This blog will give you a little advice about ways in which you can help your baby prepare for the 4 month sleep regression.
I have attended lots of baby classes of recent where the majority of these babies have been 0-3 months old. The most commonly asked questions I get asked about are, ‘How can I get my baby to nap?’ and ‘Why is my baby awake for hours in the night?’. I thought it prudent to this month write a blog on sleep expectations for newborns and ways you can help your baby to find a rhythm to their sleep.
Whilst I provide an Antenatal Package and will provide families with this package until baby is 4 weeks old, I do not offer my sleep packages to families whose baby has not yet been through the 4 month sleep regression. This is because you cannot teach a baby sleep skills when their sleep cycles have not yet matured.
Before I begin with my advice, safety is paramount and so I urge you to check out the Lullaby Trust. They are a great resource for newborns as they provide a huge amount of information on safe sleeping so they are a great place to begin looking at safe sleeping practices: https://www.lullabytrust.org.uk/safer-sleep-advice/
If your baby is in the newborn period you will most likely be lost in a beautiful baby bubble where naps are plentiful and drowsy and you are resting and your body is healing and it is my hope that you do not need to worry about a thing.
On the other hand, this is perhaps not your first baby or you are someone that needs some routine and structure to your days and you want to prepare yourself and your baby for the sleep regression. There are some gentle things that you can do before the sleep regression hits to try to make the transition to their new sleep cycles easier for you and for your little one.
The main points to take away from this blog are simply…
- Do what you need to do to get your baby to sleep.
- Get into the habit of following the awake windows for optimum sleep pressure for longer naps.
- Practice 1 nap a day in the cot space.
Newborn Sleep (awake window 45 minutes)
- In the daytime ensure the room is lit with daylight and with normal noise levels and at night, ensure it is dark and quiet.
- Learn their sleepy cues so that you can get them to have a sleep before they become overtired as baby’s that have become overtired tend to do lots of crying and have more unsettled sleep later in the day.
Babies and children thrive on routine with the certainty of what is going to happen next and so it can be a good idea from 6 weeks to slowly introduce the idea of some routine.
6-12 weeks old (awake window between 60-90 mins).
The tips set out here are goals and should be seen as just that. Practice makes progress and if you want to achieve the best sleep you can from your newborn, you could trial some of the below tips to see what works for you.
- Hopefully they now understand the difference between night and day and at around 6 weeks their sleep is now capable of becoming a little more structured and you can introduce a little bedtime routine. A routine helps to separate day and night further and a bedtime routine should take place in as calm and quiet an environment as possible and in dim lighting.
- You can now try to feed your little one when they wake up so you can avoid feeding them to sleep in the daytime. When they wake you could feed them and then try and encourage a little playtime with them and then repeat this process.
- If you want to teach your baby some early sleep skills, you need to bear in mind that what you are trying to teach them at this stage is simply to connect the feel of being tired with falling to sleep. If you feed you baby in your arms until they fall asleep what happens is that when they come to a normal mini waking, instead of falling back to sleep again they will need to go back to sleep in the same way that they initially went to sleep (in your arms being fed to sleep). I totally appreciate that it is beautiful feeding your baby to sleep but it may not be something that you want to do all the time. If this is you, try to put your baby down in their sleep space before they are fast asleep. If you normally feed your baby to sleep, finish the feed, burb baby and then lay them down in their cot whilst they are still awake and allow them to fall to sleep on their own. This will help them to link their sleep cycles together for more consolidated sleep.
This time is so precious, and you are getting to know your baby, being a family and you may also be healing. Take it easy on yourself. Your baby’s circadian rhythm will mature over time and if they are guided to sleep through these sleep tips they will sleep better in the day and be able to consolidate a little more sleep at night.
4 month sleep regression.
12-16 weeks old (awake window around 90 minutes)
This is the time a babies sleep cycles mature and consolidate so they can sleep for much longer periods of time. Hopefully they have been guided in the right direction and will start to fall asleep independently…but they still might need a little help.
If you are curious to understand a little more about the 4 month sleep regression you can have a read of my blog here.
- Consistency is vital at this time and will support them through their developing sleep cycles.
- I dislike the term ‘self-soothe’ as it sounds far too independent but what it simply means is to be comfortable without something external helping you to fall or to stay asleep. We all subconsciously self-soothe at some point in the night during our lighter sleep cycles by perhaps fluffing up the pillow or sticking a leg out of the duvet to ease us into our next sleep cycle. Post sleep regression and once those sleep cycles have matured, babies and children are no different in their need to soothe themselves into their next sleep cycle. If your little one depends on a “prop” to fall asleep like using a *dummy, feeding, patting or the motion, then they will find it difficult to get back to sleep without their “prop.”
- Make bedtime the same time every night (around 7pm). If bedtime is too late, your baby might find their second wind; and not go to sleep until much later.
- There should be a bedtime routine which is the same every night and takes no longer than 30 minutes. Again, if it is longer, they may find their second wind and be very difficult to settle to sleep.
- Naps are important and between 12-16 weeks your baby will need 4-3 naps a day to ensure they are well rested as it will ensure they sleep better overnight and will not be overtired.
- Keep an eye on their sleep cues to ensure your little one is not becoming overtired.
* Dummies are advised by the Lullaby Trust until the baby reaches 6 months old. Read here.
If you need more advice on newborn sleep I can offer my antenatal package up to 4 weeks post natal. If your baby has already been through the 4 month sleep regression and you are struggling with sleep then do get in touch. Book a free, no obligation call and we can talk about working together to get you a better night’s sleep.