I hear this story time and time again from clients during our initial phone consultation, “Taylor, she slept great for the first 3 months of her life and we thought we got lucky. Then all of a sudden she decided she didn’t like sleep anymore! What happened to our sleep loving baby?!”. Oh and this is one phase I heard all throughout my pregnancy that I know some of you have heard as well, “Oh…..you just get ready. Once the four month regression hits, you will never sleep again.” Does that sound familiar? The four month regression is a lot of the time when I get phone calls from parents in desperate need of guidance because they’re once sleeping all night baby is now up ALL HOURS of the night. This is the first of many regressions (6 total) your baby will go through during their first two years of life. Yes, you hear me right. It’s only the FIRST! These regressions, although a bit disrupting to our schedules, are very good for your child to go through because it signify’s that your baby is growing and developing at the rate that they should be. It’s a GOOD thing! It’s not a matter of “if” your baby will experience the four month regression, ALL babies experience it and need to! In this blog, I am going to discuss when you commonly see the four month regression occur, common signs, what is happening in your littles body during the regression and how you can help them through this big milestone of their lives.
When does the four month regression commonly occur?
Although this regression is called the “four” month regression it doesn’t mean that the signs of a regression start on the day your baby turns four months old. Some babies start experiencing it a whole month or 2 weeks before they hit 4 months old and some even start to experience a few weeks after turning 4 months old. The best indicator is your baby’s due date. I HIGHLY recommend you get the Wonder Weeks app to help you estimate when your baby will go through this big milestone. Worth every penny!
What are common signs of the four month regression?
Here are some common signs to look for as your baby approaches 4 months old:
- More wakings in the night (1-2 feedings in the night are normal at this age)
- Short naps (when once used to take several consistent naps during the day)
- Fussiness (for no foreseen reason)
- A new physical skill is being developed such as rolling or lifting the head (this is a BIG indicator)
What is happening during the four month regression?
Around 4 months of age, your baby transitions from a newborn who can sleep anywhere regardless of noise, stimulation, environment, to becoming much more aware of their surroundings and going from newborn sleep to baby sleep. This regression brings permanence to it, not in the regression sense, but in the fact that your baby is adopting sleep habits more in line with the way adults sleep: taking longer to fall asleep, moving around during the night, and even waking up and falling back to sleep during the night. Your baby is also establishing what’s called “object permanence,” realizing that when you put them down for sleep and leave the room, that you still exist even though you’re no longer in the room with them. Many babies aren’t happy with this realization and it can cause a disruption in sleep. Your child may also be working on new physical skills such as being able to roll over from tummy to back and can distract them from sleeping. So to answer the question in short, A LOT is going on your littles body during this period of their life which can cause disruption in sleep for a period of time.
How can I help my baby through this regression?
First start by filling your grace tank. For you and your child. If you are a first time mom this regression can feel never ending. Give yourself grace. You are learning and will make mistakes. It’s okay! Give grace to your baby too knowing that there is so much going on in their little bodies for the very first time. They are seeing the world completely different than they ever have and it’s a lot for them.
Second, practice that skill they have been working so hard on recently. Tummy time is your friend! Practice rolling and lifting the head. Head strength is so important for your baby. When they are awake practice, practice, practice.
Third, if you haven’t been consistent in establishing a sleep routine for naps and bedtime up to this point, now is the time to begin implementing them, while your baby is still young. Your baby is much more aware of their surroundings now and will learn to anticipate routine and what’s happening next, and find a great deal of comfort and security in knowing what’s next in their routine that leads to bedtime and falling asleep.
Fourth, consider changing their sleep environment if they are still in your bedroom for sleep. Babies truly sleep better in their own environment and 4 months is a big milestone for this transition. During this regression your baby is so much more aware of their surroundings. So much so that babies are more distracted while sleeping in their parents room than if they were in their own space. If transitioning right now is not in the cards, consider a SlumberPod. This allows your baby to still sleep in your room but in their own dark space. Environmental changes can make a worlds difference.
How long will this regression last?
Two weeks is typically how long I will see a regression last. If longer, I would guess that maybe now some new “habits” have been established from the parents to help put baby back to sleep during the regression that are now lingering due to just trying to survive. I totally get it! It happens so often and it doesn’t mean you are bad parents! It just means you love your baby and you didn’t know what else to do! If this is you, know that you can make changes and your baby can become a self soother if you desire. If consistent with good sleep habits a regression will typically not last longer than 2 weeks.
I know the four month regression gets a bad rap because it does in a sense throw things off a bit, but try to see this period of your baby’s life as a milestone. Something that in the end is very positive. If your baby is not quite 3-4 months old and you want to get a head start on good habits please message me and we can start you on The Hatchling Plan! This is by far my favorite plan and has NOTHING to do with sleep training and all about sleep conditioning. If you start out with good habits, the 4 month regression isn’t as bad as people make it out to be because baby is already set up for success. If you are in the thick of the four month regression and have created some new habits that keeps your baby a sleep but you up all night, please know that you can reach out to me and we can make a plan to change things! I am here for you!