4 month regression? What the heck is going on??
Knowing what is going on with this 'regression' can really help parents remain patient with the hiccups that can occur with sleep. We often have parents asking us what's going on and also asking if the behaviour they see, especially in the night wakings, are night mares.
Prior to this age our babies essentially have only two stages to their sleep. They switch back and forth between these two stages and perhaps you have noticed the changes as they move between the stages? They make all those funny faces and expressions and breathing is different and then they settle a bit more into the next stage.
As babies then move to around the 4 month mark their sleep stages change to become 4-5 stages per sleep cycle just like adults. This is a completely new neurological process for their brains and as a result it can result in frequent night wakings, shorter day naps and generally disturbed sleep as their brains and bodies adjust.
For those who have experienced this you may have seen your baby cry out in their sleep or whimper and it can appear they are having a night mare. It can look this way but in fact their brains are doing new stuff and this can cause babies to have annoying wake ups or partial wake ups when they don't want to and they can even seem a bit disoriented.
So what do you do?
1. Avoid more layers of sleep props - The challenge is to avoid introducing new or more external sleep props. The way we respond to our babies should be appropriate to what they are experiencing. Your bub may need some additional support but you want to try to avoid then becoming their sleep prop which can then create difficulties for them later.
2. Be aware of over tiredness - Being conscious that your little one may be more tired as a result of more wakings will enable you to adjust your day. Perhaps this might mean not packing as much in each day during this time or ensuring you're even more aware of awake time. Perhaps you might introduce a gentle infant massage into the bedtime routine and provide a little more wind down opportunity.
3. Have a plan for night wakings - if you have support does this mean you will tag team with your other half for increased night wakings. Have a clear plan for how you will and will not respond rather than just reacting when you're bleary-eyed, tired and perhaps trying to avoid your other kids being woken.
Just knowing this is normal and they are not in any pain or discomfort can enable us to support appropriately as they move through this stage which can take a few weeks.
The more we realise that these disturbances are in fact due to amazing and wonderful things happening in our babies brains, the easier it is to remain patient and calm as we move through it with them.