Four Months Sleep Regression hits every baby, and every parent at about four months of age. Here are the biological and developmental reasons for the Four Months Sleep Regression and what you can do to make it easier.
After 10 weeks of motherhood your house is finally cleaner, there’s some actual food in the fridge and your new family seems to have gained some energy. I remember telling my mother that my 10-week old baby finally slept through the night; the excitement in my voice was over the top, but she didn’t answer. When she finally did, she said: “enjoy it, it will end soon”. I didn’t believe her. Having put all my faith in my little one, knowing he’s the absolute best, I just knew that as of now on he’d be sleeping through the night.
The following two weeks were amazing! Sure, I kept waking up to make sure he’s breathing but went back to sleep every time. I read a few books, I washed my hair more than once a week and even did my nails. Boy was that fun! Then we celebrated his 4-month birthday, and everything changed.
From a happy, smiley and easy going baby, he turned into a little monster; nothing could soothe him. When I picked him up he asked to be put down, when I put him down he wanted to be picked up. When he was supposed to be hungry he didn’t want to eat. And the nights… oh, the nights. Looked like he is willing to do absolutely anything to resist sleep. And when he slept, it wasn’t for longer than an hour or two for the party to start all over again.
Indeed, troubling times. For us. But for him? It’s a totally different story.
So What Happens at Four Months of Age?
There is just so much happening at 3-5 months of age, both physically and emotionally. Our babies become much stronger, they develop eye-hand coordination finally allowing them to actually grasp on desired objects. Their eyesight improves dramatically, allowing them to finally witness how interesting the world actually is. But not only the eyesight develops, the entire sensory processing system gears up, especially – their mouths. You’ve probably noticed – everything goes in there. The different tastes, textures, temperatures and hey – they’re putting everything in there themselves! Can you imagine how exciting this is?
If it’s So Good, Why is it So Hard?
Well, they can’t set by themselves, or crawl. They are immobile in the wake of their desires. They already know exactly what they want, but they can’t get there. Can you imagine how frustrating that is?
Being a mother of a four months old baby is very hard, but being a four months old baby is even harder. The mixture of emotions, the clash of happiness and frustration, the need to deal with all of this makes falling asleep and staying asleep much harder, as their little brains are super busy processing loads of new information. And when they wake up at night? The silence and darkness are like a comforting caress. Nothing to deal with, nothing to stimulate, they can just be there, at the moment, with a clean mind. Rushing them to fall back asleep is futile; they will, when they are ready. This time to relax, to rest the brain is very important for optimal development.
Awfully unfortunate, this is the period at which many parents turn to sleep training, believing that their child needs to cry it out to go back to sleep. I will not get into this here, but please read this post about sleep training and make your own decision. In short, “sleep consultants” claim that at five months babies secrete enough Melatonin (the sleeping hormone) to allow them to sleep through the night. Not only that this is not fully correct (Melatonin levels reach initial maturity around five years of age), but the lack of Melatonin is not the reason for the multiple wakeups. The need for proximity is.
Attachment, Attachment, Attachment
Let’s concentrate on the amazing progression our children have made, instead of focusing on our sleep regression. True – we will sleep much less for a few weeks (or months) but it’s for the benefit of our little ones. If you’re willing to consider co-sleeping, this is the best time to do just that. It will allow you to nap during your baby’s waking hours, and your body’s warmth and proximity will make it easier on your baby to fall back asleep (this is even without acknowledging that co-sleeping is the natural way:) ).
For the very first time in their lives, our babies need us. They are no longer satisfied with just anyone picking them up because they already know who their parents are, they learned to trust them more than anyone else. How beautiful is that! They need our love, support, and comfort. The more we’ll be there for them during their challenging moments – describing their feelings, teaching them about themselves, showing them the secrets to the beautiful world they are now discovering – the better they’d be able to deal with their feelings at older ages. The more attachment they receive from you, the less they will need to seek for it by trying to get your attention.
Attachment is an existential need, just like water. Imagine living in the desert, in constant search for water. Stumbling upon an oasis, you will never leave, because you know that leaving means not knowing when water will be found again. Now imagine living by a waterfall. Water is never an issue, you come and go as you like. You are free.
Let’s be waterfall parents.
And sleep whenever you can. Everything else can wait. Believe me.
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