The Four Month Sleep Regression

Bringing your new baby home for the first time is an exciting moment marked with love, nervousness and a multitude of other emotions.  It can be scary, precious, and overwhelming, all at the same time. 

While very few new parents can honestly say that they knew what to expect once they brought their new baby home, many of the experiences that happen in the early days are handled with love, intuition and trial and error.  The first time your baby cries inconsolably, it’s heartbreaking; but through love and experimentation, the parent will eventually soothe their child and will soon learn the skills and techniques that they will later come to favor. 

But what happens when the first few months are over, and parents feel like they’ve finally found a good rhythm, and suddenly, their precious bundle of joy stops sleeping well?  Or perhaps their baby had never achieved a long stretch of sleep at night, and now their sleep has further deteriorated, leaving parents feeling desperate, hopeless and exhausted?

When a baby is approximately 4 months old, many developmental changes occur.  Their sleep cycles transition from that of a newborn, and they are no longer constantly in a state of deep sleep when they rest.  During this time, children are developing new motor skills and their cognitive awareness increases significantly. What that means for parents is that their child is no longer going to easily fall asleep “anywhere and everywhere.”  Babies are now excited and stimulated by things and people around them, and expecting them to fall asleep amid a plethora of chaos is nothing but a distant memory. 

While many children have learned good sleep habits, often babies that were becoming good sleepers suddenly start waking up frequently through the night and need a considerable amount of support to fall back asleep.  Unfortunately for parents, by this point in a baby’s life, parents are often exhausted and drained, and this regression is met with a tremendous amount of frustration. 

Teaching your child to fall asleep on their own is essential, so that they can easily transition between sleep cycles and remain asleep.   In addition to learning how to fall asleep on their own, night wakings need to be handled with consistency.  When a child wakes, he or she is often looking for the object or person that initially helped them fall asleep.  This is called a sleep prop.  If the child is sometimes rocked to sleep, sometimes nursed to sleep, and other times ignored for a few minutes in hopes that they will self soothe, the child will become confused.  He or she doesn’t know what to expect from their caregiver, and can’t learn what is expected of them.  Similarly, if the child cries for 30 minutes and the parents eventually get frustrated or overwhelmed and pick the baby up to bring him back to their bed, the baby hasn’t learned any new skills, they have just learned that “if I cry long enough, mommy (or daddy) will eventually bring me back to their bed”.  Consistency is key in overcoming regressions, and in teaching children of all ages new skills.  When a child is confused, it will lead to crying and transitions that are much more difficult.

 At this age, babies should be taking approximately three restorative naps each day, and sleeping 10-12 hours at night.  If you’ve tried several tactics on your own and are still having difficulties getting your child to sleep well, I’m here to help.  Call me at 403.474.3823 or email me at angelina@lullababies.ca and we can set up a free 15-minute consultation to discuss your child’s individual situation. 




Sleep Tips for Travelling with Young Children

 

​​A friend of mine was telling me that during a recent trip, she placed her son in his playpen to sleep… in the bathroom.  


While my initial thought was that sleeping in the bathroom seemed a tad cruel, it got me thinking that during travel, babies and young children need as much rest as possible to prevent them from accumulating sleep debts. This means that we, as parents, sometimes need to be creative to help them get the rest they need so that the whole family can enjoy the vacation.

Here a few of my tips and tricks to keep your child’s sleep on track when sleeping away from home:


Keep One Element of Their Sleep Sacred


A trip can be exciting, and it can be tempting to miss naps so that your child can enjoy the attractions.  If you know you’re going to be out much later than their usual bedtime, consider accommodations close to where you will be venturing out so that you can easily get back to your hotel or vacation rental for naptime.  Likewise, if you know you will be missing naptime, try to ensure you can stick to their usual (or even slightly earlier!) bedtime. 


Consider Accommodations Ahead of Time


With so many vacation rentals available thanks to sites like vrbo.com, it may be advantageous to stay in a condo or residence so that each person can have their own space, and distractions such as different bedtimes are not keeping your baby or toddler awake. That said, if you find you are sharing a room, plan ahead. Keeping the room dark during sleep times is one of the best ways to ensure your baby or toddler will nap and fall asleep. Consider purchasing portable blackout blinds if you are staying in a place that does not have them.  Tin foil or black garbage bags also do the trick, and they are inexpensive and easy to pack (don’t forget tape!). Separate your space as best as possible; If there is a well-ventilated closet or hallway, consider this as a possible sleeping space for a playpen or portable crib.  Long sheets can also be a great tool for separating the spaces, as are large pieces of furniture. Finally, since hotels can be loud with the coming and going of guests, use white noise.  Portable white noise machines are small and can be easily packed, or you can download a white noise app. If you are using an app on your tablet or phone, make sure you keep the device on silent or airplane mode so that your child isn’t getting woken up by texts, calls or emails. 


Bring Something from Home


Bring a few items to keep things comfortable and familiar. A special toy or lovey, as well as their own blanket or pillow can go a long way to making a new bed feel safe and cozy. 


Keep Bedtime Routines Consistent


If bath time, books, songs or anything else is a part of their nighttime routine at home, do as many of the same things on your vacation as possible. This will not only signal to them that it’s time for bed, but the comfort and stability of their usual routine will help relax them after a loud and overstimulating day. 


Any Sleep is Better Than No Sleep


If you can’t get your child back to the hotel for their usual nap, consider planning car rides or long stroller rides at their usual naptimes, and let them get some sleep. Sleep while in transit is not as beneficial as sleeping in a bed or crib, but it’s better than nothing! 


Jet-Leg


​Just like adults, it’s common for it to take children a week to adjust to the new time zone. If your trip is short (like a weekend getaway) consider staying on your usual schedule.  If you will be gone more than a few days, you may want to slowly adjust their wake/sleep times before you leave. Modify their eating and sleeping schedules by 15 minutes each day prior to the trip. If you are crossing many time zones, this may not be practical, so just do you best to get on the current time zone when you arrive. Ensure your child is exposed to bright light early in the day, and try to keep them in a darker area for a few hours before bedtime to help them adjust to the new time zone faster. 

Get Back on Track as Soon as You Arrive Home

If you slept in a bed with your child on vacation, or their schedule got derailed, it may be a few days before your child starts sleeping well again. Getting back to their usual routine as soon as possible is important. Explain to your child that now that they are home, they must sleep in their crib or bed like they did before the trip. 


If you have a hard time getting your child back on track after a vacation, or have any other sleep concerns, call me at
403.474.3823 or email me at angelina@lullababies.ca

Get Sleep Back on Track for Back to School

 

If your Summer has been anything like mine, it means there’s been a lot of disruption to your child’s sleep schedule.  After such a long and cold Winter, where we’d been cooped up indoors for many months, we’ve been relishing in the sunshine, and spending tons of time outdoors.  We’ve also been keeping the kids up later than usual while we’ve been socializing, heading out of town for the weekend, participating in Summer sports, and, just altogether losing track of our carefully laid out routine.  The bad news, this can really mess with a child’s internal clock, and it can make it hard to get back on track for nights and naps, or come September, when they need to be up early for school.  You may not have noticed any sleep challenges if you’ve kept them active all summer – for me, I notice long days out in the sun and fresh air typically mean a pretty long, uninterrupted and deep sleep.  That said, if you’re struggling to get them out of bed for day camp, or are starting to have some uncharacteristic (and unwanted!) sleep habits creep back into your lives, keep reading – I’ve posted some tips to help get things on track.  


Back to Basics


Outline the things you want to bring back into your routine, for example, an earlier bedtime,  dinner at a certain time,  naps at a set time etc., and pick your start date.  If your child has been staying up until 8:30/9:30/10:30/whatever, and you want to bring back a 7:30PM bedtime, you may have to do this over a few days or even a couple of weeks.  The best way to change a bedtime/naptime, is by moving it up or down in 15 minute increments, holding each position for at least three days, and repeating until you are back at the ideal time slot.  This will also hold true for getting older kids ready to go back to school, or getting them ready to leave the house earlier to deal with Fall/Winter commutes, which are longer when the weather gets bad. 



Explain Change to Your Child


If your child is old enough to converse, explain all changes to them.  If for example, you’re going on a road trip and they won’t have a typical nap or bedtime, explain that.  Tell them that this weekend is special, explain the plans, and explain your expectations.  Let them know in advance that they get to stay up late or miss a nap because they’re [insert fun plan here] but when they get home in a few days, things will be back to normal.  Just like adults, sometimes it can take a few days to get back to a normal routine if we’ve been away for any length of time, so be patient, but be consistent.  Kids are resilient, but they are also smart.  If you let them sleep in your bed, or stay up late watching TV the first night they are back home, they’re going to want to do it every night, and it’s hard to get bedtime back under control if you’re constantly deviating from routine.


Darken the Room

With the sun being up later, and rising earlier, it can really make it challenging to go to bed early, or sleep in until an “idea”l time.  I’m a huge proponent of darkening blinds in all of our bedrooms, year-round, but if you prefer to have more natural night throughout the year, that’s fine too.  Temporarily darkening the room can help with resetting your child’s internal clock.  If you don’t have blackout curtains or darkening blinds, consider using portable blinds (these are also great for travel)  or use garbage bags or tinfoil taped over the windows for a few days, just while you’re cueing your body to go to bed earlier/sleep in later.  You can then remove them when your child is back on track.

Food, Food, Food!


I try to feed my kids a pretty healthy diet, but lets face it, in the Summer, there are more popsicles and hot dogs and play dates with sugary snacks then what I’d normally aim to feed them.  Limit sugary drinks and foods past 5:30PM to give their bodies a chance to process the food.  If you give your kids chocolate ice cream and then put them to bed 30 minutes later, you may find they are bouncing off the walls versus finding a blissful slumber.



If your child had a good bedtime/nap routine and good sleep schedule prior to the Summer months, chances are your child will find their way back to this within a week or two, with consistency from the parents.  If you’re aiming to get them back on track for school, I’d suggest starting to alter their bedtime as much as 14 days prior, so that the shift is less of a shock to their bodies, and they can start the school year refreshed and ready to learn and laugh.  



If you have a hard time getting your child back on track after a vacation, or have any other sleep concerns, call me at
403.474.3823 or email me at angelina@lullababies.ca