Sunday, August 23, 2015

4-6 months and night wakings increasing?

What is going on with the waking?  Is the 4 month sleep regression a trick to humble us mothers?Here's some science. (Knowledge gives patience, a sleep plan gives power.)

At 4 months, the brain goes through a major milestone where the vision changes, the baby can see farther away and therefore notices so much more. Their world has just opened up! Also, sleep is now a learned skill. Before this brain change, sleep ability was more innate. He could do long stretches at night or he woke frequently. Now the relaxation process that brings on sleep needs to be learned and for alert babies, it's tough. Alert babies notice more, are more observant, may be more social or more intently watching and often know what they want and hold out until they get it. It's not bad, he's just smart.  Lots going on in that little brain. So it's normal for night wakings to increase. Sleep cycle transitions cause partial and full arousals that need help (nursing or replugging a paci or holding or rocking) or sleep skills to get through. 

At 6 months there is a major growth spurt that often needs more night feelings. He is genuinely hungry. 

So all this is normal and with all your responding, you are a great mother! You can wait to see if it fixes on its own (probably not if he's alert but maybe) or you can take gentle steps to help your child learn sleep skills now or soon. The self soothing learning process is a 5 year process and night time separation is just part of it. At 6 months, taking it slow and gentle is better for infant mental health than "Cry it out". Many moms don't feel comfortable with Crying it out I don't like "Cry it out" either.  It all starts with bedtime and many daytime variables. Environment, nap timing, bedtime timing, bedtime routines and bedtime sleep crutches. So there may be lots of little things you can do that will make a difference or some big changes at bedtime and how you respond to night waking could help. You don't have to take out all your night feedings to have better sleep but responding to waking with feeding is a piece that can be adjusted with Dream Feeds along with a gentle response method could make it more manageable for you. There is a lot that goes into this. 

I just gave a class to 5 families yesterday and it took 2 hours to go over all the sleep pieces to cover everyone's situations. (Babies ranging from 5-18 months)  The solution to frequent night waking may not be a short Facebook answer or a few paragrsphs in a blog post. 

Waiting it out and responding consistently to see if it settles back into good sleep is totally fine if you are coping well with the wake ups. He is still young and nothing is urgent unless you are getting sleep deprived. Or you can develope a gentle plan to make changes and help him learn sleep skills. Write down your plan so you can be consistant. You can't teach sleep skills. You CAN put him in a situation where his body will go through the natural learning process of learning some self regulation while you offer support and co-regulation to help. Stay at his bed side. Pick ups. The right bedtime, enough day sleep. Secure attachment. They are all pieces to this sleep puzzle. 

Call me if you need help making a plan. 

Tracy Spackman is a certified gentle sleep coach. 602-524-7610


  1. I'm waiting it out right now. My LO (second daughter) is 5.5 months and is waking about every 1-3 hours every night still. When she wakes from a sleep cycle, she really wakes. She's an observant little bug. I'm mainly dealing with the sleep deprivation fine (I have oddly adjusted to it this time around. Last time, I thought I was going insane). I'm going to wait until it seems like she has gone through her 6-month growth spurt to really start sleep training.

    1. If you are still sane, waiting until 6 months is a good idea. I remember feeling like I had a little superpower coping with the sleep deprivation. Not all mom's feel that way. Let me know if you need help in a couple weeks.

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