My baby doesn’t sleep. I’m not surprised, really, since my first two babies didn’t sleep either. I think I did have some hope that this one would sleep a little better, but that hasn’t been the case. Even though he slept OK for the first few months, when month four rolled around, I could tell right away that we were entering into the dreaded four-month sleep regression and that all bets were off.
With my first, I honestly thought sleep regressions were just anecdotal, something a bunch of moms came up with because they noticed a pattern. As it turns out, there is totally science to back up the claim that babies stop sleeping well right around four months. Baby’s brains do a lot of maturing during those first months and at 4 months they start to sleep more like adults do, with times of both deep and light sleep. This means they may wake up more frequently and it also means they can be hard to get down for the night, because putting them down may startle them out of light sleep.
The struggle of the four-month sleep regression is so real. Luckily, we’re only having problems keeping our baby asleep. Most nights, I can get him down pretty easily. I did some no-cry sleep training with him starting around 10 weeks and he learned pretty quickly to put himself to sleep without crying as long as his belly is full. Keeping him asleep? Well, that’s a whole different story.
Once he wakes up that first time, usually around midnight, all bets are off. Some nights, I get up with him, nurse and put him back in his crib, only to have to nurse him again almost hourly after that. Other nights, we give up, my husband heads out to the couch so I can safely co-sleep and my sons spends most of the night sleeping in the crook of my arm, with easy access to ‘the tap’ all night long.
To be perfectly honest, I’m exhausted, and all of my best attempts haven’t come close to fixing our sleep problem, but there are a few things that are my lifeline during these sleepless nights.
If you’re in the worst of a four-month sleep regression, I suggest getting a really good swaddle and a sound machine as soon as possible. A sound machine will help the baby adjust to having noise while they are sleeping and drown out any outside noise (like loud siblings). A swaddle will keep them from startling themselves with their arms our legs, helping them to stay asleep for longer stretches of time. I suggest getting one with velcro, since most babies can break out of a blanket swaddle at four months.
I also suggest casually tracking your baby’s feedings for a few days. Pay attention to how long they are going between feedings during the day. If they aren’t eating 8 to 10 times during their wakeful hours, they will make up for that at night. Encouraging your baby to eat more frequently during the day may help them to sleep better at night.
And you know what? Every mom who is surviving a sleep regression, whether it’s month four or month six, needs to make checking out for a few minutes a day part of her regular routine. This is really hard to do, but when you’re in an endless cycle of caring for a baby who isn’t sleeping, a few minutes of self-care is essential to survival. So, take a bath, have up cup of tea in silence or go for a fifteen minute drive while your partner holds the crying baby for awhile.
Remember, even the worst sleepers start sleeping eventually. Even the longest, most sleep deprived phases of motherhood come to an end.