Category Archives: How We Sleep

Nature or Nurture- Which is More Important to Help Your Baby Sleep?

baby sleep twins case study“Mom….,” comes an exasperated sigh from my daughter, “the boys are awake again!” As a mother of fraternal twin boys (and a singleton daughter), I’ve heard this many times. Often though, I’d enter their bedroom, and find the same one of them up, crying, ready to get out of his crib, and the other asleep, just starting to rustle at the noise from the door.

Sound familiar? What really does make up the difference in sleep patterns between children? Those of you with one child who has sleep challenges may wonder, will we face this again with baby number two (or three, or four)—or is there something different that we can do next time? Can we change the sleep patterns of our current baby? And, every family with more than one child probably recognizes the similarities and differences in their children’s sleep.

Rather than feeling twinges the green-eyed monster jealousy for your neighbor, because her baby sleeps through the night AND her baby naps well, let’s look at some new research on what factors do influence sleep. No wonder she has time to do her nails. :)

An Italian study on twin sleep, just published this month in Pediatrics concludes that sleep disturbances in early childhood are shaped by BOTH environmental AND genetic factors. We knew that though, right? Remember the whole nature vs. nurture debate? This study found that nurture, or the environment that a child is raised with, affects sleep more than nature, or the genetic makeup of the child. Twin studies are invaluable to learn about topics like this, because they look at babies or children who share the same environment and genes (in the case of identical twins—fraternal twins only share about 50% of the same genetic makeup).

The results of this study show, that while there are some things about our babies’ sleep that we can’t change based on their genes, the good news is that there is even MORE that we can change. This can help both us and them receive better rest, based on our sleep behaviors with them.

So, don’t look at it with the glass half empty–thinking that your rocking, walking, or bouncing and holding until baby is asleep has prevented your baby’s chance at good sleep. In fact, you did what was right for her at the time! Maybe she was sick or teething, and you did what was necessary. The glass half full attitude, says, “Yes…I did what was right at the time, and now there are things I can change to help my baby sleep better.” It may be time to help coach your child toward better sleep.

What factors did the study look at? It looked at factors that concern parents just like you ever day, such as:

Co-sleeping 98% Environmental Causes
Night waking episodes 63% Environmental Causes
Night sleep duration 64% Environmental Causes
Nap duration 61% Environmental Causes

For each of these items, it means the things our baby does (especially co-sleeping, which isn’t necessarily bad, and many parents do by choice) are greatly influenced by our actions, and how we respond to our baby. There is no right or wrong when you do what’s best for your family. But, there are methods that can be implemented to help your family rest.

As for me, at this point my twins are 18 months old, and I am quite convinced that their slight differences in night sleep and nap duration are genetic changes between the two. They sleep great at night, and 95% of the time nap well also. So, the fact that one boy wakes a few minutes than the other? I think that’s an example of the genetic differences between them. They are fraternal twins, so genetically more like regular siblings than an identical genetic makeup. I do keep them on exactly the same schedule, and learned by trial and error to do that when they were younger babies also. They have almost always slept in the same room, except when we were working with the one twin who sleeps a little less. Everything else was done consistently, so they have essentially the same sleeping patterns, not just because they are twin brothers—but because I coached them with the exact same sleep behaviors.

The next time you hear a night time cry coming down the hall, question if this waking is natural for a needed feeding session or if it’s truly time to get up. If not, it may be something you could help change through the use of different behaviors and changing sleep associations.

For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a Personalized Sleep Plan™ you can feel good about!

This week’s post is by our new assistant sleep consultant, Heather Matthies. Heather will work with us to create personalized sleep solutions for tired families and provide support during the process. Heather is a registered nurse and holds both a Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science in Nursing. She has many years of professional experience and is a kind, warm person. She’s also the mother of three, including twins, and knows just what it’s like to juggle the many demands of parenthood! Please give Heather a warm welcome to The Baby Sleep Site.

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5 Reasons Why Your Baby is Night Waking and Won’t Sleep

 
5 Reasons Your Baby Is Waking At Night

A baby night waking is one of the most common issues that bring tired parents to The Baby Sleep Site. But, why exactly do babies wake at night? Why won’t your baby sleep? This article will discuss the 5 primary reasons for baby night waking.

 

1. Sleep Prop

The official name is “sleep association” but these are more widely known as “sleep props” or “crutches.” This is something your baby “needs” (using that term loosely) in order to sleep. For most babies, in my experience, this will be a pacifier, bottle, or breastfeeding (so a nipple of some sort because sucking is so soothing to them). For many others this might be movement such as rocking, bouncing, walking, the car, etc. Still fewer, some babies will wake for much less. It might be a hand on their back, just a little reassurance, picking them up for a minute, a snuggle with mom. For high-needs babies, they may need more than one (e.g. bouncing with a pacifier). This varies based on your baby’s temperament.

The bigger the sleep prop, the easier to change, for most babies. Some babies’ sucking reflex is much stronger, though, that can be difficult to change depending on your baby’s age. Sometimes you need to avert their sucking to something besides a pacifier that is harder to find at night, for example. By far, I believe the “small” reasons for waking are much harder to change. Who wants to deny your baby a one-minute hug if he seems to need it, even though it’s exhausting to be woken up EVERY night at 4 a.m.? It becomes an issue of attempting to teach them that there is a right and wrong time for certain things such as 2 p.m. IS an appropriate time to play peek-a-boo, but 2 a.m.? Not so much. It is probably your fault your baby won’t sleep and that’s okay!

2. Developmental Milestones

When your baby is learning how to roll, crawl, pull up, cruise, walk, talk, etc. this can disrupt their night sleep (and your baby’s naps, too!). This might not be too surprising to you, since you know all too well when you have a lot on your mind, you might have trouble sleeping, too. This is particularly true during the 8, 9, or 10 month old sleep regression.

One key here is to keep your expectations in check, because even when it doesn’t seem like your baby is learning something new doesn’t mean he isn’t. There is a lot to learn and you will be amazed just how much they change in a short amount of time. When your baby can learn how to go back to sleep on his own, this night waking can be a lot less disruptive for everyone. It doesn’t mean it will necessarily be perfect, but you hearing him wake once a night is a lot different than five times! Even better when he can go back to sleep on his own without a tear or your input whatsoever. Just because a baby wakes at night doesn’t mean he needs to “need” something.

3. Teething

Gah! Teething. It feels like babies teethe for what feels like a constant two years! Many people will throw in that they can teethe for a long time before a tooth even pops through, too. This makes you feel powerless, because you have to constantly wonder if teeth are trying to pop through or not. Is he in pain? Is this why my baby is waking all night? Then there is the “other” side who say teething does not disrupt sleep at all. Yeah…right. Because all babies are the same, right? I can tell you there are plenty of babies who are great sleepers, but wake for a week (or so) due to teething and then go back to sleeping well, so I know teething does affect some babies.

Having a “teething plan” is of utmost importance. I tried to be sensitive to my sons during teething, but also had to keep sleep at the top of priorities for everyone’s sakes. My second son had a much rougher time with teething than his older brother (who inspired this site) who had more sleep problems, ironically! Finding a healthy balance of helping them through teething without creating a bunch of sleep props is the key to getting through the two years (or more) of teething. I think part of what got me through was what toddlers can teach you about sleep training.

4.Hunger

This one might seem obvious, but there are some people who are surprised when a 5 month old breastfed baby is still waking at night for a feeding or two, especially if their doctor has told them their baby should not need to eat at night. Keep in mind that to go all night without eating means going 12-13 hours without a feeding, since babies need a lot of sleep. Make sure you read about night feedings and when to night wean.

5. Being Human

This one seems to surprise people. A lot of new parents seem to be confused as to why their baby does not sleep the same every day. This is just a friendly reminder that our babies are not robots. I, too, wondered why my baby woke up at a different time every day or a different time at night for his feeding or took a different length nap every day. Not only did I wonder, but it drove me crazy!! I look back and wondered why I expected him to be the same every day. Perhaps it was the books I was reading. I honestly don’t know. There are some babies who you can set a clock by and then there are those like my son who’s different every. single. day. Without fail! Most of it is his temperament and the fact that not all babies are regular. I look at myself and realize that I am not 100% consistent every day, either. Sometimes I’m starving when I wake up and other days I’m not. Some days I’m starving for lunch by 11 a.m. and other days I wait until 1 p.m. to eat. Why did I expect my baby to be the same every day when I’m not? I’ll never figure that one out, but I can share my wisdom with you that our babies will have good days and bad days just like we do.

There are many reasons a baby is waking at night (or any person for that matter) and the number of reasons increases with toddler sleep. Too cold, too warm, sick, and so on. The above reasons are just the five that seem to come up most frequently in sleep consultations. You may want to read about the ideal temperature for your baby to sleep and, of course, when your baby is miserable due to illness, make sure you comfort and tend to them so they can get better. As with any temporary sleep disruption, though, try to limit things that can become long-term habits.

How To Help Your Baby Wake Less Often (And Possibly Sleep Through The Night!)

Short or non-existent baby naps can be so frustrating – but you don’t have to suffer through them! You can teach your baby a new way to nap – and we can help. We have helped thousands of families around the world with their babies’ nap trouble, and we can help you, too! Take a look at our consultation packages, and see which one looks like a good fit for you.

Click here to see all our personalized consultation packages.

Once you purchase, you will immediately receive access to the Helpdesk, and you can set up your account, fill out your Family Sleep History form, submit it to a consultant, and get started on the journey to better sleep!

Want more information about how personalized help works? Check out our FAQ page here, and get answers. You can also take a tour of the Helpdesk.

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bss_ebook_freeguide_leftWant FREE sleep help that you can put to use right away? Download a copy of our free guide, 5 Ways To Help Your Child Sleep Through The Night! The guide is available to download instantly, which means you can start using the techniques in it as early as tonight. So download now, and learn why your baby is waking at night – and what you can do about it.
 
 
Click here to learn more about how to get your free guide.

A better night’s sleep could be just a few clicks away. So don’t wait – download now, and start your journey to better sleep tonight!
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Need Baby and Toddler Sleep Help? We Have the Resources You Need!

bss_ebook_3stepsystem_leftFor those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night.
 
 

bss_email_featprod_memberspic-CROPPEDOr, join our Members Area packed with exclusive content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, expert advice, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! As a member, you’ll also enjoy a weekly chat with an expert sleep consultant. And the best part – members receive 20% off all sleep consultation services!

 
Can’t decide which product or service is right for you? Visit our Getting Started Page for help.

 

What are some of the reasons your baby is waking at night?

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Getting Your Baby to Sleep in the Crib

When you were pregnant, you probably took great care in designing your baby’s nursery and carefully selected the best items for your baby registry. One of the most important things in the nursery is your baby’s crib. After all, she will sleep in her crib for 2 to 4 years, right?

Unfortunately, for some of us, sleeping in the crib is just a nice dream. After you had your baby, you might have purposely decided to keep baby in your room in a co-sleeper bassinet and imagined transitioning her to her own room and crib around 6 months old when she was sleeping through the night. When she turned 6 months, you might have learned it’s not that easy to transition baby to sleep in her crib and I’m here to help!

One thing I want to emphasize is that only some people can sleep anytime, anywhere. My husband happens to be that way (as I’m typing this, he just started snoozing on the couch next to me). Only some of our babies will sleep in a stroller (my boys are NOT among them!) and only a few will transition to sleep in a crib without a hitch. For three days my younger son slept in a Close and Secure Sleeper in our bed and then we put it into the crib and it was an easy transition. My older son (who inspired this site) was not so adaptable, which is why I did make a whole site about baby sleep. :D

When your baby is a newborn, she might not sleep in her crib because it’s far away from anyone who she seeks comfort from, mommy and daddy. And, it might seem too big compared to the womb, especially if she isn’t swaddled.

Months later, now your baby won’t sleep in the crib because it’s the equivalent of you going to sleep in the guest room. It is only her bed because you said it’s her bed. Your nursery might be beautiful, but to her, she may as well be in a different house when she’s trying to sleep in “her room”. Some adults can’t sleep well in a hotel (even the nice ones) for the same reason: It’s not your bed.

Once again, sleep associations come into play in how your baby knows how to fall asleep. Does she need to move to sleep (via rocking chair, bouncing ball, or bouncy seat)? Does she need to suck to sleep (via pacifier, nursing, or bottle)? And, is she in a comfortable place to sleep? Up until now she hasn’t slept in her crib, so why would that be a comfortable place today just because she turned 5 or 6 months old?

How to Get Your Baby to Sleep in the Crib

The #1 goal in helping your baby sleep in the crib is to make it feel like HER room and HER bed. Here are a few tips you might consider:

• Consider putting YOUR bed in HIS room for a few days.
• Make sure you spend non-sleep time in HIS room
• Have him sleep on his own crib sheet for a few days, so it has his scent
• YOU sleep on his crib sheet for a few days, so it has YOUR scent
• Give it time. Don’t expect it to go perfectly the first day. It might take a few days to a couple of weeks, but the first few nights will most likely be the most difficult. Expect it to be rough and he might just surprise you, but do expect it to take work. Only some will have an easy transition.

One thing you want to do is make sure your baby knows how to fall asleep on his own, FIRST. Otherwise, you are simply going back and forth from your room to his all night, instead of reaching over a foot or two (or if you are co-sleeping, maybe just a few inches). Even if your baby is sleeping great in your room, if she has trouble adjusting, make sure you are sensitive to the fact that this is a new place for her and don’t just let her cry it out. Some babies actually sleep BETTER, immediately, once they are in their own space, not smelling Mommy’s milk or hearing Daddy’s snoring all night long.

If you need help in getting your baby to sleep, please consider our 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep e-Book (plus bonus materials) or our baby sleep consultations, where I will work with you on a personalized sleep plan that you can feel good about for your unique baby and your unique situation. If you have a toddler and are looking to transition from co-sleeping to crib or co-sleeping to bed, please see our 5 Step System to Better Toddler Sleep.

How Did You Get Your Baby to Sleep in the Crib?

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Baby’s Sleep and the Moon

Baby Sleep MoonAwhile ago, Shauna commented on one of my posts about the moon affecting her baby’s sleep and I thought that would make for an interesting article to research. This past Sunday, June 7, 2009, was a full moon and lo and behold both my sons woke up at night. Did I ever tell you how one kid waking up is bad, but both, especially at different times, is downright brutal!? (bowing down to those of you with multiples right now!)

My youngest around 12:20 started crying and I went in, cuddled him for a couple of minutes and put him back down with his crib music on and left. No more peeps out of him. Around 3 something, my preschooler came running into my room saying he had a bad dream someone was chasing him (Reminder: I will be doing a series on nightmares and night terrors this summer). After I gave him a few minutes and took him back to bed, he called out for me later to turn his fan on. Interestingly enough, I had also turned on my youngest’s ceiling fan a few hours earlier, too. I thought they were both hot (I was too), however, I remembered I wanted to do an article about the moon’s effect on our sleep, if there was any, so I looked it up and what do you know? It was a full moon that night.

So, does the moon affect our baby’s sleep?

Mostly what I found was that the moon affecting human behavior and sleep, in general, is not proven and generally accepted as untrue among scientists. In theory, it sounds like it could be likely the moon affects us as it does have an effect on the oceans / tides and the human body is made up of 65% water. However, the amount of water in the oceans is so much greater than our “small” human bodies and the water in the ocean is considered “unbounded”, that it has been said that a mosquito on our arm would have more of an effect than the moon. It’s been said that the term “lunatic” comes from our history that at one time we did believe the moon was to blame for strange behavior, but this has remained unproven by numerous scientific studies. I might have to track my sons’ sleep for the next month and see what happens during the next full moon on July 7th. For now, I’ll stick to reading Goodnight Moon to my boys.

Update 8/11/2011:
I have subscribed to a website about the full moon where they send you an email reminding you it’s coming. They posted an article about the connection (or lack thereof) between sleep and the moon, here: Full Moon Info WebSite. Here is where you can find the remaining Full Moons for 2011.

So, tell me, for my own informal research…

Does your baby wake up during a full moon?

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Your Baby’s Comfort and a Good Night’s Sleep

Most people know that sleep is vital to the existence of all living creatures. A good night’s sleep is essential to your mental and physical health, and overall well being. Most people are aware that the average adult requires between 6-8 hours of sleep a night in order to maintain good health. Infants however, require a full 10-12 hours of sleep a night in addition to several naps throughout the day. Sleep is a time of restoration for the human body and it uses these hours to regenerate fingernails, hair, and even skin cells. For an infant, sleep is a crucial time for the development and growth of limbs, muscles, and bones. As your baby matures he will require less sleep until he begins to follow the sleep patterns of a normal adult. Until such time, a baby will require several periods of rest throughout the day and 10-12 hour periods of nightly sleep to help grow into a healthy child.

There are many factors that can help contribute to a healthy night’s sleep for your baby. The most paramount of which is the baby’s comfort level. No matter how tired an infant may become, if his or her sleeping area is not comfortable, then achieving a good night’s sleep will be almost impossible. Choosing the proper sleeping arrangement for your baby is one way to help insure that your child will be comfortable and able to fall and stay asleep.

Choosing the right crib and mattress should be a top priority. You want to be sure that your baby’s crib is safe and has passed all necessary safety tests before you leave your baby in its care. Most cribs will proudly display a certification sticker to let you know that it has been rigorously tested with your baby’s safety in mind.

A crib’s mattress is also one of the most important factors in the preparing for your baby’s sleep. A crib mattress should be firm, but not too firm. You want to make sure you baby is comfortable, while also insuring that it is not so soft that it becomes a safety hazard. If a mattress is too soft your baby may shift in the night, which can run the risk of him or her suffocating in the night. Obviously, you should monitor your baby often by both physically checking on them and also with the use of an electronic baby monitor. There are also baby tracking services and products, that can help take the worry out of parenting your newborn.

Lastly, a baby’s bedding should be comfortable, but more importantly safe. Soft bedding items like quilts, blankets, pillows, and even plush toys can be harmful to your newborn when left unsupervised. The most important thing is to make sure that your baby’s head remains uncovered at all times. If you absolutely must use a baby blanket, tuck it into the crib mattress at chest level to help protect against suffocation and other breathing issues. Also, any soft or plush items like toys or quilts should be removed from the crib as a safety precaution.

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Baby Sleep and Temperature

The son this website was inspired by is a MUCH better sleeper than when he was a baby, but he will probably never be a perfect sleeper and I have grown to just accept that (maybe I will have to drag him out of bed as a teenager — we’ll see). My son is sensitive to schedule and routine changes and is, in general, a light sleeper. Last week he started to have a few night-wakings every night for 3 nights, which nowadays is unusual. When he was 4 months old it was common, expected and highly frustrating. At 3, it is no less frustrating and probably more tiring since I’m no longer used to it.

It was my own article last week that helped me figure out what had changed. I wrote my article about baby temperament and sensitivity, and it reminded me just how sensitive he is/was to temperature. And, it was 2-3 nights prior that we thought it was very cold at night and we put thermals on underneath his fleece footed PJ’s. Now that he’s older, he keeps the sheet and blanket on him a lot better, so he was getting too hot those few nights! Boy was I happy to figure it out! You’d think he would say “Mommy I’m too hot”, but I don’t think he realized why he was waking up. Unfortunately, he still has a bad night here and there (nightmares, insomnia, etc. — which I hope to write about in the future), but at least he doesn’t get up most nights and not numerous times EACH night like last week!

So, I did some homework so I could pass on the ideal temperature your baby or toddler’s room should be when he sleeps, so hopefully my experience again will help others.

It is very important that you not overheat your newborn when she sleeps as it increases the risk of SIDS. It has also been shown that using a fan can decrease the risk of SIDS by 72%.

Our internal body clock controls our body temperature and when our temperature is high, like during the day, our bodies are more awake. We all have a dip in body temperature in the afternoon and we feel sleepy (Ferber calls this the “afternoon dip”). At night, when the sun goes down, our body temperature starts to drop and Melatonin (a hormone) is released in our bodies inducing sleep. Our temperature is lowest at night until around 4 a.m. our bodies start to prepare to wake up. Many parents complain about their baby’s sleep in the early morning hours. It’s the lightest sleep of the night.

I found a few sites that say the ideal room temperature is between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (or 18.3 to 21.1 Celsius), but none of the sites seemed like THE authority on that, so I’d use that as a starting point, but I’m going to venture to guess that the ideal temperature for your family will vary a little, depending on you (and your baby) and how many blankets you use. Keep in mind that your child won’t learn to keep a cover on all night until past 18-24 months. My youngest, we put on a onesie t-shirt, thermal pajamas and then fleece pajamas over those this winter. For my eldest, we are now putting on just Fleece footed pajamas and he has a sheet and comforter on. And, we’re keeping our thermostat at 68 degrees at night.

I didn’t find any scientific research about this, but if our body temperature being higher in the day keeps us awake, I would venture to guess that my son was waking up partially because his body temperature was too high as much as it was because he may or may not have been uncomfortable. The moral of the story is to keep the kids warm, but not too warm, and not too cold, either, yet another parenting magic trick.

At what temperature do you keep your thermostat?

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Can you teach baby to sleep through noise?

Baby Sleep With NoiseA friend of mine just had a baby and she gave me the idea for this article because her family was urging her to “get the baby used to sleeping with noise”. If I had a dime every time someone told me part of my son’s sleep problems were because he needed to get used to sleeping with noise…well I’d probably only have $5, but still, it was really frustrating to hear. Let me be honest. I have NO SCIENTIFIC proof of what I’m about to say. YOU CAN’T GET A BABY TO GET USED TO NOISE AND SLEEP THROUGH IT. Okay, you might be able to help them not wake up with every little noise, but overall, your baby has a certain threshold where certain things will wake him up. Period.

Update 8/2011: There has now been a study indicating there may be scientific proof after all that some people are hard-wired to wake more easily with sound while others sleep right through it. Read more here.

When your baby is a newborn, he will spend most of his time in a deep sleep and likely sleep through almost ANYTHING! In deep sleep, it takes a lot to wake us up (adults included). Around 6 weeks old, he will become more social and start returning your smiles. This might be around the time the dog barking or that noise outside starts becoming interesting and he may not be able to sleep through as much, but usually he will still be in a deep sleep a lot of the time. By 4 months old, the way he sleeps changes a lot in when he goes into deep sleep and may be even more affected by noise.

Babies will vary as to how much noises interest them or wake them up and how quickly they can fall back to sleep if they do hear a noise. I can tell you that both my boys could not sleep through just anything and were not portable babies (I could not bank on them falling asleep on the go). But, my second son could fall back to sleep MUCH easier than my first. You might think I didn’t make enough noise with them, but let me assure you, my first son was in a very noisy daycare for 8+ months (before we got a nanny and kept him home, partially due to his sleep issues) and he NEVER “got used” to noise! I don’t care how many people tell me that I didn’t do something, he simply has always been worried he will miss something fun if he has to sleep and he all but went on a nap strike at daycare. Even as a 3 year old, at bedtime, he would claim he was not tired, say he didn’t want to go to sleep and then fall asleep 4 minutes later (I am not exaggerating!). He was no different as a baby and would fight sleep tooth and nail. :) So, with both boys we made sure we put the barking dogs away and gave them a quiet place to sleep, in the nursery and in their crib. We later bought White Noise Machines, to block out some of the household noises and encourage longer naps and better night sleep. My other friend’s baby was able to sleep through a lot more noise and on-the-go compared to my boys. It’s just luck of the draw.

So, next time someone tells you to get baby used to sleeping with noise, no, don’t walk on your tip toes, but please give your baby a quiet place to sleep if he needs it. I can tell you one thing, I certainly can’t sleep with my dogs barking outside my door or the radio blaring. I don’t expect my babies to, either.

Do you think a baby can learn to sleep through noise?

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4 Month Sleep Regression Explained (sometimes 3 and 5 months too)

4 Month Sleep Regression

Over the years, our team has seen countless parents come to us for help with their 4 month old babies sleep. Why? Simple – it’s the 4 month sleep regressionThis article will explain why “good” sleepers sometimes turn “bad” around the 4 month old mark, also known as the 4 month sleep regression. For most babies, the 4 month sleep regression occurs right around the 4 month mark, but for some babies, it happens a bit earlier (around 3 months) or a bit later (around 5 months). For some babies, the 4 month sleep regression is relatively mild and very brief; for others, the 4 month sleep regression is a very, very rough phase marked by lots of crying, and that lasts pretty much indefinitely.


4 Month Sleep Regression: How Your Newborn Baby Sleeps In The Early Weeks

Yes, this is an article about the 4 month sleep regression, so we really should be talking about 4 month old babies, right? We will, in just a moment – but first, we need to back up to the newborn phase. When a newborn sleeps, she cycles between “active” and “quiet” sleep (also known as REM and non-REM sleep), but does not have the distinctive stages of sleep she will have as she grows older and her brain matures. We’ll avoid too much technical talk (that’s one reason we have this website, so you won’t have to learn the whole history of sleep if you don’t want to (or can’t stay awake to!), but if you are interested in knowing more about our biological rhythms and how we do sleep in more detail, I highly recommend the book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems), even if you have no interest in “Ferberizing” (just skip that part and consider a no-cry method). Newborns spend a lot of their time in deep sleep, which is why it is hard to wake them up (even to eat!) in those early days, but they do startle when they cycle into “active” sleep, which is one reason swaddling your baby can be so effective.


The 4 Month Sleep Regression Changes Things: How Your 4 Month Old Baby Sleeps (And Sometimes Your 3 Month Old Baby, or 5 Month Old Baby)

We all go in and out of light and deep sleep. As adults, we might change positions, look at the clock, or reposition our pillow. Up until now, you may have rocked your baby or simply given him a pacifier and he slept for hours without waking up. Well, at 3 or 4 months old, your baby is now sleeping more like an adult. Now when she falls asleep, she does not enter deep sleep right away, and if you lay her down before she is in deep sleep, she is likely to wake up and you will start all over helping her to fall back to sleep again and again.


4 Month Sleep Regression Patterns: First, Your 4 Month Old Baby Enters Deep Sleep…

Initially in the night, your 4 month old will enter deep sleep relatively quickly, within 30 minutes (this changes as we get older). However, as I said, we all cycle in and out of light and deep sleep. A child’s sleep cycle is about 45-50 minutes. So, your baby will briefly awake 45-50 minutes after she has been asleep. To put that in perspective, if you are holding your baby to sleep, you would need to hold her for at least 30 minutes to make sure she’s in deep sleep and then she might wake up 15 minutes later. Sound familiar?

Overall, though, your baby’s deepest sleep is in the early part of the night, so after that first sleep cycle, she might sleep just fine for a few hours. So, you’re golden right? Just hold her for an hour? Nope!


4 Month Sleep Regression Patterns: How Your 4 Month Old Baby Sleeps The Rest Of The Night…

The technical definition of “sleeping through the night” is 5 hours of continuous sleep (i.e. no feedings) and many babies can/will do this by 2 or 3 months old. The beginning of the night is your baby’s deepest sleep, and after the first 5 hours (if not sooner, depending on just how challenging he is), he will cycle between light and deep sleep, but the deep sleep won’t be as deep as it was at the beginning of the night. This is where the problem of sleep associations really come into play. If your baby needs your help to go to sleep in the beginning of the night, sometime after midnight or so, he will continue to need your help every 1 or 2 sleep cycles (that means every 45 to 90 minutes, or as I often hear, every 1-2 hours).

Between 4-6 a.m., approximately, is the lightest sleep of the whole night (parents’ complaints alone make this true, in my experience, aside from my reading). In the very early morning hours (about 30 minutes to an hour before waking up), he will again go into the very deep sleep.

Although babies commonly wake up early, be sure it is truly their waking up time and not just this lighter sleep and that they are having trouble sleeping. You might notice they want a “nap” just 30 or so minutes after “waking up”. What you experienced was a night waking, not starting the day.

4 Month Sleep Regression Symptoms

Many parents want to know what the 4 month sleep regression looks like. That will vary from baby to baby, of course, but here is a short list of 4 month sleep regression signs:

  • Changes in appetite (baby may eat more or less than usual)
  • Lots of night wakings (these will seem out of the ordinary, especially if your baby had been sleeping longer stretches recently)
  • Increased crying and fussiness (often, the fussiness will be the inconsolable kind, and nothing you do to comfort your baby will work as well as it usually does)
  • Missed naps and/or shorter naps


4 Month Sleep Regression Explained

As we’ve established, all babies go through these changes in their sleep patterns. However, how your baby reacts to these changes will depend on unique factors. Some babies experience a week or two of fussy, interrupted sleep, and then go back to sleeping soundly at night and taking restorative naps. Other babies, however, are thrown all out of whack by the 4 month sleep regression, and they go through weeks and weeks (sometimes even months) of lots of night wakings and missed naps. These babies (and their poor parents!) are hit hard by the 4 month sleep regression, and exhibit a lot of the symptoms mentioned above.

So, if the 4 month sleep regression truly is a bad sleep regression for your baby – how can you cope? Well, we generally advise parents to get to the root of why the 4 month sleep regression is causing such disruptions. Usually, negative sleep associations are to blame – babies who have become accustomed to being rocked or fed or held to sleep continue to need their sleep associations, only now that their sleep patterns have changed, they need them all night long. Of course, mom and dad can’t sustain all that rocking and holding in the middle of the night, and so soon, the whole family is exhausted and overwhelmed. That’s usually when we hear from parents asking for a Personalized Sleep Plan™.

In general, I’d recommend waiting a few weeks, to see if your 4 month old baby’s sleep improves. If it doesn’t, then it may be time to make changes, and to work on weaning your 4 month old from his sleep associations. You might also want to work on establishing a gentle 4 month old baby schedule. I would urge you not to wait indefinitely, though – I talk to parents of 8 month old and even 20 month olds who are still waiting for their “baby” to grow out of their sleep problems.

For more tips on how to cope with and solve your baby’s 4 month sleep regression problems, you can read our other 4 month sleep regression article: The 4 Month Sleep Regression: What It Is and How To Fix It.


4 Month Sleep Regression Help

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Need Baby and Toddler Sleep Help? We Have the Resources You Need!

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Sleep Associations – Is Rocking Your Baby Harmful?

Is it a bad idea to rock your baby? It depends. It is never a bad idea to cuddle your baby and give him/her lots of love and affection! It’s only when rocking your baby becomes something you can’t keep up with is it a problem. Let’s take a step back and let me explain what a sleep association is.

What is your sleep association? How do you fall asleep?

What kind of routine do you do before you go to sleep each night? Do you watch TV? Talk to your partner? Do you read a book? Do you sleep on a pillow? These are the types of things you associate with going to sleep each night. What would happen if your power was out and you couldn’t watch the news or read your book? Would you have trouble falling asleep? Perhaps. Or, perhaps not. Would you have trouble going to sleep without your pillow? That might be more likely to give you trouble. Some sleep associations are stronger than others. What if you went to sleep with your pillow and covers and 2 hours later woke up and they were gone? Would you be able to go back to sleep without looking for the pillow? Now let’s look at how this concept might affect your baby/child.

What is your child’s sleep association? How does your child fall asleep?

Let’s look at how many babies fall asleep. They might fall asleep while their mother or father is rocking them in a rocking chair, bundled up and very cozy in their parent’s arms. Or, they may fall asleep sucking on a bottle of breastmilk/formula. Or, perhaps they doze off with the simple use of a pacifier. Minus the teeth issue with breastmilk/formula later on, there isn’t a problem with any of these methods of falling asleep until it is a problem.

From the time my son was an itty bitty baby, he loved to be walked, rocked and nursed to sleep. He also loved napping in the moving swing. At first this was not a problem. He would fall asleep quickly and we’d put him down. But, several weeks later, I found myself rocking him for 2-3 hours each night to put him to bed. He’d fall asleep easily, but then when I put him down he’d wake up! Ah! And, then I’d need to repeat it every 1-2 hours when he woke up. It was exhausting and I was at the end of my rope! So, we took to co-sleeping, which got us both more sleep, yet I was so nervous I’d roll on top of him or my husband or I would cover him with blankets. I’m not the best sleeper, so every time he’d want to nurse, I’d have trouble going back to sleep (and I never got good and switching sides without actually switching sides either). Co-sleeping works for many and I’m not knocking it. It just didn’t work for us and it is important for every family to learn what works for them best. After learning about sleep associations I was able to transfer him back to his crib at 4 months old and we both got a LOT more sleep then!

The problem with sleep associations lies in the fact that your baby needs YOU to recreate the environment in which they fell asleep. YOU become their “pillow” and when they wake up through sleep transitions (that we ALL have!) and their pillow is gone, they don’t know how to go back to sleep. So, the key is to allow them to go to sleep the same way they will wake up periodically throughout the night. If they wake up briefly and find you gone or the movement has stopped (as with my son) or their pacifier is gone or…they will wake up more and have to call out to you so you can “help” them once again. The beauty of this is that after they get to be about 3-4 months, they really don’t “need” you as much as you might think and they can actually learn to fall asleep on their own, if they haven’t learned already up to this point.

One final thought. I want to reiterate that rocking your baby, using a pacifier, nursing or drinking a bottle before bed, etc. are not bad things to do. If you don’t mind rocking your baby for 10 minutes and (s)he falls asleep, you transfer him/her to his/her bed and (s)he sleeps all night, then there is no problem. It’s only when you can’t keep up with the (insert sleep association) that it becomes a problem. Keep in mind that your sleep fragmentation that makes you exhausted is no better for your baby than it is for you. If you are cranky, don’t you think (s)he will be too over time? I would have LOVED to rock my son and boy did I try (unintentionally — just in my nature). We slipped back into bad habits more times than I wanted to count, but it just became a hitch for him EVERY time. In the end, I was able to continue to nurse him to sleep once he learned the necessary skills to go BACK to sleep throughout the rest of the night. With opportunity and practice we can all learn a new way to sleep, even without a pillow!

If you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 40 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3 Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night. Or, join our Members Area packed with premium content and resources: e-Books, assessments, detailed case studies, peer support, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations.

What kind of sleep associations do you have? What about your child?

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