A slightly above-average achiever's guide to parenting
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The 4 Month Sleep Regression, or when it gets even worse than you thought it could
October 6, 2016
Please don't tell me all of the things wrong with this sleep environment. I know. I KNOW.
Newborndome is hard. Like really really hard. And possibly the worst part of it is the utterly demoralizing 4 month sleep regression. It comes when your sleep debt is at its peak. When the four months of sleep deprivation have mounted to unprecedented levels. When you might very well be going back to work. When all the help and food from family and friends goes away. And when you *thought* you had everything under control. Because the cruelest part of the 4 month sleep regression is that it often happens after your child was sleeping longer and longer stretches. Right when they lull you into a false sense of security. Then, when you least suspect it-- BOOM-- wakeups every hour on the hour.
If you've read my blog before, you know I'm a HUGE fan of these ladies. I love them because their writing is clear and easy to understand; they readily acknowledge that there is no one approach that's right for every family; and probably best of all- they explain the why behind all of the regressions and sleep disturbances. So, while sometimes the answer is "sorry, there's nothing you can do about it", I always found it very helpful with Chewie to at least know why the regression was happening, and that I wasn't crazy.
So when I found out that the Baby Sleep Science team had written a book on the 4 month sleep regression, I had to read it. Knowing that their readers would be sleep-deprived messes, the book is brief, clearly written, and extremely helpful. It explains what happens during the 4 month sleep regression (which they refer to as the 4 month sleep maturation). At this stage, babies go from newborn sleep patterns (ie, able to fall asleep anywhere, including the middle of a circus while being poked by a toddler) to adult sleep patterns (ie, "Did I just hear a sniffle three rooms away? I'M AWAKE FOREVER! LET ME SCREAM AT YOU"). This is the stage when babies learn to sleep in the way that grown ups do. As a result, they will "check in" with their surroundings in the middle of the night to make sure they're in a safe space. Grown ups do this too, but we normally don't notice and fall right back asleep. Babies, on the other hand, don't know how to fall back asleep. And this is where the trouble begins.
While it may seem like all hope is lost, they offer some good suggestions on how to help your baby through this stage. And, most importantly (because I did this so wrong the first time) to do so without developing sleep crutches or dependencies.
With Chewie, he was a lazy eater and so he'd pretty much nurse himself to sleep every night. Then, when he'd wake up in the middle of the night, he could not go to bed until he had nursed. The bottle would not do, so it was always me getting up for the 3am wake up. I was a human pacifier. And this went on for way longer than it needed to, as it turns out. This time through, I was determined to do it differently with BFF.
So far, I've followed their tips on how to create a short routine to put down a wide awake baby and let them learn to fall asleep on their own. I had heard talk about these mythical babies who would just fall asleep...but I never thought they were real. Turns out, I may not have ever given Chewie the chance to try. But with BFF we're taking steps in that direction, which has been great. It's not perfect, but I'm determined to find another way to put this kid to sleep that doesn't involve my boob.
And, once we get into sleep training (which I suspect is right around the corner), the book offers four different strategies, with different levels of involvement depending on your level of comfort and level of crying you can tolerate. When we did this with Chewie, Chewie's dad sent me out to get Modern Pastry, knowing that by the time I got through their epic line, Chewie would be asleep. But, I recognize not every parent can tolerate that (nor does every parent have a really great pastry shop to drown their sorrows in), which is why there are many different levels and approaches offered.
I won't give all their strategies away, because I sincerely believe you should support these ladies and buy their book here: (http://amzn.to/2cerLTY), but if nothing else, they also have a fantastic facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Baby-Sleep-Science-Sleep-Resource-Center-197738293755802/) with lots of great resources and tips. And no matter what, if you're going through the 4 month sleep regression, just remember that it will end, and they will sleep again...probably by the time they're off in college.