How To Survive The Dreaded 4 Month Sleep Regression

I apologize in advance if  I start to sound confusing.  I haven’t been sleeping very well for about 1 ½ months.  I actually had never heard about infant sleep regressions before.  And I am on my fourth child.  Now before you hate me, it isn’t that my kids were perfect sleepers, I just didn’t have a name for it until now.  Although, my first child was pretty perfect.  She put herself on a schedule from day 1 to eat every 3 hours and she slept through the night the first time at 8 days old.  When I say sleep through the night, I mean midnight to 5:00 am.  It is really inconceivable for a young infant to sleep 12 hours.  I have heard of it but I am just not comfortable with the idea.  It usually involves some type of sleep training which I don’t think is appropriate for a young infant.  However, I can completely understand why some parents do it.  Losing your sleep is a big deal.  No one likes being woken up by a crying baby, especially when there is no end in sight.  This is when every plan that you had before the baby arrived goes right out the window.

Like I said, I was very lucky with my first baby.  She slept very well from the beginning and never regressed.  I did not plan to co-sleep with her and because she was so easy, I didn’t.  I actually started to want to so I could have some extra cuddle time.  But she actually preferred to be in her own bed.  When I had my second child, I couldn’t believe that she was even easier.  She was a very content baby and almost never cried.  She was on the same kind of schedule and slept very well.  But then at about 5 or 6 months old, she started waking up in the middle of the night.  We thought at first that it was just a fluke.  But then it didn’t stop.  I didn’t know what the problem was.  So I turned to the internet.  I read that sometimes babies start to have sleeping issues when they are trying to master a new skill.  Well she had just started to try to sit on her own.  I chalked it up to that.  But then, she was trying to crawl, then trying to walk.  She actually walked at 9 months.  Luckily, she mastered these skills very quickly and by 10 months old, she went back to sleeping through the night.  I just figured because she was so young trying these skills she was waking up.  My older daughter mastered these skills on more of the average schedule so I didn’t think much of it.

Then came my third baby.  I had done more research on breastfeeding and newborns before I had my third.  I was also working as a breastfeeding peer counselor while I was pregnant so I had completed breastfeeding training.  I decided that even though my first two children worked well on a schedule, my period returned after only 4 weeks and I ended up having to supplement after a few months.  I really wanted to breastfeed for a year this time and I knew more about on demand feeding.  So my daughter was born and from the first night, I could tell she was different.  She did not want to sleep in the the little infant hospital bed.  So I decided to bring her into bed with me.  The nurse came in and nonchalantly said that it was against hospital policy to co-sleep.  But because she knew this was my third child, she didn’t push it at all.  I cuddled with my new baby the rest of the night and we were both able to sleep.  I figured this was just a one time thing and when we got home, she would sleep in the cradle next to my bed like my other children.  Well, I wasn’t completely wrong.  She did always start in her bed.  But when you don’t get to sleep during the day because you have two other children, you do what you have to do.  After the first few weeks, I would bring her into bed for her middle of the night feeding and go back to sleep.  I didn’t know much about co-sleeping but, at the time, I didn’t even consider it the same as what I was doing since it was only for a few hours.  I would put my body pillow on the edge of the bed, then her, then me, then my husband.  I am a very light sleeper but my husband isn’t so I didn’t want her next to him.  Another change was the on demand feeding.  Any time she was showing signs of hunger, or very upset, or really just cried in general, I nursed her.  It was such a different experience but I knew that she was comforted and full all the time.  But, just like her sister, she started waking up at around 5 months old after sleeping through the night.  So we tried to just wait it out again.  She was just like her sister, in that, she desperately wanted to keep up with her sisters.  She was sitting up, crawling, and walking within weeks of each other.  But then she was still waking up.  This is when we had to change our approach.

I had heard of the cry it out method but I couldn’t handle more than a minute of her crying.  I also did not feel comfortable not having a monitor on.  I needed to know if she was okay.  I knew that infants sometimes vomited when crying and I couldn’t do that to my baby.  So, at first, I would get up and nurse her and put her back to bed.  But then I felt like she was used to nursing in the middle of the night and I knew she didn’t need to.  So I enlisted the help of my husband.  We decided to alternate nights and to just comfort her without picking her up.  We would sing to her, rub her back, etc.  It took a few weeks, but she finally went back to to sleeping through the night.  Hallelujah!

This brings us to my toughest sleep challenge, my fourth baby.  While I was pregnant with her, I set my expectation more realistically.  I actually planned to co-sleep with her because I knew that I would get more sleep this way.  I knew that I wanted to feed on demand because it is better for her.  But I did not expect how attached she would be to me from birth.  I had a wonderful home birth experience with her.  She was born underwater in a birthing pool in my living room and it was everything I wanted it to be.  I tried nursing within 15 minutes of her birth because I had a history of  a postpartum hemorrhage and breastfeeding stimulates contractions.  She latched right on and I was in true bliss.  But every time  she would unlatch, she started rooting again.  So, of course, I started nursing again.  This went on for 6 straight hours.   Of course, I didn’t mind.  She was my new baby and I didn’t want to put her down anyway.  But then it was time for me to go to sleep.  After realizing that she wasn’t going to detach herself from me, I brought her in bed with me.  Co-sleeping from day 1 was a surprise but fine with me.  As the days went on, I was able to start putting her in her cradle.  I would feed her at midnight before I went to sleep and she would wake up at 3:00 am to feed again.  At first, I would watch TV or something while I fed her and then laid her back down.  But then, the exhaustion started to take its toll and I would just lie her next to me and nurse at the 3:00 am feeding.  On top of the tough sleeping situation at night, she was a chronic cat napper.  She had several 30 minute naps a day.  Finally, at 6 weeks, she started skipping the middle of the night feeding and was waking up between 5:00 am and 6:00 am.  It was great!  I still brought her into bed with me at that time for our cuddle time and to get another hour or so of sleep.  She started getting on a bit of a schedule during the day also where she had a morning, afternoon, and evening nap.  At this point, life started getting back to normal.  I was completely healed from childbirth and finally sleeping a long stretch at night.

NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  At around 4 months old, my daughter woke up at 2:00 am.  I was surprised but just thought it was a one time thing.  But, of course, it wasn’t.  She not only was waking up at night, but several times a night.  The only way to keep her sleeping was to co-sleep and every couple of hours switch sides to feed her.  The first few weeks I just kind of dealt with it.  But after that, I couldn’t take it anymore.  The thing that made this harder than the first six weeks was that for almost three month, she was sleeping through the night.  At first, I thought that this was like the same sleep pattern as my middle two girls.  But it was completely different.  It was like she needed me.  But I couldn’t say no to my helpless baby.  I didn’t want her to feel abandoned.  So I hit the internet again for solutions.  I also turned to infant sleep Facebook groups.  I basically found two methods, crying or dealing with it.  Some moms tried cry it out or another sleep training called extinction.  I had never even heard of, that one before.  Other moms continued to co-sleep and would remind moms that babies are only little once and to enjoy the time.  No disrespect to these moms but, I need sleep to be a better mom not only to my infant, but to my other three children.  Regardless of the parenting choices these parents were making, I saw the same kinds of posts: the 4 month regression.  I had never heard of this before which surprised me since this is my fourth.  I realized that many babies go through this and what I found out was, they don’t just “get over it”.  This is basically the time to decide what kind of parent you are going to be.  Are you going to sleep train or are you okay with the possibility that your child will be 2 years old and still not sleeping through the night?  As much as the latter terrified me, I was not okay with sleep training per se.  Like I said, I do not agree with cry it out or extinction or the Ferber method, etc.  But they aren’t all completely wrong.  That’s when I decided to try MY method.

I think this is the best method for me.  This is what all parents should do.  They should think about what is best for their family and that will be the correct method.  For me, I kind of pulled a little piece from each one.  I started off by putting her to bed earlier.  She was pretty consistently falling asleep between 7:00 pm and 8:00 pm and then sleeping until I went to bed when I nursed her again.  So, first, I nursed her at this time and put her in her own bed.  At 11:00 pm, I would do a dream feed.  Now, if she woke up between these two times, I would only go into the room if she was actually crying.  If she was just whining, I would wait a few minutes to see if she calmed herself down.  I always went in if she cried for more than a minute.  This process only took a few days to master.  She very quickly acclimated to this schedule and took less and less time to fall back asleep on her own.  I decided to try it during the day too.  I started putting her in for her naps in her own bed opposed to in the living room.  It took only a few days and then I began putting her down drowsy.  To my surprise, she was able to fall asleep on her own.  I had read that the better day that a baby has, the better night they will have.  Well that was proving to be true.  I know that there will still be times she may wake up at the wrong time due to a cold, a milestone, or maybe just for comfort.  I will take it one day at a time.

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