Of all the things parents come to talk to me about, the “Four-Month Sleep Regression” is one of the sleep-related issues that comes up most often. “Is my baby going through it? Will my baby go through it? How can I prevent my baby from going through it?”
I find this expression deeply irritating.
Changing sleep patterns around the four-month mark are normal! They cannot be a REgression because they are part of the normal PROgression from fetal/newborn sleep to baby/child sleep.However, we need to recognize that there is an important change in sleep around four months, and that it is hard on parents. So, on this 99th anniversary of the November 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, I propose that we call it the Four-Month Sleep Revolution! (And, no, having an eldest son who never slept as a baby and is now a Marxist has nothing to do with my choice of words!)
Like all revolutions, this one makes a terrible mess. It disrupts what we have come to believe is the normal way of things, and changes relationships and habits. But like all successful revolutions, it also leads to new and better things. The Four Month Sleep Revolution heralds your baby’s ability to keep herself awake when life is interesting. This is an important skill your child will need when they pull an all-nighter to write an essay (or binge-watch a TV show.)
It does mean that the baby does not go straight into deep sleep anymore. So you may no longer be able to do the “Sneaky Transfer” and bounce or rock your baby to sleep and then transfer them into the crib. But it also means that this is a good time to work on teaching your baby to fall sleep on the bed, not in your arms or at your breast. You don’t HAVE to teach your baby this. Many babies learn this all on their own. But for some parents, the end of the Sneaky Transfer is a motivator, an opportunity to teach a new life skill – falling asleep lying in the crib, while your parent sings Baby Beluga.
For some parents this is also an ideal time to include the non-breastfeeding parent in the bedtime ritual. If the Sneaky Transfer isn’t working, then nursing the baby to sleep is no longer efficient. So maybe now, the baby can have a bed-time breastfeed and then be handed over to the other parent for lullabies and snuggles and a final pat-and-sing-to-sleep in the crib. And that is revolutionary! Someone other than the breastfeeding parent can put baby to bed!
So don’t bemoan the Regression. See it as moving boldly along the path of your baby’s development. Enjoy your baby’s Four-Month Sleep Revolution!
I wrote this little diatribe in November (2016) and sent it out in our Mothering Touch newsletter. Since then, many of the participants in our Baby Groups have been using the term “Sleep Revolution.” I am flattered. Recently, one of the newer participants asked “What is this Revolution of which you speak?” So I decided I should repost this here.