby’s development through the first few years of life, and are characterized by a baby suddenly refusing naps and bedtime, waking a lot at night, taking very short naps, and generally turning into a fussbutt. You think you’re going crazy, because what happened to your adorable, smiling, happy baby? Where did she go? It’s not you, though! It’s totally just a sleep regression.
The 4 month sleep regression has the dubious honor of being the only sleep regression that is permanent. What I mean by that is, the 4 month sleep regression is caused by a permanent change in the way your baby sleeps, and the associated miserable-ness is really your baby doing her darnedness to re-learn how to sleep under new conditions. I am not a sleep scientist, but from what I understand, babies under 4 months-old are almost always in deep sleep. Around 4 months, this changes, and babies start to sleep more like adults, cycling between light sleep and deep sleep continuously. A lot of the symptoms of the 4 month regression are your baby going, “What the heck is this light sleep thing, and how do I make it go away?!”
Although I have met many parents who swear that their baby has been sleeping well since they were 6 weeks-old, I have met many more who hit 4 months-old and started to fall apart. You’ve been getting up a minimum of twice a night to feed the baby for four months, and maybe you weren’t sleeping well during the later stages of the pregnancy, and maybe you are the rare adult like me who needs 9 hours of sleep to be a happy person. You think you’re finally getting the hang of this exhaustion thing, and then, BOOM! Your baby is suddenly not napping and waking up 10 times a night! Awesome, right?
The 4 month regression is a time for self-care if there ever was one. This is the time to call in all favors, to pay all the babysitters, to get a night nurse for even one night if you can. Get the teenager across the street to hold the baby for an hour so you can take a nap. Order pizza for dinner so you can veg out in front of the TV with your baby who will suddenly only sleep if you hold her. Find other people to worry about the crumbs on the floor and the dishes in the sink. The regression can last anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks, and you will make it through, but you need to pace yourself. And above all, you need to sleep, as much as you possibly can.
There is some good news associated with the sleep regression! Once it’s over, your baby is mature enough to learn how to fall asleep by herself, and to fall back asleep on her own if she wakes up at night and it’s not time to eat yet. She might not *want* to do that, and you might not feel ready to teach her, but after the 4 month regression, you *can* teach her if you want to. In my opinion, there is ZERO point in sleep training of any kind before 4 months. I know lots of people disagree, and you can certainly get to 4 months in better or worse shape, considering, but I think a lot of new parents work way to hard on sleep in the first few months, see it all fall apart during the regression, and then are just too exhausted to make any real strides after the regression ends. And that’s honestly a shame, because after the regression is the best time to start sleep training – your baby is finally ready! You could probably all use some good sleep!
Anyway, I’m going to try to keep posting a few times a week, but if I completely disappear, now you know where I am. I am frantically bouncing/rocking/climbing stairs trying to get this baby to sleep.