The Return of Nighttime Nursing
I’ve pored through your coverage of the dreaded four month sleep regression, but I’m still not sure about one bit. Our sweet girl is just over four months and has gone from sleeping through the night since about two months to waking periodically. She gets back to sleep on her own mostly, but there’s always one instance when she doesn’t, and when we come in to soothe cannot be consoled without getting on the boob. Like, Can. Not. Be. Consoled.
So my question: Am I creating a bad habit by bring back this middle of the night nursing session?
Possibly relevant details: We’ve got a robust babe. She’s 90% percentile height and weight, and has been a feaster her whole life. It’s frankly a miracle she quit the overnight nursing at all. She’s usually down by 7pm or so, and we’ve been moving that bedtime up when we perceive some sleepy fussiness. She’s an ok daycare napper; sleeps well but doesn’t have any real routine going. We nurse to sleep about half the time; only when she really won’t perk back up for me to put her down drowsy but awake.
I still consider myself lucky to have a baby that only wakes once in the night, and I know nighttime nursing at this age is still very normal. But is it bad to reintroduce a nursing session that she was ok without previously?
This actually DOES have a simple answer! And that answer is: You’re fine. You’re fine! You’re totally fine.
It’d be one thing if we were talking about a (much) older baby or toddler suddenly regressing into nursing-as-sleep-crutch or nighttime-game-playing territory, but a four-month-old? She’s just HUNGRY.
It’s important to remember that infant sleep is not linear. It’s not always a solid march forward into more and more hours of uninterrupted sleep.
(This is why it’s always hard to resist a condescending snort-laugh at brand-new parents bragging online about how their baby is sleeping through the night at like, four days old. Yeah. They all do that. And then they stop doing that, abruptly. IT’S THE OLDEST TRICK IN THE BABY BOOK.)
It’s normal for baby’s sleep habits to ebb and flow. There are regressions and growth spurts and teething and illnesses and all sorts of amazing things happening in their bodies and brains — all of which can and will affect their sleep and routines in general. Your daughter isn’t jerking your chain or anything here — she’s waking up and crying inconsolably for food because she’s hungry, and that’s really it. She needs to nurse at night now, and it really doesn’t matter that she didn’t a month or even a week ago.
Maybe it’s a growth spurt and she’ll drop the feeding abruptly, or maybe she’ll continue to need that one extra night-feeding for a few more months. Maybe she’ll just start sleeping through it all on her own again, or maybe you’ll eventually need to make the call that the waking is more about comfort/habit than an actual need for nutrition and decide how (or if) you’d like to let it continue or gently wean her off of it. But that’s a far off point from here.
It’s GOOD that you’re aware of good vs. bad sleep habits, and it’s VERY GOOD that you’re at least giving her a chance to settle back down on her own as opposed to rushing in and swooping her up the second she makes a sound. That makes it easier, actually, to know when she’s actually waking up hungry as opposed to some other interruption she can work out herself. That one inconsolable instance is the real nighttime waking-to-eat deal, perfectly normal and entirely developmentally appropriate for her age. Go ahead and feed her, and don’t give it another worried thought. You’re both doing great!