Sleep and your four-month-old

I have many mums who come to me with their 4-5 month babies wondering why their little ones are suddenly waking up every hour or every 2 hours and sometimes even every 15 minutes.

Is this the dreaded four-month regression?

Well, my mentors describe the stage perfectly as a four-month Progression and not a regression. It is a pronounced developmental period and disruptions are expected and it is NORMAL!

Your little four-month old is discovering the world around him. He, at this stage, is going through both physical and neurological growth. There is a burst of cognitive awareness, which brings with it an increased sense of smell, taste and hearing. They are learning to sit up, use their hands to grasp, turn and pass objects, recognising their names, rolling over etc.

Feedings will be distracted. Their keen sense of sight begins to take focus on new things. Simple things like shadows, sunlight and bright lights will fascinate him, interest him. Food and sleep is the last thing they think about. And if he is distracted with his feeds during the day, he will wake at night to make up for his calories. There will also be times when your little one might just need more food to help him through his growth spurts. Waking up to feed is normal and therefore it is important not to wean off any night feeding, or stretch feeds thinking that it may help them sleep through the night. Sleep patterns start to change. Often many babies fight naps – you may see shorter naps or babies fighting naps, you see them get clingier.

It is therefore advisable around this time to not make dramatic changes. There is a reason why scientific evidence does not support sleep training newborns or young infants. With all the variability in feeding and sleeping patterns, we would also pose a risk to attachment and growing and developing brains. Distraction during feeds, trouble sleeping, being clingy, quick change in mood i.e. happy one minute, crying the next and/or quiet at times are some of the signs that new skills are emerging.

Babies can’t help themselves and it is Really OK to do what works at this time. If nursing to sleep, rocking to sleep, patting to sleep is working at this age then go ahead and help them. If by doing all this your little one is clocking the stretch he needs at this age then you should not think twice about it being a bad habit. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. Enjoy this time because before you know it, your little one will be all grown up and may not enjoy being cuddled all the time. I know I miss that with my little threenager!

It is important to note that naps too really start to consistently develop at around 6 months of age. And once the night sleep falls in place naps too will fall in place.

Habits can all be changed, as they get older. The best time to make any changes is 6 months onward. At this time they will be developmentally ready to learn independent sleep skills and you will also have long-term success.

While some babies may be able to learn the skills at 4-5 month of age, this is something that should be very carefully evaluated by a trained sleep consultant with specific training at this age.

So what can you do…

  • Firstly, remember that this fussy stage can last anywhere from 1-6 weeks.
  • Get him to sleep at the first sign of sleepiness and avoid getting him overtired by keeping him up too long. Fill in his day time sleep tank any which way you can. If naps are good night will better.
  • Have a good bedtime routine. It does not have to be long. Simple, consistent and predictable routines with a bath, massage, nurse, bed will suffice too. Simple consistent bedtime routines act as a cue for the baby that it’s time to go to sleep. In case he wakes up at night, keep your interactions minimal as you help him go back to sleep.

If you cannot wait and really need to get sleep back on track then please feel free to check my website and we can work out a gentle sleep coaching plan most apt for this stage. I am a certified Gentle Sleep Coach. You do not have to cry it out, you do not have to stop co-sleeping if that is what you want and YOU DO NOT HAVE TO STOP FEEDING. I work with parents of children ages 6 months to 6 years old. Babies under 6months I will consult with parents on how to set up healthy sleep habits from the start and if appropriate how to gently shape their sleep.


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