Change Is Within Your Reach: Overcoming the Four Month Sleep Regression Stage

“The only constant thing about children is change” is a phrase we often stumble upon when researching topics related to babies, infants or even toddlers. Sadly, what children often tend to change are routines and rituals we worked very hard to establish in first place, but that does not mean you have to give up on the possibility or the ability of changing whatever you need to change in your daily life with your baby.

What parents and mostly stay-at-home mums often complain about is their unability to help their baby acquire good sleep habits whether it is for day time or night time sleep.

Sleep is most certainly one of the most challenging areas in raising little children. At small age, most parents find it very hard to hear their baby cry, and out of the best intentions they fall into a vicious hard to break circle of sleep props. A sleep prop is anything or anyone that a baby uses and depends on to go to sleep. The most common sleep props are nursing or giving a bottle to sleep, rocking or bouncing and soothers. The vicious circle of sleep props is quite hard to break not only because it is challenging to dissociate baby’s concept of sleep from the adopted prop, but also because once parents find something that works, they hang on to it tooth and nail, too scared that a small change might throw them back to sleepless/napless hell.

Well, today I am writing this article for one reason and one reason only, and that is to tell you and reassure you that change is not always bad, change does not always fail, and that if you have hit rock bottom and just need to shake things up a little bit, you can certainly do it, and yes you will succeed!

One of the most common sleep disturbance babies face is the “four month sleep regression”. When I first read about this phenomenon, I did not know who to be furious at! The only question that kept popping to my head was: “why didn’t anyone tell me about this before? And why the heck was I not prepared!?”

I often tell my husband that baby’s sleep should be followed closely and thoroughly by a physician just like any other aspect of his health. Notices should be written and given out to parents who are often in lack of information and sometimes too overwhelmed to look it up on the internet or to find a reliable source.

The “four month sleep regression” usually occurs when baby is about four to five month old. It is actually due to a drastic change in his sleep. At that age, baby’s sleep matures and becomes very similar to that of an adult. Thus a baby who was sleeping through with no problem whatsoever starts waking up at night multiple times. At the difference of a typical adult who doesn’t even remembers waking up and can easily put himself back to sleep, baby finds himself alone in his crib and starts to cry. And here comes your life-changing choice: do you go and pick baby up or do you leave him to put himslef back to sleep?

The first thing to check at this exact moment is that nothing is wrong with your baby. He is not ill, hungry, thirsty or cold, he is not in lack of affection or in need for reassurance (of course I let you be the judge of all that). If that’s the case, then relax, take a deep breath and wait till it fades out. The sooner baby understands you are not coming to his rescue every time he wakes up at night, the sooner he will learn to put himslef back to sleep and get a full good night rest! 

Of course taking this decision should not be a cause of stress to you or your partner. If it is, then talk it through, maybe this technique is not adapted to you or maybe you are just not desperate enough yet for some sleep (wink, wink).

Don’t worry, these frequent wakings, if addressed fast and efficiently will fade away in a matter of two or three nights maximum, sometimes even from night number one. And as I told a friend this morning: “sometimes being a good parent means overcoming our overwhelming desire to always come  to our baby’s rescue and let them develop necessary skills to acquire independence and self-confidence”. Also keep in mind that it is always easier to adress this problem before your baby is able to sit up or stand on his own, by then another sleep regression will hit due to great motor skills development and if your baby still doesn’t sleep through on his own, things might be slightly more complicated to handle.

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