Maybe your baby who slept well at night and took long naps, now, at the age of 4 months, has started to wake up countless times and the organized sleep schedule that he had has disappeared. You find yourself with a frazzled and irritable baby who can't get to sleep. What happen? Ear infection? Teeth output? Personality change? None of this, surely it is one of the sleep crisis in baby between 4 and 7 months.
The 4-month sleep regression marks a permanent change in the baby's sleeping habits and is different from the other sleep regressions that normally happen in 2-3 weeks and the baby's sleep returns to normal. The main signs of the 4-month sleep crisis:
- Nighttime awakenings increase.
- Increased crying and irritability.
- Naps are reduced.
The baby's sleep is completely different from that of adults and it follows a maturation process. Babies under 4 months do not have an established sleep pattern, their sleep cycles are 2-phase, 'active' sleep and 'quiet' sleep (also known as REM and non-REM sleep) and last between 45-50 minutes.
They do not have the distinctive stages of sleep, which they will acquire as they grow older and their brains mature. As a result, newborns spend most of their time in deep sleep. (In the transition from one cycle to another or from one phase to another they may wake up easily).
Starting at 4 months, their brains begin to mature, their sleep patterns begin to change, and their circadian rhythms kick in. The baby's sleep, from 4 months on, tends to be structured into 3 naps during the day and a longer period at night. Instead of having 2 phases of sleep, it will have 5 (4 non-REM and 1 REM) of 90-120 minutes duration.
At four months the child has to face a new sleep cycle and some little ones may not learn to control these changes, hence these crises occur. But, What are the main changes in baby's sleep at 4 months?
- Decreases REM (active) sleep.
- Increases non-REM (deep).
- Sleep cycles grow.
- The number of daytime naps is reduced.
- The total daily hours of sleep decrease.
- The production of melatonin and cortisol begins.
- They begin to know how to differentiate between day and night.
If you sleep with sleep aids and need external aids to fall asleep (breast, bottle, arms ...) you will probably be asking for more each time you wake up and do not allow it learn to sleep independently.
And if, in addition, we add that many moms return to work at 4 months, they can feel confused and restless and it can influence their sleep.
Here are some strategies to help you get more sleep during your 4-month sleep crisis:
1. Changes that can make you feel very restless
If you've been nursing to sleep or sleeping in your arms, keep doing it. I know that they are sleep aids that will make it difficult for your child to sleep and that they will have to be eliminated over time, but now is not the time to worry. Do what you can to help your baby sleep, and you will be eliminating them after this crisis.
2. Avoid creating new sleep props
You can use the ones that work for you, but try not to incorporate new ones. The fewer the merrier.
3. Pay attention to the sleep signs it shows you
Yawning, when rubbing his eyes, being restless or crying are signs to go to sleep and start the sleep routine, otherwise you will find a baby over-tired and it will be very difficult for him to fall asleep. As a result of not getting to sleep well, you will wake up more at night and sleep more restlessly.
4. Follow his routine, but you can be flexible, he is still very small
Babies need healthy sleep routines and habits, it gives them security. If you don't have it yet, it's a good time to start it. You can create a shorter version of this nap routine.
5. Make sure he's well fed during the day
At this age, they are incredibly curious about the world around them and can divert their attention and not fill up well. Make sure to feed your baby in an environment where there are no distractions. Full feeding during the day and right before bed can help keep your baby from feeling hungry in the middle of the night.
6. Don't be in a hurry
Your child is going through a lot of changes and will probably need 1-2 months to stabilize and what helps them today may not work tomorrow, so be prepared to try different things to calm your newborn.
7. Ask for help!
Let other people spend time with your child and take the opportunity to rest a little.
Source: The baby sleep site, William Sears, Kim West, Mar de Carlo, Tracy Hogg.
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