4 MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION
Updated: Jun 26, 2018
The 4 month sleep regression, that is only meant to last 4-6 weeks, is currently racking up its 12th week for us. I'm not sure whats worse, the fact that Knox managed to sleep through the night beautifully and now no longer does, or if he was to have never slept through at all. Either way none of us are winning, and we just cant crack it.
Controlled crying, I hear you say? I'm afraid, I just can't get my head round this. We spend our lives ensuring that we don't neglect our babies, but this method is consciously doing exactly that? I'd say 80% of people I've spoken to swear by this method, and their children have all turned out wonderfully well, but it just seems to go against everything I believe in when it comes to parenting and therefore, I won't be doing it. I have also read that the studies pro CC carried out are in fact floored, and only something like 60% of the babies were reassessed. Another study taken by Wendy Middlemiss, of the University of North Texas, has recently undertaken research on the effects of this approach on both the children and their mothers. The study entails testing the levels of cortisol (stress hormone) in the infant and parent when using the controlled crying method. The results proved that when the infant had appeared to self soothe/calm itself the parent no longer had high levels of cortisol, whereas the child continued to have the same level of cortisol had it remained crying indicating the baby still had heightened levels of anxiety. It is thought that prolonged raised levels of cortisol in a baby are said to "inhibit their ongoing brain development and may results in your baby growing into an anxious, less confident child." You can read more about this here on essentialparent.com.
Another method, the Gina Ford 'contented baby', has received mixed reviews from my friends and other mums. Now, I can't really comment on it, as I've not actually read the copy I was given, but the minute I read routine, it went straight in the cupboard. I can't understand why you would force a strict routine on a tiny baby, part of which is literally making a baby wait to drink. You don't even make a dog wait 3hrs between each drink, so why would you make a baby? Milk is the only source of hydration for a young baby so why would you starve them of that from the get-go? The 'waiting to feed' rule is something that literally makes my blood boil, as I was told so many times, by so many people to make Knox wait or limit the duration of the feed, which of course really upset him, when he just didn't understand. I decided after a few days of doing this to ignore the advice of other people and just do it my way, which was basically to bottle feed on demand, and I'd preempt when he needed a drink. Immediately this completely changed his mood, he went from crying and moaning throughout the day to literally never crying. Although Gina ford recommends the controlled crying method, I have read that she doesn't advise controlled crying if the baby is not getting enough food during the day.
When looking at what the cause of what his sleep regression could be, one of the things that springs to mind is his daily intake of milk. Now, Knox has never been a big eater, hence feeing on demand, in fact he's never taken more than 5oz in one sitting and it can take up to 2hrs to get him to even drink that. I do think some of Knox's sleeping issues stem from his low intake of milk and therefore calories during the day and his massively energetic character. He is on-the-go from the minute he opens his eye's to the minute he falls asleep, meaning he's burning all the calories he actually takes in. Since birth, Knox has actually dropped two percentiles. Looking back, Knox was sleeping through the night when he was on the 25th and I was solely breast feeding. If I have one regret, its that I started to introduce the bottle so I could measure his intake, frustratingly he was actually a better weight when he wasn't bottle fed at all. I did this because he would only ever feed for about 10 mins which seems very short in comparison to other babies. I was also told to introduce formula as 'everyone that had done that, had babies that slept though the night'. This had no effect on Knox's sleeping and was actually a pain in the ass, as now I have formula to prepare.
As for eating solids, Knox has taken to this like a dream (thank the lord). He's so desperate to be eating the same as us, he couldn't wait to try new things although, he much prefers the consistency and flavours of pre-made pouches. I'm hoping that with the extra calories he's getting from solids, he will eventually sleep through. I make an effort to add healthy high calorie foods to his meals, to increase all the calories I can, so if he is having a pouch, I'll give him avocado too. He loves avocado, so if he isn't that hungry, its my go to as I know even though he's eating a tiny amount its still high in calories.
Unfortunately, for me, Knox seems to have slipped straight from one regression to the next. Some nights, he's up in his cot eyes open, crawling around despite my best efforts to give him all the practice he needs through the day.
Whilst up in the middle of the night, I have read many different reasons behind sleep regressions. One of which is the major developmental progressions that babies go through, also known as leaps and growth spurts. The first being at 6 weeks is when babies go through their first huge growth spurt, the next at 3 - 4 months, where the brain goes through massive developments and babies become more aware of their surroundings. This is thought to be one of the worst due to the addition of another growth spurt. The next at 6 months, is when some babies start rolling and gain the strength to start crawling. Unfortunately, for me, Knox seems to have slipped straight from one regression to the next. Some nights, he's up in his cot eyes open, crawling around despite my best efforts to give him all the practice he needs through the day. Between 8-10 months, there is another where babies will learn to stand, this too is hugely exciting for them, meaning they need to get as much practice in as possible, even after lights out. Its advised to try and give babies as much practice of their new skill as possible through the day, or they will take it upon themselves to do so in the night. By 12 months old, our babes are on their 5th sleep regression with two more to go at 18 and 24 months. On top of the growth spurts and mental developments our little trouble makers also have to overcome the pain of teething which can be ongoing for months. Part of me feels like I'm hoping for a miracle, as I'm not sure we'd even be able to sleep through all of the above!
How to overcome sleep regression? There are so many different tried and tested ways, soothers, bed aids to help, and its suggested that sleep regression is a phase, that the child will grow out of, so I decided to put a few to the test.
We began by eliminating our bad habits so, that meant no more co-sleeping. With Knox crawling, I no longer felt comfortable having him on a double bed through the day, so we moved him into his cot. This has taken time for him to get used to, but he now happily sends himself to sleep whilst I stay in his bedroom. I've made a conscious effort to get him into his cot before he gets tired, this is usually 2hrs after he has woken up in the morning. I always let him have a little crawl around and climb up the cot, so he doesn't see the whole experience as a punishment. After 20 mins or so, sometimes sooner if he's tired he will lie down and snuggle into his musical bear. This has to be the ugliest of toys, but he loves the music, and it actually works. He used to go to sleep watching Friends or the Gilmore Girls, but as its seen as stimulating, the TV watching had to go too. In the morning he can sleep for 1-2hrs happily then wake for lunch. In the afternoon he has another shorter nap (30-45 mins), this can be in the car, pushchair or at home. I always try to take him out in the afternoon, as he becomes incredibly frustrated if we stay around the house and is even worse at sleeping. I feel I can now say we have our day naps down, along with our meal times.
Since starting to really sleep train, I've been taking a diary of Knox's milk intake and knowing now that he tends to take 18 plus oz of milk a day, the next steps I have taken are to start to encourage him to sleep through, by cutting out milk between 12am and 5am. For this duration and longer if I'm lucky, I will be opting to give him water and his dummy. I've decided this, plus three healthy portions of solid food is the perfect way to try and stop him waking multiple times in the night.
In addition to this, we have set up a speaker playing white noise during nap-time and at night. This seems to have had a very quick positive effect. It plays rain continuously, so drowns out any accidental noise we might make in the evening. We instantly noticed that rather than waking for a drink multiple times in the evening, he is self settling between 7pm and 11pm. He can then stretch until 4am, which is ground breaking for us! At his worst Knox was waking every 30 mins until 3am. As you can imagine I was a walking zombie.
We have also raised his bed by placing a pillow under the mattress. He didn't initially like this, but now seems to much prefer it and seems to be a lot less restless. This is perfect if your baby suffers from acid reflux.
Most recently I have introduced story time, this too seems to have had a really positive effect on Knox, and rather than his usual energetic self, he is calm and sits on my knee listening to my totally unrealistic stories.
Since making these adjustments, we haven't nailed sleeping through, but we are in a much better position than we were and I'd highly recommend trying these methods in sleep training.