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The 4 month-old: sleep regression or progression?

Updated: Feb 7, 2022

sleep regression or progression

As a new parent, you may hear a lot about how children’s sleep changes around the four-month mark. Parents often tell us that their once perfect sleeper now wakes frequently throughout the night. We see this shift in baby sleeping patters because at this age two things are happening: a cognitive spurt and a change in baby sleep cycles. People often call this the four-month sleep regression, but we like to think of it as progress, or moving forward.

At four months of age, babies go through a cognitive spurt. When this occurs, babies become more distracted while they are eating. This means that a baby will go from being on the breast or on the bottle and feeding really well, to being quite distracted while they eat. As a parent, you may start to notice that your baby is suddenly interested in looking around and engaging with their surroundings instead of feeding. This change in feeding behaviors often leads parents to assume their baby is waking up due to hunger.

In reality, what is happening at is that your baby’s sleep cycles are changing. Babies under this age group typically have two wakings a night, four hours apart. Of course, these wakings are age and weight dependent so your baby might not fit into the majority here. Babies begin to wake up more frequently as a result of these changing sleep cycles and this is when parents really start to see the effects of sleep deprivation.

It can be really hard to weather these changes. If it’s any consolation, your baby is actually doing what they are supposed to be doing and making progress! That being said, issues will arise if your child does not know how to fall back asleep on their own.

Sleep Props & Sleep Associations

When babies won’t sleep, most parents resort to some type of prop to help their children fall back asleep. This is quite normal because in the beginning, you want to hold them, feed them, nurse them, give them a soother (anything, really, to get them to sleep).

What worked in the short-term can become a long-term obstacle though. Over a period of time, the sleep prop can develop into a sleep association. When this occurs, the process of putting your baby to sleep can go from taking five to ten minutes to taking over an hour and a half.

It is at this point in time, that parents may feel the need to reach out and get some support. This is often where I step in to support you in transitioning beyond the sleep association. Curious? Have a look at my sleep services.

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