This episode is all about the dreaded 4 month old sleep regression. I ALWAYS get asked about this regression. I’m going to explain what happens during the 4 month old sleep regression and what you should do to navigate this milestone and maximize your little one’s sleep.
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Eva Klein (00:04):
Hey there, you’re listening to the My Sleeping Baby podcast, which is all about baby and child sleep. I’m so excited to teach you how you can get your little one sleeping so that you can sleep too and enjoy parenthood to its fullest.
I’m Eva Klein, your resident sleep expert, mom of three, founder of the Sleep Bible online coaching program, and lover of all things sleep and motherhood. If you’re looking for tangible solutions for your little one sleep woes or you simply want to learn more, this podcast is for you. For more information, check out MySleepingBaby.com and you can follow me on Instagram and Facebook @MySleepingBaby.
Eva Klein (00:47):
So let’s talk all about the 4 month old sleep regression today. This is something that I get asked about all the time. So I want to explain what it is, what it isn’t, what’s causing this famous regression and what you can do about it.
So here’s a really common scenario that maybe some of you can relate to. So your little one is maybe two or three months old and sleep is manageable, right? You know, you have to help your little one fall asleep, but it doesn’t take you too long. Maybe she wakes up a couple times a night eats and then quickly goes back to bed, gives you some solid naps during the day. And you know, it’s manageable, it’s bearable. And then all of a sudden, your little one turns four months and all of that goes down the toilet. Suddenly it takes you over an hour to get your little one to sleep.
Eva Klein (01:42):
Suddenly her two hour naps have become 30 minutes and suddenly she’s waking up five, six times a night, and you have no idea where this came from. So the good news is that you are not alone. This is a very common phenomenon. That happens to pretty much all babies, if they need help falling asleep to begin with.
So, let me explain to you what this is and what this isn’t in terms of this famous regression. So, this might surprise you the 4 month old sleep regression actually, isn’t a real, true regression. If you can believe it, because you see a regression implies that your little one is going through a temporary phase and that all you have to do is just ride out these changes and that your little one will go back to sleeping the way that she did before and everything will be fine again.
Eva Klein (02:33):
But here’s the thing, what goes on at the four month mark is not a reflection of something temporary, it’s permanent. You see, what happens is that by the four month mark, your little ones sleep cycles mature and become more adult-like. You see, we as adults, we cycle in and out of deep and light sleep repeatedly, newborn babies don’t sleep like that.
Newborn babies are constantly in a lighter stage of sleep. And they’re typically only waking up when they need to eat, when they’re hot or cold or uncomfortable, or when they’re just done sleeping. But you see, when your baby reaches that four month mark, you can add a fourth reason as to why your little one is waking up and that’s that they need you to come in to help them fall back to sleep because, for better or for worse, your baby is not going to go back to sleeping like a newborn. Your baby is now officially an infant.
Eva Klein (03:35):
An infant cycle in and out of deep and light sleep. Just the way that adults do. And so what can cause this problem is that when you have a baby who doesn’t know how to fall asleep independently and relies on a sleep prop, such as feeding to sleep, rocking to sleep, holding to sleep, et cetera, the problem that you can find yourself in when your little one sleep cycles mature around the four to five month mark is that suddenly she’s going to need you to come and recreate those conditions to help her fall back to sleep.
And that can happen pretty often throughout the night because an infant sleep cycle is only 45 minutes long. You see what happens in an infant sleep cycle is your little one falls asleep in that first five to 10 minutes, where sleep is very, very light. And then, soon as she stays asleep, she transitions to a deeper sleep by the 10 to 15 minute mark, but it’s still pretty light by the 20 to 30 minute mark is when your little one is in pretty deep sleep.
But guess what guys? By the 30 to 40 to 50 minute mark, your little one is very quickly transitioning from deeper sleep to lighter sleep. And then by the time you get to that 40 to 50 minute mark, the sleep cycle is complete. Your little one has done that sleep cycle. And so one of two things is going to happen, either your little one is going to put himself back to sleep or he’s going to wake up. But here’s the thing, if your little one does not know how to fall asleep independently, to begin with, the likelihood of him putting himself back to sleep on his own, even if he wants to is pretty slim.
Eva Klein (05:29):
And so that’s why what happens by the four month mark really isn’t an actual literal regression by definition because it isn’t a phase, it’s not something temporary, your little one is not going to go back to sleeping like a newborn. Rather, it’s a reflection of a permanent neurological change to your little one’s sleep cycles. So here’s the million dollar question; the 4 month old sleep regression has hit, what do you do? So here’s what you don’t want to be doing.
What you don’t want to be doing is waiting it out for that magical day to come for your little one sleep to get better. Because remember this isn’t a phase. It’s not something that you just have to ride it out. It’s not going to get better with time, without anything short of a miracle happening. And so if you want to get your little one back to sleeping well, or maybe your little one never slept well to begin with, but this 4 month old sleep regression caused sleep to really go down the toilet, the answer here is to teach your little one how to sleep independently otherwise known as sleep training.
Now some of you might be hearing that term and going, but is a four month old, too young to be doing sleep training. And the answer is no, it’s not, but you see there’s a number of myths and misunderstandings around sleep training for younger babies and I wanted to spell those.
So, number one, when we talk about sleep training a four month old baby, we’re not talking about removing all night feats that refers to night weaning. Night weaning and sleep training are two different things. Night weaning refers to transferring your little one’s calories from the nighttime to the daytime. And sometimes when we do night weaning, we transfer all the calories. If we have an older baby and the baby is ready, or if we have a younger baby who still needs to eat once or twice a night, then we’ll transfer some of those calories to the day time.
Eva Klein (07:36):
So when we’re talking about sleep training a four month old baby, by no means, are we talking about removing all of your little ones night feeds because the reality is that the vast majority of babies and the four to five month range need to eat once a night. Sometimes they need to eat twice and we don’t want to have a hungry babies on our hands. That’s definitely the last thing that we want. So sleep training involves teaching your little one, how to fall asleep independently, night weaning involves removing nighttime calories. We can absolutely do one without doing the other. So that’s the first myth that I want to bust here. The second myth that I want to bust is that sleep training needs to involve leaving your baby to cry it out. In other words, the solution here needs to involve plunking your little one into the crab wide awake, say good night, leave the room and not go back in. And the reality is that that’s just not the case. There are many other approaches that we can use that will still allow you to teach your little one, how to fall asleep independently without having to leave your little one alone for an endless period of time without offering any support in the process.
Eva Klein (08:57):
So two very common examples are, one where rather than leaving him alone for that extended period, you can check on him at specific intervals of time. Another option that I use all the time is otherwise known as a gradual withdrawal method, where basically it involves you being in the room with your little one the entire time in a supportive manner, and gradually remove yourself from the equation and move further and further away every few days.
So this is not a black and white type of scenario where it’s all or nothing. And if you want to get your little one sleeping, you have to cry it out, remove all night feeds. Otherwise the problem isn’t going to get resolved, that is the furthest thing from the truth. You can absolutely be leaving in night feeds and absolutely be utilizing a sleep training approach that allows you to be there in a supportive manner. But I can tell you that as long as you continue to offer your little one these sleep crutches or sleep props throughout the night, there is a very high likelihood that these sleep issues are going to continue in some way, shape, or form because without the ability to stay asleep independently, all bets are off in terms of how often your little one is going to wake up at night after these sleep cycles and how often you’re going to have to go back in to help him fall back to sleep.
Eva Klein (10:19):
So, if your little one is currently going through the 4 month old sleep regression right now, I want to give you a lot of hope, there is so much room for improvement here. When you teach your little one, how to fall asleep independently. So let me give you an example. A mom that had joined my sleep Bible coaching program a while back had joined when her son was four and a half months old and was waking up to 20 times at night. I kid you not, I’m not exaggerating actually 20 times at night to either be rocked or fed back to sleep. And by the way, this baby was bottle fed in case you’re wondering the baby breastfeeding causing the problem. This baby was a bottle fed baby, and yet he did not know how to sleep independently. And sometimes couldn’t even make it through a full sleep cycle.
Eva Klein (11:12):
And so when she implemented a sleep plan to get this baby connecting his sleep cycles on his own, he began sleeping through the night with only one feed later on in the night, she was finally able to get herself an eight hour stretch of sleep. It’s a game changer, or I’ll give you another personal example. My own example from my middle child, when she was a baby, my middle daughter, Eliana when she was four months old, started waking up every 45 to 90 minutes all night long for her pacifier. So I touched upon this in the previous episode, all about sleep props, where she relied heavily on a pacifier to fall asleep and stay asleep. Now, it wasn’t such a big deal before she reached the four month mark because she wasn’t old enough and aware enough to be completely 100% aware all the time that the pacifier had fallen out of her mouth.
Eva Klein (12:12):
And so when she was younger, she managed to stay asleep without the pacifier, without a problem. But then once she reached that four month mark and was so much more aware of her environment and her surroundings and was completely aware of when the pacifier was in her mouth and when it was out, which was pretty often, that is when she started waking up very frequently throughout the night, leaving me the only solution to remove the pacifier from the equation completely. Teach her how to sleep independently without it, so that she could connect her sleep cycles independently. And I’m telling you guys, it was an absolute game changer. So in conclusion, the 4 month old sleep regression is not a real regression. It is not a phase that you should be simply riding out and waiting it out for things to magically, go back to the way they were before, because for better or for worse, your baby is not going to go back to being a newborn, nor is your baby going to go back to sleeping like a newborn.
Eva Klein (13:15):
Your baby is now an infant and is going to begin sleeping more and less like an adult cycling in and out of deep and light sleep. And so if we want our babies to be able to consistently connect their very short sleep cycles, having independent sleep skills is a must. It does not mean you need to be removing night feeds from the equation, nor does it mean you need to be leaving your little one to cry it out. You can absolutely sleep train your four month old while keeping in night feeds and doing so in a supportive manner so that you don’t need to be leaving your little one alone for long periods of time. So I hope that this was helpful and that you all have a wonderful day.
Eva Klein (14:04):
Thank you so much for listening. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, leave a review and share this episode with a friend who can benefit from it. I also love hearing from my listener. So feel free to DM me on Instagram @MySleepingBaby, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until next time, have a wonderful, restful night sleep
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