As a parent of a baby or toddler, there is little more frustrating than a sleep regression. Your once peacefully sleeping baby or toddler is now waking multiple times a night, which can cause confusion (What is going on?!); doubt (Maybe she’s not eating enough.); and exasperation (I may never sleep again!).
This post is the first in our series on sleep regressions, where we will explain everything from why they occur to how to handle them.
The 3-4 month sleep regression is often characterized by a once solidly sleeping baby suddenly waking multiple times a night (outside of normal feeding times). She might also wake up very early (before 6 a.m.) and be ready for a nap about 30 minutes later. (We consider this early waking a night waking.) You might wonder if your baby is not getting enough milk or if she is ill. Because of the lack of nighttime rest, your baby might seem grumpy during the day. Naps are often affected, too; you might find your baby waking up only after a 30-45 minute nap or skipping naps all together.
The 3-4 month sleep regression can happen as early as three months or as late as five. It can last anywhere from two to six weeks. Many times, babies will simply “snap out of it” and revert back to their peacefully sleeping ways, but sometimes moms and dads need to do a little extra coaching to insure their little ones (and the rest of the family!) get the sleep they need.
We’re sure you’ve noticed how newborns can sleep in any place or with any level of noise and not wake up. Often times, all it takes is a little rocking or a short drive in the car to get those little ones asleep, and they’ll more than likely stay that way for a few hours. They might actually have to be woken up to feed! Unlike adults, newborns fall into deep sleep more quickly and stay in that deep sleep longer.
Around 3-4 months after birth, however, a baby’s sleep patterns begin to change. Instead of getting to that deep sleep quickly, most babies begin sleeping more like an adult: it takes them longer to get fully asleep and they cycle between light and deep sleep throughout the night.
It’s at this point that sleep crutches – such as using a pacifier or being rocked or fed to sleep – might become a problem; what babies need to help them fall asleep at the beginning of the night they will often insist on getting every time they cycle out of a deep sleep – thus the night wakings. Think of it this way – how would you feel if you fell asleep in your cozy bed only to find yourself awake on the kitchen floor? Not fun! Sleep crutches have this “kitchen floor effect” on babies.
It’s also important to note that at this age, most babies go through a huge developmental leap. They’re often more awake and alert for longer periods of time and begin to take in the world around them. This is a good thing! But it can also have a tremendous effect on their sleep patterns.
What To Do:
Now is when you need to focus on gently helping your baby fall asleep on her own. This means making sure that she is drowsy but awake when you place her in the crib. And, above all else, try not to create additional sleep crutches. If your baby wasn’t taking a pacifier before, don’t give her one now to see if it will help her sleep. Hang in there and do your best to be consistent.
Check out this blog post on breaking common sleep habits to learn how to help your little one fall asleep on her own. Still need help? Be sure to let us know! We can design a sleep plan just for you and provide you with the support and encouragement you need to get through this frustrating phase!