Sleep Regression, Growth Spurt or Both?
I’ve been reading your advice articles and find it quite helpful as I’m learning and adjusting to the role of a new time mom! This article describes my little girl who’s 13.5 weeks.
My question is… is this a sleep regression or growth spurt? She, too, used to give me 6-8 hour stretches now is up every 2-3 hours, hard to get to bed and regularly having to resettle throughout the night once put down. However, as of now she seems to nap okay throughout the day. She does seem more distracted and not interested in nursing much during the day, too. Overall, she’s not super fussy during the day. This has been going on for a few days … a few days ago we also changed her bedtime to an earlier time as I could tell evening naps weren’t working for her as she’d be extra fussy and even went into a “night sleep” when I put her in her wrap at around 6/7ish.
Long story short, do you think this is a regression or growth spurt? Do all babies become quite fussy or needy during the day or is it a sleep regression?
Thanks in advance I REALLY appreciate it!!
Sleep regressions typically ARE tied to growth spurts. Of course, babies are growing pretty much all the time at a pretty rapid pace in their first year of life, but there are a couple developmental windows that generally mess with their sleep. The “four-month sleep regression” is typically the first, and one of the most confusing for new parents. (“BUT SHE WAS SLEEPING SO WELL DID I BREAK HER WHAT DO I DO I’M SO TIRED HELP.”) The name can be misleading, because it can totally start both before or after the four-month mark. It’s just a generalized name for something that most (but not all!) babies experience around three to five months of age.
So your daughter is experiencing both a growth spurt AND the accompanying sleep regression. Totally normal. This particular growth spurt, however, has less to do with her physical size and more to do with what’s going on in her brain. She’s becoming more…well, self-aware. (Sorry I’ve been watching too much Black Mirror.) She’s aware that she is a separate being from you, her mother, her source of food and comfort and safety. So when she wakes up at night, even if it’s only slightly, she’s more prone to cry for you and need help settling down than before.
She’s also becoming more aware of her surroundings and the world in general. Thus the distraction while nursing during the day. She’s looking around and noticing EVERYTHING for pretty much the first time (remember that, just a few short weeks ago, she mostly kept her eyes shut and didn’t really focus on anything all that much) and it’s…well, it’s a lot to take in.
So this is very developmentally normal, and while the sleep going sideways is understandably frustrating, this is also a really, REALLY fun age. She’s emerging from the sleepy newborn cocoon and you’ll start seeing the first bits of her personality. She’ll smile and laugh and recognize your face and start interacting with you and other people and toys more and more. It’s pretty awesome.
1. Stay consistent
The most important advice I can give about the four-month sleep regression is to stay consistent with whatever sleep approach you plan to take. This is when a LOT of parents fall into some bad habits out of exhausted desperation. Not that I blame them! I was still co-sleeping with most of mine at this age because it was just so much easier! But once I realized the co-sleeping was leading to a boob-in-the-mouth-like-a-pacifier sleep crutch, I sacked up and moved them to their cribs so I could distinguish between the “I’m actually hungry and need to eat” wakings from the “I’m just awake and need to learn to self soothe” ones. (Though to be fair, during a growth spurt they wake up actually hungry a lot more than usual anyway.)
2. Experiment with the 2-3-4 Sleep Routine
So while this is a good age to start taking note of her schedule and putting some routine/structure into her day. I recommend giving the 2-3-4 schedule a shot. She’ll still need to nurse on demand, however, so don’t withhold it at night when she wakes up. Try to keep her from falling soundly asleep on the boob and start aiming for that magic “drowsy but awake” window to put her back down. Be gentle with yourself, though — this is all one thing for me to type and quite another to put into action every two to three hours in the middle of the night when you’re bone-tired.
The best part of the four-month sleep regression is that it doesn’t last forever. Remember that!
(P.S. Since you mentioned putting your daughter to sleep “in her wrap,” Imma use this as an opportunity to remind everybody that once your baby exhibits signs she’s ready to start rolling over on her own, it’s time to stop swaddling for sleep. You can continue to swaddle for feedings or comfort, but switch to a sleep sack or other non-blanket/swaddle sleep solution.)