Sleep regression is a bitch. At five and a bit months old, we’ve spent the last month trying to do what we can to not throw our otherwise perfect baby girl out of the bedroom window. But we survived, just. I don’t know how, but we did.
When I sat down to write this post, I thought about all of the different ways that I could try to show the sudden switch in behaviour that four month sleep regression brings about in your little one. After careful consideration and many re-writes, I thought the best way would be to demonstrate it using the genius that is Harry Enfield.
Obviously the context is different, but the message is just the same. Once your sprog hits a certain age, they just change. There is no warning. There is nothing you can do. You just have to deal with it. Have a watch of the video then we’ll pick up from there…
Everything was going well with Baby L in terms of going to sleep when she was approaching four months of age. We’d managed to get into some sort of routine in which she would go to sleep around 7.30pm in her Moses basket downstairs with us after a bit of screaming. The sprog would then often stay asleep until we went to bed around midnight when our clumsy handling and nappy change would wake her from her slumber. She was then fed by the missus’ boob juice, either directly from the boob or by me giving her a bottle, then she’d fall back to sleep quite easily in her Moses basket next to us.
On a good night, she’d wake around 5am for a feed, before going back to sleep and waking again around 8am. An average night would see her wake an additional time in the early hours, so something a bit more like 3am, 6am and 9am. Each time, a short feed would pretty much knock her out until she next chose to open those pretty little eyes of hers.
We were pretty chuffed with this routine. It wasn’t the best thing in the world, but it was manageable. That was until she reached four months old…
Just like Kevin the teenager in the Harry Enfield sketch, her usual sleeping behaviour literally changed overnight. During the same timeframe of 7.30pm to midnight, it became common place for her to wake three or four times – a considerable and annoying increase on her previous behaviour. During the night, she would wake at least every two hours, with every hour not an uncommon occurrence.
We were demoralised. We thought that we’d cracked this parenting malarky, but all of a sudden we were lost again. No matter what we tried – larger feeds, white noise, dark room etc – she would continue to wake after a shorter than usual amount of time. As the missus was breastfeeding, this took a bigger toll on her than it did on me as she was being forced to wake up more frequently during the night. The little angel had become a little shit. It was very cute to see the little one laughing and finding her voice, but not necessarily at 3am!
That was when we discovered that this was totally normal and sleep regression around the four month mark is actually a thing. This helped us to realise we hadn’t turned into failures overnight and it was just something that most babies go through. We were sent an extremely useful article on four month sleep regression written by Wee Bee Dreaming which helped us to understand things a bit more and change what we did to accommodate the little one.
I strongly recommend having a read of the above article, but to summarise, we learnt that sleep regression hits babies around three/four months, nine months, and 18 months, so we have another two of these regressions to look forward to! We also learnt that babies go through a lot changes at four months old which can all contribute to a regression, for instance:
- Sleep becomes more like an adult’s. The baby enters a lighter sleep stage of non-REM before the non-REM deep sleep stage meaning they are more likely to wake.
- Babies are often unswaddled at this age (because they learn to roll and it is unsafe to keep them swaddled), but they still have the startle reflex which can wake them up.
- A babies sleep pattern matures and nightsleep is consolidated, so babies are likely to start waking earlier, i.e. from 7am – 8am to 6am.
- Regressions occur around the same time as nap transitions, i.e. when a baby goes from four naps during the day down to three.
We also thought that Baby L was experiencing a growth spurt and had started teething, so throw all of these things into the mix and you end up with an unsettled baby and weary parents! One of the key points we learnt from our research was that a baby’s bedtime should be brought forward in order to help combat some of the changes occurring. To quote from Wee Bee Dreaming:
“It is a very common misconception that putting your baby to bed later will help them to sleep in – it is the exact opposite that is true. Putting your baby to bed later in hopes that they will start to sleep in will only backfire and lead to an overtired baby who will in turn wake up even earlier. This early to bed, early to rise pattern is here to stay and trying to fight it is going against baby’s natural sleep rhythms.”
So, at a wits end, we thought we’d change things around a bit to see if we could improve the situation. Rather than her going to sleep around 7.30pm, we brought forward her bedtime to 6.00pm, as well as started putting her to bed upstairs and away from us for the first time. This was a pretty massive change and pretty scary, but has been much better (note: invest in a baby monitor with camera and sensor pad, it gives you loads of reassurance!). She still wakes up during the evening and early hours, but things seem to have settled down a bit now that she’s reached five months old. Our bedtime routine now consists of:
- Not allowing the little one to sleep later than 4.30pm – if she sleeps later than this, it could mean she doesn’t go to sleep later.
- Similarly, we try not to feed her after 4.00pm so that she is ready to fill her stomach before bedtime.
- Bath around 5.30pm – sometimes we bring it forward depending on how grumpy she is (tiredness or hungry) as a bath usually distracts her.
- Change her, put her into a sleep bag, prepare a bottle of expressed milk (around 4 oz) and feed her just before 6pm.
- Put her down in her SnuzPod upstairs and she usually goes to sleep straight away.
- Depending on her mood, she then sleeps for around three hours before waking for a few minute feed, before going back to sleep.
- She then wakes two / three times in the night, again for a few minute feed before going back to sleep.
- She’s normally awake around 7am, but we sneakily put her into the bed with us so we can get another hour or so of sleep.
Her sleep pattern and length of time asleep still isn’t as good as it was before she reached four months, but it is better than it was during the regression. Although, having said that, she’s just had her third set of injections and appears to be teething again, so the past few nights have been a ballache.
Ultimately, I think you’ve just got to take each day as it comes and try not to get down about things. Just because your baby regresses, it doesn’t mean that it is your fault or something that you’ve done wrong. The important point to remember though is that babies will go through regressions and come out the other side, hopefully with a better routine than before they hit the regression.
Did your baby go through four month sleep regression? How did you manage to cope / survive, or didn’t you? Do you have any advice on what you did that went well or what you tried that didn’t work? Please let me know in the comments below!