Is your baby 12-18 weeks old and suddenly waking more? Started taking shorter, more frequent naps? Seeming fussier? Crying more? Doesn’t want to be put down?
Here’s what exactly happens to your baby around 3-4 months.. ⬇️⬇️⬇️
Also known as the ‘4 month sleep regression’ or a more positive way to think of it instead as a ‘progression’. This is the time when your baby’s sleep patterns start shifting. You’ve spent the last 12 weeks in the fourth trimester but now it’s time to leave infant mode and start heading into baby mode. You’re levelling up - and it’s a good thing. Your baby’s brain is developing exactly how it’s supposed to. It’s now working extra hard behind the scenes, learning new skills, adapting to the new environment and most importantly signalling that Mama and baby are now two separate beings.
As an infant, your baby spends most of the time between being REM sleep and deep sleep. Shifting easily from awake, into a deep sleep. This is why up until now your baby has been able to stay asleep easily with loud noises. You may have noticed your baby will easily sleep through the neighbours dog barking, the council working across the street or the tv or vacuum going in the background. But as their sleep cycles now start maturing and they’re spending more time in a lighter stage of sleep - they’re easily roused. They have difficulty ‘linking’ in between the different stages of sleep and they may seek more comfort as their brain continues to develop. It’s exhausting work learning all these new skills; so it’s understandable that their sleep takes a hit and they look to their parents to help them - the people they trust most in this world. But unfortunately, this is is the time you may be told ‘you need to stop feeding to sleep’, ‘you’re creating a rod for your own back’, ‘you need to break that sleep association’, ‘you need to leave your baby to cry’.. but this is extremely poor advice often sold to us by people making a profit off breaking parent/baby bonds.
Feeding to sleep is one of the most powerful and easiest tools you have - don’t feel ashamed to use it. It’s your superpower! Sucking releases a hormone called Cholecystokinin in both mother and baby - which results in a sleepy feeling being released in the body helping you both fall back to sleep faster. Breastmilk also contains many other sleep inducing hormones, amino acids and nucleotides. These are all higher concentrated through the night and may even help babies establish their own circadian rhythms. It’s built into our biology. This is what our bodies are made to do.
Whilst this is a completely normal stage most baby’s will go through, it’s understandably equally as exhausting for parents. It’s tiring work being emotionally and physically relied on 24/7, night and day but there are things you can try to make this transition a little easier for the whole family:
- Contact napping - gets naps in however you can. Pop your feet up, a good feeding pillow tucked up under your arm and watch bulk Netflix. Catch up on that show you’ve had on your list forever.
- Stop the clock watching and listen to your baby. Watch for tired cues instead of causing unnecessary anxiety by forcing naps. Let baby tell you when they’re tired.
- Call on family and friends. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Get them to help with the meal prepping, cleaning duties around the house and running errands.
- Invest in a good carrier here
- Practice the new movements your baby is learning during the day by doing tummy time, light exercises and spend some time out in the sunshine watching the birds and the clouds go by.
- Safe co-sleeping and bedsharing. We have some great resources here
- But most importantly, acceptance. This is only a short time in the grand scheme of the rest of your child’s life.
This won’t be forever but you don’t need to train your baby to sleep. They just don’t know how to conform to our societal expectations yet. It’s a skill they all learn in their own time - the same as crawling, walking and talking. And they learn it by being shown that you will show up time and time again until they feel safe enough to do it on their own. It’s survival instinct. How could they possibly know that they are expected to sleep 7pm-7am every night? This is a biologically normal stage and you’re not alone. It’s exhausting but your baby won’t need you this intensely forever. Some nights feel long but the years are so short. You will never look back on this time and regret holding your baby. And I’m almost 100% certain you won’t be still feeding and rocking your child to sleep when they’re 18 years old..
And remember - this. will. get. easier and it’s only ever a problem, if it’s a problem for you and YOUR family 💗
**If at any stage, you feel like your baby is waking an abnormal amount or you are worried there may be an underlying medical issue then always seek medical advice from your doctor, child health nurse or paediatrician.
Author - Leah Luscombe