Most women who have had babies in the last couple of years will have heard of the 4 month sleep regression, and possibly been terrified by it.
But people with older children probably won’t. Although the researchers who wrote The Wonder Weeks, discovered it more than 5 years ago, it has only in the last year or so become a big issue here, inducing pale faces and a feeling of dread in mothers with very young babies. Or making mums who have been through it, breath a sigh of relief having survived it.
If you’ve not heard of it, in brief, the 4 month sleep regression is a time when babies start to go through a number of developmental changes, one of which is their sleeping patterns becoming more grown-up, developing sleep cycles of light and deep sleep, which they hadn’t been doing previously. The problems occur when they come into a light sleep, and because they are going through other developmental shifts, instead of falling back to sleep, they may wake up and make a fuss. This can create disturbed nights with numerous wakings or very brief naps with a lot of crying because your baby becomes increasingly over-tired.
The problem with giving this developmental shift a name, is that it has now become a dreaded time for many mothers who already have enough to think about with a new baby. And although all babies go through the changes that may cause their sleep to change, it doesn’t actually affect all babies. I know many who have slept well until they were 6/9/12/18 months, and then something has happened to change their sleeping habits. And I know of others who seem to have taken an instant disliking to sleep from the moment the left the womb.
I see “sleep regressions” happening at all ages, but I prefer not to label them as that – I prefer “blip” or “a habit that needs changing”. I speak to mums who say their babies are going through the 4 month sleep regressions, but on further questioning discover that it started around 3 months or earlier, or that the baby never really slept well. So a “sleep regression” can hit at any time, but how you deal with it will determine how long it lasts.
There is tonnes of advice about surviving a “sleep regression”, and there are many ways, but in my opinion, if your baby’s sleeping seems to be changing, try not to start changing what YOU do. Instead, remain consistent with your behaviour, maintain your usual bedtime and naptime routines, and see if things settle down after a week or two. If they don’t, you then need to work out what you need to change. You may need to make changes to your daily routine, or your baby’s diet (if they’re older), or even think about how you respond to your baby’s crying.
But whatever happens, you will come out the other side of the difficult times. And if you need help, I’M HERE! Just drop me an email or call me…
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