Your baby has been sleeping through the night for about three months. It’s been the best three months of your life since your baby was born. Life is settling into a perfectly good and normal routine.
But then, suddenly your baby starts waking up at night again. The horror! You’re afraid of losing the little sleep you get these days. So the first step to solving this mystery is finding out why it happens.
Before you go making appointments with doctors or sprinkling holy water all around your house, relax, for it is likely that your baby is experiencing the 4-month sleep regression.
What Is Sleep Regression?
It’s not at all uncommon for babies who are sleeping through the night to begin waking up again at least once in the night at 4 months, and then around the age of 7 to 10 months of age.
But what your baby is probably experiencing is sleep regression. According to a previous article, sleep regression is a short period of time, maybe about two to four weeks, when a baby who’s already sleeping well suddenly has trouble settling down for sleep or wakes up and gets fussy in the middle of the night.
Stages of Baby Sleep Regression
When does sleep regression start?
Sleep regression can take place in different stages and ages.
A newborn usually falls asleep and immediately enters a non-REM (rapid eye movement) type of deep sleep mode. That is why they do not wake up when you place them down in the cot after rocking them to sleep.
Somewhere around 4 months of age, the baby’s sleep patterns start to resemble that of an adult and she goes between the REM and non-REM sleep mode. When she falls asleep, she is still in REM mode and takes some time to fully go into the non-REM deep sleep.
So if you’re wondering if your baby’s sleeping pattern will go back to when she was 3 months old again, the chances are slim to none.
6 to 7-month Sleep Regression
At 6 to 7 months, your baby will undergo another growth spurt that will cause her to start waking up at night again. Not to worry, because this stage of sleep regression is usually short-lived, and happens only for about a couple of weeks.
Image source: Stock
8 to 10-month Sleep Regression
Just when you think you’re baby has found her groove, she experiences 8-month sleep regression, which can go on for up to 10 months.
This time around, it happens for the reason that she’s more mobile and is keen on exploring the world around her. So not only do you have a baby who’s awake in the middle of the night, but you also have a tiny explorer who wants to crawl around the room, so make sure to keep a close watch.
Big milestones like learning how to walk can cause temporary sleep problems in babies, so expect your child to start waking up at night again at around 9 to 12 months.
Toddler Sleep Regression
Your toddler may still go through a sleep regression at around 18 months and 24 months, possibly caused by different factors.
While it might seem disconcerting that your child keeps waking up, let me reassure you that this is normal. In fact, if your baby is going through a sleep regression, it’s a good thing for it is pretty much a developmental milestone. It shows that her growth and development are on track, so don’t you worry mum!
Your baby’s 4 month sleep regression is likely to leave you insanely exhausted!
Signs of Baby Sleep Regression
Of course, the main sign of sleep regression is when your baby starts waking up in the middle of the night again, after already being able to sleep through the night. But here are other symptoms that you may find go with the different stages of sleep regression:
- being fussy or crying upon waking
- waking up multiple times at night
- fewer naps during the day
- changes in appetite
How to Settle Your Baby During the 4-Month Sleep Regression
While many parents like to believe that the 4-month sleep regression is only a phase that will disappear in time, unfortunately, it is not. It is more often a product of poor sleep habits and inappropriate schedules.
But the good news is, with patience and a little bit of discipline, something can be done about it. It is unlikely that you will spend the next 2 years waking up 5 times a night.
1. Drop the naps!
No, I don’t mean don’t nap at all, but just ensure that your baby isn’t napping any time past 5 pm. This will interrupt her ability to sleep early and well through the night.
2. Early to bed, early to rise!
Don’t try to outsmart your baby’s sleep cycle by putting her to bed later in hopes that a tired baby will sleep in longer. Wrong. That will lead to an overtired baby, who finds it even harder to sleep, and in turn, will wake up even earlier. Don’t fight the early-to-bed, early-to-rise pattern as it is against the baby’s natural sleep rhythms.
3. Sufficient sleep
Before you eventually start sleep coaching, do remember that no amount of sleep coaching will work on an overtired baby. You need to ensure that your baby sleeps sufficiently during the day, at the right times and goes to bed at an age-appropriate bedtime.
4. Darkness is good
Sleep in a dark room, preferably with blackout curtains and do not leave a night lamp on while the baby sleeps. Train your baby to understand that when there’s no light, it’s not time to wake up yet.
5. Use a white noise machine
White noise is comforting to the baby and it signals sleep. This is a useful and effective method of getting your baby to sleep.
It is important to establish a sleep routine with your baby. Bedtime stories are a great idea.
6. Routines are important
Establish a sleep routine. In fact, you can do this as soon as your baby is one or two months old. Start with a bath, lotion, jammies, some melodious music, bedtime stories or just about whatever works for your family. Babies will soon form an association with this routine and know that it’s time to sleep.
7. Drowsy, but awake
Don’t wait for your baby to be fast asleep before you place her in the cot. Lay her down when she is drowsy, but still awake. In this way, she learns to sleep on her own and will eventually learn to go back to sleep on her own, if she wakes up at night.
8. Limit or remove sleep associations
Sleep associations like nursing, or listening to you sing a song, can be used in the initial stages of setting a bedtime routine or beating the 4-month sleep regression.
However, over time, the goal is for them to be able to sleep on their own without being dependent on any of these. This is so that you don’t have to keep doing these things when they wake up at night.
As for feeding, try to gauge feeding intervals so you know when they are really hungry as opposed to just comfort feeding or latching.
Try to avoid giving in to comfort nursing at night.
9. Let the baby fuss
I know that this may sound cruel, but it’s not. Sometimes you just have to let the baby fuss for a bit and you’ll be surprised to find that often, they fall asleep eventually. If they are in pain, need a diaper change, or are hungry, you can of course attend to them. But if they are just fussing, let them be.
7 Reasons Why Baby Starts Waking up Again, and How to Handle It
As you look down the list, see which one fits your situation and what the possible solution can be:
Changes in the environment
Vacation, a new house, a new bed, a new room, and other such changes throw babies off their normal schedule in a matter of seconds.
Solution: Be patient but persistent in reestablishing their routine. Keep something familiar, such as a favourite blanket or something with your scent on it, close by to soothe the baby into resting peacefully.
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
A baby starts waking up at night again when they don’t feel well and need an additional ‘dose’ of snuggling. This is one of those times when there may be little or nothing you can do about your baby waking up in the night. Their discomfort makes sleeping through the night impossible.
Once your baby feels better, however, it is important to break the routine of waking up at night.
Solution: You can do this by resisting the urge to go into their room every time they fuss or cry. Allowing them to re-learn the ‘art’ of soothing themselves to sleep is essential if you want a good night’s sleep.
Babies thrive on routine and do best when their bedtime routine isn’t messed with. A baby starts waking up at night again when they sense some kind of inconsistency in routine.
Solution: Try to avoid making too many changes at once. If you must, only then should you try to change things up.
As mentioned earlier, a growth spurt can be the culprit for why your baby starts waking up at night again.
Solution: You can try giving them a small snack before bedtime to help prevent them from waking up hungry. If this doesn’t seem to help, make them soothe themselves back to sleep rather than rushing in when they fuss.
One of the common reasons that a baby gets fussy after being put to sleep is that he might be feeling colicky or there’s gas in his tummy. According to paediatrician and resident TAP mum Dr Gellina Suderio-Maala, one of the usual reasons why the baby’s sleep is interrupted is because he has not been burped properly after feeding.
Solution: Make sure to burp your baby after every feeding session to avoid gas or air bubbles getting trapped in his tummy. You can also try to give your baby a tummy massage or use the bicycle technique to relieve colic. Then, light, gentle strokes on the baby’s tummy and back can help him relax and fall back to sleep.
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At around 6 months, your baby’s first tooth may start to erupt, causing some discomfort that leads to a fussy baby.
Solution: If they are, indeed, teething, you may help ease the pain by giving a cold popsicle (made from breast milk) or putting a teether in a fridge so that it will be cold when you give it to your baby.
At around 9 months, some babies start to experience separation anxiety, which makes them more clingy to you. They may get anxious when they don’t see you in the middle of the night.
Solution: If you’re not already doing it, experts believe that room-sharing (not bed-sharing) is a good way for you to be within the baby’s reach when the need arises. Your child might feel better and sleep sounder knowing that you’re just in the same room.
Don’t get discouraged. The fact that your baby starts waking up at night again is usually one that resolves itself in about a week. However, if you tried the methods above and your baby’s sleeping pattern has not improved, don’t hesitate to consult your child’s paediatrician about it.
There you go mums, all you need to know about baby sleep regression and how to get around it. Do remember that these solutions are plausible options and take time, patience and practice in order to be effective. Unfortunately, there isn’t a panacea that will instantly make all babies fall asleep!
Every child is unique and it all boils down to recognising your baby’s changing needs and having a flexible schedule that is in sync with your baby’s natural sleep rhythm.
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