What’s your advice on getting rid of the dummy for a 7-month old? My daughter…
Desperate Mama Thao came to me for help with the dreaded 4-month sleep regression. Below is a summary of our session together.
I’m at breaking point. Have been battling the 4-month sleep regression and it just seems to be getting worse and worse… Help! Baby has a feed-to-sleep addiction but I can’t even get through with that as he then wakes as soon as I put him down and it starts this endless cycle all night.
He’s sleeping so lightly and even on me will stir every 10 mins or want it to be a specific hold so I can’t even try to relax while holding him.
The 4-month baby sleep regression is exhausting for parents. It can set in when bub is anywhere from 11 weeks to 20 weeks old.
The 4-month sleep regression signifies a permanent change in your baby’s sleep habits. This is quite a normal developmental milestone as your baby’s brain matures and he starts to cycle between deep and light sleep just like you do.
However, when your baby is in this developmental stage you will often suffer through:
All this sleep disruption can take a huge toll on you.
Every baby is different. Every parent is different. And every home environment is different.
Advice for dealing with the 4-month sleep regression will depend on each family and how bub has been sleeping thus far.
Here are some of the specifics that my client Thao reported when she came to me for help:
Once I had gained an understanding of what was happening for Thao and her baby, I offered the following advice.
I can see that your baby is overtired from too long of a wake time between naps.
Start all preparation for nap times at 1.5 hours after he wakes. This means that bub will be asleep by 2 hours of wakefulness – rather than starting preparations after 2 hours, and finding by the time you get him to sleep it’s been 3 hours.
This is how the overtiredness sets in. And overtiredness is another term for overstimulation.
Your baby’s sleep will improve once he has learned to self-settle, has adjusted his sleep debt, and knows how to get to sleep on his own more quickly, with less preparation.
Feeding to sleep is what is needed for the first couple of months while you get through the newborn stage. Now he is used to sleeping on the boob. And sure he will look for it if you remove it, and at times it will wake him, annoy him and frustrate him.
But at this point I suggest taking your nipple out of his mouth when he begins to close his eyes or when you can feel he has begun to comfort suckle.
If he fusses when you do this, let him fuss. It’s normal.
You could even say, “I can see you are looking for the nipple, but I could feel from how you were feeding that you’re full now. You can sleep without my nipple.”
This kind of talk is soothing to him because he is calmed by your voice. It also reminds you that what he is doing is normal, and you remain calm by verbalising the situation aloud in a gentle, confident voice. It reminds you to let him find his way with your guidance.
You are transitioning him to learn that he doesn’t need to comfort feed to sleep. Give him opportunities to self-settle and he will more than likely begin to sleep longer.
Instead of restricting his arms in the swaddle, let him be free to suck his fingers or hands if he needs to.
It is better that he uses his own body for soothing rather than relying on a crutch such as a boob, a dummy or rocking. And it’s nicer for him to have control over when he sucks rather than someone else deciding for him.
The beauty of the 4th leap is that your baby’s brain is now much more aware and able to learn to self-settle. The difficulty is he doesn’t know that he has this ability yet. So you need to guide him to that opportunity.
To get past this stage he needs some predictability so he can learn to trust in the process.
Once babies discover their abilities, it can be overwhelming for them at first. You will see frustration, accompanied by crying.
But it will pass. And once it does, he will have developed a new skill. And he’ll feel more confident and trusting in you as his leader.
You can support him by listening and responding with your soothing words, patience and support.
Some crying will need to happen during this process. This is natural and normal because he is frustrated, confused and overtired.
Just like you probably want to scream from the mountain tops about how tired, frustrated and unsure you are at times, your son is going through a similar time of frustration.
After confusion and frustration comes learning. There is no need or way to protect him from that.
So let him let it out, and let him know you hear him with soothing words and song.
You could say, “I’m going to let you cry right now, because I know this is frustrating. But I am here. Right next to you. I am with you and I hear you.” And stay in the room until he sleeps.
Since you are within his field of vision, close your eyes and show him what to do. He might bellow and scream but you are right there with him.
These tips apply almost universally for baby sleep:
For more detail, read my healthy sleep habits for an 8-week old baby.
What about the rest of the day and the other parts of your home life?
You can’t take proper care of your baby if you are not caring for yourself. Prioritise your self-care in as many ways as you can find. I suggest:
Thanks so much Raquel Tara. I’m really struggling and you’ve thrown out a lifeline.
If you’re experiencing the 4-month sleep regression or other baby sleep issues, I offer 1:1 baby sleep support packages where I can give you tailored support.
Contact me today to get help for your baby sleep issues. Let’s get you some sleep, Mama!
Infant sleep is major parenting puzzle. Inspired by Magda Gerber’s RIE approach, I’ve been advising families for over 20 years on how to put the pieces together. I’d love to help you too.