Suddenly, your little one may stop sleeping as well as before and tend to wake up more often overnight. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but don’t worry! There are positive steps you can take to help improve their sleep habits.
What causes it?
If you’re wondering why your baby has suddenly started falling asleep less and waking up more often, it might be because of the notorious four-month regression. This big growth spurt can throw off their sleeping habits and leave parents feeling exhausted and frustrated.
The so-called Four Month Regression is not actually a regression at all, but rather a sleep milestone in your baby’s growth. As your baby grows, their sleeping patterns become more adult-like and will stay that way for the rest of their life. When your baby was a newborn, they could easily fall asleep with little effort on your part. According to The National Sleep Foundation, newborns spend half of their time sleeping in REM sleep and half in quiet NREM sleep. In comparison, adults only spend around 20-25% of the night in REM sleep. The higher percentage of REM for newborns means that they cycle through light stages of sleep quickly before reaching quiet sleep and then REM sleep again.
Around the 3rd or 4th month of your baby’s life, their brain starts to grow and develop more like an adult. As a result, they tend to spend less time in REM sleep – only about 30% by the age of 6 months. It can take longer for them to move from Stage 1 Sleep to Stage 2 to Stage 3 and 4. Deep sleep is characterized by lower body temperature, heart rate, and little chance of waking up. When babies wake up soon after being put down to sleep, it’s usually because they haven’t reached deep sleep yet and are easily disturbed.
What can I do about it?
Unless they need something specific like food or are uncomfortable, your baby is likely waking up because they don’t know how to transition back to sleep on their own. But there are ways to encourage positive sleeping habits!
Babies need practice connecting their sleep cycles. Adults wake up multiple times during the night as well, but most of us know how to fall back asleep quickly. If your baby hasn’t had enough practice falling asleep independently, they’ll have trouble staying asleep. To avoid this issue, offer extra support and try steps to help them learn independent sleep skills.
Soon enough, you may see an increase in total quiet time overnight and reduced waking minutes. Providing a calm, quiet, and dark environment and being ready to respond when needed can also lead to better growth and development for your growing child.
The American Academy of Pediatrics supports the “graduated extinction” method for sleep training. Slowly increasing the time you wait to respond to your crying baby after putting them down to sleep is one approach recommended by the AAP.
The idea is to provide comfort and support while your child learns to self-soothe and fall asleep independently. Consider this a gentler approach to the cry-it-out method, which involves not responding to tears.
It’s also important to keep in mind that your little one is growing and developing at an incredible rate. They’re mastering new skills and their head is buzzing with all kinds of exciting things. All this growth can lead to some discomfort and restlessness at night – and more wake ups than before.
Encouraging your baby to stay active during the day can help build sleep pressure and lead to better sleeping habits at night. Try offering new activities, such as tummy time or playing with toys, to keep your little one engaged and growing.
What if baby feeds more at night?
Feeding your baby frequently during the day may reduce waking at night. Keep in mind that your baby may not be ready to stop night feeds completely: A 4-month-old baby usually requires four to six ounces of milk every three to five hours.
You can aim to reduce night feeds by feeding every three hours during the day and trying to maintain a four- or five-hour gap between feedings at night. This tactic can be particularly useful if your baby still wants to eat every two hours.
You can move feedings to the beginning of your baby’s bedtime routine around the time of the 4-month sleep regression. This can help them fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer, as they will not associate feeding with sleep.
If baby wakes up within just two hours after a feed and falling asleep, try to soothe them back to sleep without a giving a feed.
What if nothing helps my baby sleep?
Feeling like you’re at a loss and not sure how to move forward? If you’ve been doing everything to encourage positive sleep habits during this time and nothing is working, you’re not alone. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure about what steps to take.
You might be surprised at how much of a difference a few small changes can make. With a little extra effort and some key strategies, you can reduce the total amount of time your child spends falling asleep and provide a quiet, restful environment that promotes growth and development.
Whether you’re ready to start trying new techniques right away or just looking for some guidance and encouragement, I’m here to provide the individualized care and attention your child needs.
From overnight feedings to increasing total sleep time, I’ll work with you to ensure a peaceful nighttime for your family.
And with my free complimentary call, you can pick my brain and get some expert advice without any pressure or obligations. So why not reach out? If you want to learn more, you can read about my babies and toddler/big kid plans here.