Growth spurts are common sleep disturbers. A very typical one is
the “4 months sleep dip”.
And it's babies who have slept well - even
through the night - in their first months who seem most spectacularly
If around 4 months old your baby starts waking up frequently again
- after having made longer stretches before and having reduced night
feeds a bit - you are very probably facing the “4
months sleep dip”.
It is related to a spectacular growth spurt involving changes in
different areas: digestive system, motor skills, understanding and
processing, sleep patterns, …
So much is going on for baby and
she has to deal with that, both physically and mentally. These big
developmental steps also mean a
step-up with regards to food. She'll simply need to feed more for
a while, topping up.
Looking at it from that side, it's actually a surprise that she can get
any decent sleep at all ... Luckily there's a couple of helpful things
you can do to minimize the effect of the sleep dip.
What to do
Balancing food well and sticking to the right sleep habits are what
will get you through the 4 months sleep dip.
Feed on demand when possible. If your baby seems receptive to it,
gently increase her total food intake. But be very careful, to avoid
Also, it is not a good idea to stuff
before bed. Starting the night with an overfull stomach is not
healthy, leads to restless sleep and will have an inverse effect.
Good sleep habits are critical right now. Sadly, when a sudden
retrogression pops up, many parents start doubting the good routines
and schedules they so carefully set up. Or don't believe they are
important anymore ...
But on the contrary, your baby needs
that steady base and regularity
more than ever now. It is what will get her, and you, through the dip
fastest, and return to sleeping well most quickly.
Keep offering a regular, recognizable daily
schedule, be consistent with when and how you put her down for naps
and nights, stick to a really good bedtime
ritual, keep the bedroom tidy and well-aired, ... and in general
reduce the amount of changes right now.
If your baby's body has not adapted to a typical day/night rhythm yet,
she may not sleep more at night than during the day. Day and night
sleep may be roughly the same. Or your baby may have a reversed
day/night rhythm and seem to sleep all day and be awake all night.
It typically takes about 12 weeks for a good day/night rhythm to set.
When it does, nights are quieter and more restful than days, which is
great for all. Having this clear difference between day and night is
also very important for building long-term sleep skills.
Your baby may grasp the idea much earlier of course, some 2-3 week olds
are much quieter at night and livelier during daytime. That's of course
wonderful and something to cherish. Still keep up the good habits as I
discuss right below, it will only reinforce the good and avoid
retrogression later on.
What to do
Use the simple yet very effective Light
and Activity Cues technique to help your baby learn the
difference between day and night.
When the day starts, make your house light and alive. Make sure
there is a lot of light, curtains and blinds are open. There is music,
you speak normally, no hushed voices, there is playing, laughing,
dancing, activities going on, you go out, …
You interrupt this a little for nap times
of course, but still there
is not the same dark and quietness as at night.
Then when the night starts, the house goes dim and quiet. Switch
softer voices, have dimmer light, less activity is going on, no more
playing except for example reading a story quietly, …
These cues are very powerful and help your baby physically adapt to
our daily rhythm.