4 month sleep regression

[name_m]Hi[/name_m] everyone!

Freyja is 4 months and from what I have read it seems we are having a textbook case of the so-called ‘4-month sleep regression’. From before 3 months (I can’t remember exactly when) she began sleeping through. At first she was sleeping 7-8 hours a night with no feedings, but then she extended it gradually to around 12 hours with one feeding (9-9 with a feed usually around 4/5 ish), very occasionally two. It was great!

Now she can’t seem to go longer than 3 hours asleep, even the first sleep after she goes to bed. We’re all exhausted. She wakes up and cries and I can tell she is frustrated because she’s tired and doesn’t want to be awake, but she can’t seem to settle herself down again. She starts off just fussing and I leave her, maybe shush her a little (she sleeps in our room still), but then I go get her when it almost invariably escalates into full-on crying. I have definitely created a sleep association with feeding, as I often breastfed her to sleep. Am slightly kicking myself now :frowning: However I also gave her practice going to sleep by herself, and during the day she is very often able to settle herself all the way to sleep with some white noise or me shushing her with my hand on her stomach or something, she fusses a little but then winds down. She just doesn’t seem to be able to do it at night at all, though, and I basically always give up and take her to breastfeed, with the result that I think she’s now eating too much at night and not enough i the day. Haha I’ve really messed this up, haven’t I? She also never naps longer than an hour at a time during the day, so staying asleep is just not in her repertoire at the moment. She still has a bedtime of 9 pm and a waketime of 9 am, but we are all getting far less actual sleep.

I guess I’m looking more for commiseration than anything, as I sort of know what the problems are and (theoretically) how we should go about fixing them. I should stop breastfeeding to sleep, right (far easier said than done, though… it works so beautifully!)? And we’re going to try and move her bedtime forward as I realised 9 is probably not ideal for her age. [name_m]Plenty[/name_m] of practice going to sleep with less and less help, and I guess just toughing it out to a certain extent, hoping it will eventually get better. Anything obvious I’ve missed? Has anyone else gone through a similar situation - how long did it last and how did you ‘fix’ it (if you did anything specific other than just waiting)? I don’t want to do full-on cry-it-out, as when I give her a chance to fuss she only gets herself more worked up and I can’t listen to her wail her eyes out, it doesn’t seem kind to me and it doesn’t help anyone since then nobody’s even close to sleeping. But I would very much like for her to be able wake up at night and remain calm and just go back to sleep. Wishful thinking perhaps, maybe she’s just to little to do that?

Feeling a bit helpless and stupid, to be honest. Rationally I know I haven’t ruined her chances of a good night’s sleep for life, but it kind of feels that way.

I’m not a mum and I’m sure you’ll get some great thoughts from the community here. However, if you find you’re really struggling my friend [name_f]Mary[/name_f] is a sleep consultant for people in exactly your situation and she might be able to help you through this. She’s based in the UK but will talk to you anywhere in the world. You can find her at sleepy lambs on the web or on Facebook.

Good luck!!

Ok, so my first daughter slept (from about 4 weeks old) a six hour stretch at night and another 4 hour stretch after BF in the early morning.

Then…3.5 months came and…4 month sleep regression where she woke every 45 minutes. Sometimes 1.5 hours if I got lucky.

This lasted the next 6 months.

[name_f]Do[/name_f] NOT fall into that trap. When she was ten months I spent 3-4 nights “teaching” her to self soothe…it involved sleeping in shifts with DH and my mother helping, but she’s been, since then, sleeping 12 hour stretches.

I used the technique in the book The Sleep Lady, which I liked because it’s flexible to fit with your family. If you’re ok letting her cry it out a little, you can, if not, you don’t need to do that at all. DH and I decided we’d let her whine and cry out but would go back a step if she actually started sob-tears-crying, which only happened once.

Before I did this, I started a bedtime routine A LA dr Sears. Introduced a lovey (idk if your LO is too small for one, but if she is you might try sleeping with her crib sheet in your bed a few nights or spritzing any perfume you wear on them lightly or something), played the same song at bedtime, and started reading the same story. Other ideas might be a massage, bed right after bath, singing to her, etc.

We did this a few days before bed and naps, while I let her fall asleep at the bottle or rocked her. Then, we did it, and I put her down drowsy but awake.

She screamed and her eyes popped open and she sat up.

I rocked her again til she was drowsy but awake. Repeat.

I think she fell asleep after like 2 hours of that, in her crib (once I put her down I immediately started patting her or rubbing her back).

Of course, she woke up like 45 minutes later. Same thing. Halfway through the night I “switched” with DH.

I think we did this for two nights, then switched to just doing the routine, putting her down, and patting her. Within 4 nights she was sleeping all the way through. The key is to be consistent. If you at all give in to nursing her or letting her fall asleep in your arms, she will just wait until the opportunity to fall asleep easily and familiarly without learning to do it herself.

Good luck! Oh another tip since she’s quite young…if her bedtime is 8pm and you go to bed at 10 or 11…before you do, lift her up (try not to wake her) and “dream nurse” her. Most BF babies will eat in their sleep without fully waking up. That way she won’t wake up hungry shortly after you go to bed.

Aw, I’m so sorry! This is just rough to go through. Ok, we only have one kid on the outside so far. The next one will be along in five weeks or so to demolish all of our best parenting theories.

Anyhow, I am far from being a sleep expert. Our son is a really good sleeper (7pm-7am consistently from about 6 months and he will be 4 in [name_u]November[/name_u].) But I don’t know if he is just this way or what. I can tell you what we did, maybe some part of it might help.

First- you did not mess her up. There is no way you can mess up the baby’s sleep (or anything really) this early. Many people call the first 3 months the 4th trimester. I think this is accurate, they are really still gestating at this point. They just had to get out while they could still fit is all. Anything you need to do to get through the first 3 months is honestly fine. You can’t set bad habits this early.

So yes, now that she is a little older, stop feeding her to sleep. I know this is the easiest way at the moment. But it pays off in the end to do the thing where you put the baby down drowsy but not asleep. She needs to learn to put herself back to sleep (unless you want to cosleep and breastfeed on demand all night, which also works for many people just fine.)

We never did cry it out, though we didn’t jump up for every grunt, either. We would wait just a couple of minutes to see if he was serious about crying or not. Oftentimes, he would just be resettling himself. He would cry for a little bit and then conk back out. If he was serious about it, he would not stop crying, just get louder and louder till we came (which was never long.)

Yes, try putting her to bed earlier. I think 7 or even 6 is great for babies bedtime. This can be difficult to pull off bc of work or evening activities. But it really helps, if you can manage it. Sleep before midnight is better than sleep after midnight. I don’t know why that is, but it seems to be true.

Plus you and your partner then get to spend the evening together after her bedtime and before your own which is tremendously helpful for your relationship. Or you can just sleep if you are tired enough. I completely agree about leadmythoughts with the dream feed. Top her up before you get in bed, hopefully you can then get a few hours of sleep before she needs more.

Third all of the common sense stuff that you are probably already doing- keep the lights out, don’t change her in the middle of the night unless it’s poop, don’t talk to her, don’t nurse her in front of the TV at 3am. [name_m]Don[/name_m]'t look at your phone while you nurse at night. Keep the nighttime nursing sessions as brief as possible. Feed her more during the day if you can so that she can eventually taper off night time eating altogether (not right now, but eventually.)

It’ll be fine in the end. She’ll learn to sleep and you’ll get to sleep again. Good luck!

I also had the fear I had messed up my daughter’s sleep habits (or she had inherited my sleep disorders/insomnia/nightmares/etc) but alas, she started sleeping well/normally at close to a year. I think it’s normal parent anxiety to think your kid will always be a bad sleeper or something, but it’s totally fixable

You’re not doing anything wrong. This is all perfectly normal, you’re still a champion. Her brain is just developing so fast she can’t handle it. But you’ve got this!

The key thing I learned with baby #2 was that with a newborn you use whatever strategy you need to in order for them to sleep, but past 4 months it’s best for them if you just pick one.
We chose gently rubbing the forehead, but just go with something that’s comfortable for you. Maybe rocking, shushing… whatever. [name_m]Even[/name_m] white noise, but stay in the room where she can see you, because they seem to find that reassuring.

I’m told that a baby of that age should be able to go 5 hours without a feed, and beyond that you’re either pushing it or really lucky, so that was the guide we used. If she woke in under five hours we’d pet her until she went back to sleep. Generally she didn’t get to the ball-breaking screech cry, and we were able to stick it out. Come five hours, we’d do a dream feed. That is, pick her up and feed her without waking her/ minimal disturbance, then a quick burp and straight back into the cot.

For a couple of months I’d take one feed and the husband would take the other. It isn’t too painful to get up once a night for ten minutes, and if you don’t turn lights on, have screen time, change nappies or anything everyone should be able to settle again quickly.

I also learnt that sleep begets sleep. I made the mistake of only having her nap 2-3 times during the day, when she actually needed a lot more. Once I let her sleep whenever she felt like it, she did a lot more of it at night as well. I still don’t understand how that works :stuck_out_tongue:

Anyway, don’t blame yourself, nap if you can and always remember that you are awesome and not alone!

Thanks everyone for the advice and encouragement. Well, I got a better night’s sleep last night, but I’m afraid it wasn’t too much better for my poor little lamb. I’m thinking that going cold turkey on the breastfeeding to sleep (all the way to sleep) might not be the best idea, or even possible.

During the daytime she was a star, two minutes of crying for each nap whilst I shushed with my hand on her chest and she was off to sleep. Sure she woke each time after 45 minutes or so (clearly failing to get over to the next stage of the sleep cycle…) but I thought she was doing well anyway.

Bedtime was a complete disaster. Our routine is not really very much, just change into pyjamas, new nappy, into sleeping bag and (usually) breastfeed to sleep. So we did the same, moved it to 8.30 rather than 9, and I took her off when she was still not all the way asleep and put her down in her cot. She drifted off immediately with no crying at all, so I was rather pleased. But woke up again at 9 and quickly became absolutely hysterical when I tried to shush her in the cot, and then picked her up and cuddled her, then got her father to try cuddling her and walking her. Nothing was calming her at all and when I say hysterical I mean she was absolutely screaming bloody murder, could hardly catch her breath, I was scared she’d make herself sick. I gave up :frowning: Breastfed her again until almost asleep, put her down, the screaming starts again as bad as before, I breastfed her all the way asleep, she wakes again after 10 minutes. By then she was desperately tired and eventually managed to fall properly asleep with my boyfriend walking her at 11. She then slept through until she grizzled at 5, I fed her because I thought she’d legitimately be hungry by then, and she woke up happy(ish) at 8.30. 11 to 8.30 with a brief waking at 5 was great for me, but she was yawning and grizzly this morning.

I feel like we just made her miserable for like no reason since I gave up in the end, and we were basically all over the place. The plan just didn’t work out at all like I had hoped.

For her morning nap she fell asleep again like a champ, just a few minutes of fussing, very little help, she even woke up a little after 45 mins and then went back to sleep with absolutely no intervention from me. I just don’t get it why she can do it in the daytime but at night she’s so furious if she doesn’t get a nipple in her mouth.

I think getting them to sleep takes a little more planning. I would definitely introduce her to a more notable routine before bedtime a few days or weeks before you try to cut breastfeeding. Right now, she likely gets her clothes and diaper changed at times other than bedtime (and may not before naptime), so the only assocoation she has with bed is nursing to sleep. If you introduce a bedtime story or bedtime song while you’re breastfeeding her to sleep, eventually she’ll have an easier time without breastfeeding because the song/story will still indicate bedtime.

You also need to prepare to nurse or rock her a lot more than 2-3 times before she’s able to fall asleep on her own…it can take hours. So it’s good to plan in advance for when you don’t have to go out the next day or DH is off work or you can have some help

You’re completely right, we need to put a lot more effort into this whole thing. She does only get the sleeping bag at bedtime and I’m pretty sure she associates it with going to bed, but we need to do more on that front. It was more than 2-3 times (I conflated a little), but you’re also absolutely correct that it is obviously going to take longer than just a few tries. I was being unrealistic. Thankyou so much for your help!