Question: Hi my son is 4months and so far his sleeping was 1-2wakings for feed sometimes he even made it through from 8-6am. But in the last month he is waking up nearly every hour and i am just so exhausted and even angry with myself what am I doing wrong? Before he would nap 3x a day 30-45min where he would fall asleep in my arms then I would put him into his cot. But now I am trying to teach him to fall asleep by himself in cot so will put him in drowsy-sometimes it works but sometimes he would scream and get into hysterics attacks so I have to calm him down then try again later. He has bedtime routine and sleeps from 8pm but wakes up every hour so I would just cuddle him and put him down drowsy but sometimes I would cuddle him to sleep as he gets too laud and we have 2 neighbours to worry about. I give him bottle once or twice depending on how awake he is. But usually just wants 5 min cuddle and he sleeps for another hour. This is getting really hard now and I just can't carry on like this but just don't know what to do. Shall I let him cry for few minutes how can I get him to sleep? Please HELP. Thank you in advance.
Heidi's Answer: Dear Monika,
A sleep regression as you describe is very common around 4 months old. It is a moment of important physical en psychological developments, combined with a growth spurt. This easily leads to temporary poorer sleep (more difficult to settle and waking up more frequently).
First of all please don't be angry with yourself, you are not doing anything wrong. On the contrary, the self soothing practice, the regular naps and the bedtime routine are really good.
Let us finetune that further and you will get your son's sleep back on track. Keeping good habits and reinforcing a regular schedule and his self soothing will be key.
To answer your final question first: if he wakes in the night, or after a short nap, yes it is a good idea to test what happens if you don't rush to him right away. He may not be fully awake but simply fuss/cry a little bit while tossing and turning and then go back to sleep by himself.
If that is what's happening, you may be waking him up fully by going to him, and then after that it's harder for him to sleep again.
So why not give it a try: wait a minute or two and see if he quiets down. If he gets upset and really cries, of course go to him to help him settle. Keep all awakenings short and boring, keep lights dim, stay in the bedroom with him, ...).
Ensure you keep 3 regular naps. Schedule those naps wisely, either in an eat-play-sleep pattern or a timed schedule. Nap times should be right at times when he is readily tired, meaning he is just about tired but far from over-tired. Use my Sleepy Signs journal to help establish that.
The right nap times (when readily tired) will make it easier to practice self soothing (over-tiredness is self soothing's worst enemy).
Go very steadily, meaning you put him down deeply asleep first, then slowly progress to a bit less deeply asleep, to even less deeply, to very very drowsy, ... and so on. That will avoid the hysteric attacks you mention and will give lasting results in the end.
If naps are consistently shorter than 45 minutes, consider taking him out in the sling or stroller for a long walk to have at least one (or two) long nap. This will help towards being less over-tired and helps him get used to longer naps. See the Baby Sling Trick.
Use the same self soothing techniques in the night. Again go gradually but in the end, his ability to self soothe from being awake will help him stay asleep (or rather, go back to sleep when half-waking up in the night).
All the while, what you can also try if he is on a clear schedule of waking up every hour each night is to go to him 5-10 minutes before he'll wake. By stroking his forehead, placing your hand on his shoulder or tummy, ..., you can help him stay asleep in stead of waking up.
It will be tough for you to do that all night long but use it as an additional technique to the above at the first awakenings of the night.
And finally I also suggest to shift his night bedtime to a bit earlier. 8pm is not extremely late and not necessarily the cause of his frequent awakenings, but having your bedtime routine and bedtime at 7pm can have a positive effect: an earlier, quieter onset of the night, when he is less tired is better for more restful sleep and longer stretches.
With a combination of all the above, taking your time and doing things consistently I am confident that you can improve your son's sleep a lot in the next couple of weeks.
I would love to hear how you get on.
Best of luck, Kindly, Heidi
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