Sleep regressionThe 4-month sleep regression derails babies, starting off a spiral of sleep deprivation. I’m taking you right back to my Health Visitor training in England. Parents are taught at 2-8 weeks postnatal, how to help their baby self-settle. It’s a gentle no-frills approach with very few sleep problems. Babies are put down awake in the cot, un-swaddled and tucked in with cotton sheets and blankets.
Babies are never patted, rocked or fed to sleep … ever. Parents are taught settling using a hands-on technique until the baby fell asleep.
What is it about the 4-month wonder week that makes sleep come undone?It’s the World of Events at 4-months…which are patterns and sequences, a real aha moment.
Looking at the practice of other baby sleep practitioners. Both private and health service sleep school.
A lot of babies ‘fail’ sleep school and other sleep consultants.
It’s the usual suspects – patting, rocking, holding, feeding and swaddling babies to sleep after 4 months. Patting to sleep is a big sleep crutch. It’s rhythmic and leaves an imprint on the baby falling halfway down the hierarchy of settling. Unless patted, baby can’t get back to sleep once they wake from a sleep cycle. Toddlers are also asking to be patted, saying to mum, "Pat mummy. Pat, pat mummy’." 7-month old babies are getting hold of mum’s hand, placing it on their tummy and patting.
What are parents being taught?
What is true self-settling?
Why is it the 4-month wonder week making sleep come undone?At 12 weeks (3 months) the wonder week effects, "... your baby’s ability to perceive the way things change around him." Such as a voice shifting from one pitch to another, a cat slinking across the floor, and the light in a room becoming dimmer as the sun dips behind the clouds. Your baby’s world is becoming a more organized place. He is discovering the constant, flowing changes around him".
At 19 weeks (4 months) babies move to the World of Events, which are patterns and sequences. "After the last leap forward, your baby was able to perceive smooth transitions in sound, movement, light, taste, smell, and texture. But all of these transitions had to be simple. As soon as they became more complicated, he was no longer able to follow them." (Hetty Van de Rijt PhD., & Frans Plooj, Ph.D. 2014). This is the pat, rock, and feed to sleep.
The real clincher for me was reading an online article by Dr. Lynne Murray (eminent UK psychologist) in the Mail Online. Saying if babies couldn’t recreate the thing that put them to sleep then their sleep would come undone. You can read it at this link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2661995/The-price-rocking-baby-sleep-Infants-note-going-drop-want-thing.html
‘The Psychology of Babies’ was published and I went straight to the chapter on sleep. And lo and behold, there were my UK baby sleep methods and not a mention of a pat anywhere. Babies had hands-free and un-swaddled. Hallelujah for Dr. Lynne Murray, the voice of reason and evidence-based practice.
If your baby’s sleep was predictable until now, it may all fall apart. However, there are many things you can do to help retrieve a good night's sleep. Continuing to work on building consistent sleep routines and cues. Helping baby learn certain events mean sleep is coming. You may want to work on identifying the sleep associations your baby has and teaching self-settling.
What can you do now to avoid the 4-month sleep regression?
- Stop patting, rocking, holding and feeding to sleep at 3 months
- Practice putting baby to sleep awake, in the cot, at 2-3 months
- If using a dummy avoid using it for all settling and avoid using in the night.
- Teach baby to roll over in her cot in the day.
Blog: Why we need to teach our babies to roll over
Video: How to Help Your Baby Get Ready for Rolling Over
- Practice tummy time when awake in the cot and how to lay her head down on her tummy.
Blog: Tips For The Baby Who Hates Tummy Time
Video: Teaching your Baby how to do Tummy Time and enjoy it
- Move baby to a large floor mat with toys placed a little way away from baby
Video: Teaching your 3 - 4 month old baby how to roll over - Watch Abigail & Finley do a rollover
- Avoid using the play-gym too much, it can prevent rolling over.
Case study: Why the Baby Gym May Be Delaying the Roll over in Your Baby
- Do more sleep in the cot compared to sleep in the stroller or sling.
- Stop swaddling before 4 months moving to a sleeping bag or sleep suit.
- Case study: Miss Rosalie and the sleep training - the wrap had to go!
I help families all over the world if you desperately need help managing your baby’s sleep regression.
Once your baby can self-settle the rest of those wonder weeks should go unnoticed and be quite seamless. I’ve not had a baby who can self-settle under 4-months come undone later. If you're still struggling to resolve this issue then consider joining the many parents in my Nurture Sleep Program. You can get access to my 3 decades of experience as a registered midwife and child and family health nurse via the Nurture Sleep Program.
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