Why Your Baby Is Waking Up Again And Again

Newborn sleep is notoriously hard on moms, who need to be up every three hours for a feed. Most babies are capable of sleeping “through the night” — which means a five hour stretch — between three to six months, or when they’ve reached 12-13 pounds. Parents tend to be ecstatic if/when they get there. But as with most things baby, once you’ve conquered one thing, a new challenge arises. And a big challenge for parents is a baby sleep regression.

Baby sleep regression is when a baby begins waking during the night, and/or taking abbreviated naps (or skipping them altogether), for no obvious reason. The Baby Sleep Site reports that babies may experience a sleep regression at about four months old. (That’s just about the time new parents feel like they’re getting the hang of this baby thing!).

Four month sleep regression

Newborn sleep is unlike any other; newborns just sleep, anywhere, without much noticeable pattern. Between three and five months, babies begin to experience the sleep patterns more like those that adults have. They start to sleep in cycles, with periods of light and deep sleep, and with more distinct day and night styles. That’s why naps might become 45 minute occurrences, or one daytime sleep cycle. And it explains why your baby may start waking up every 90 minutes to two hours at night, as they naturally cycle through periods of quiet (non REM) and active (REM) sleep.

If your baby can self soothe, s/he might just roll over and fall back asleep at night. But if your baby is used to nursing, snuggling, or rocking to sleep, s/he will likely need this crutch to return again (and again, all night long) to dreamland. Ideally, you’ll begin to wean your baby from any sleep crutches before the regression begins. If that’s not the case, start to slowly wean your little one off of these crutches. Then you can start to work on helping your baby self soothe. This often involves putting your baby to bed drowsy but awake.

Change in Nap Frequency

Another thing that happens at four months is babies drop a nap, from four a day to three. Their periods of wakefulness become longer, and they’re no longer willing to go to bed an hour after a nap. It’s time for a shift in sleep schedules, according to the WeeBeeDreaming blog, from a Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant. Because baby is still adjusting to one less nap, bedtime needs to happen earlier. And to make bedtime earlier and easier, the last nap needs to end by 4:30 or 5 p.m.

It’s also a good time to begin establishing good sleep habits like napping at home. At four months it becomes hard for your baby to nap on the go. Parents should adjust their schedules to their baby’s need for quality naps at home, suggests WeeBeeDreaming.

Other Sleep Regressions

Babies drop a nap at about nine months, to two naps a day. Come 18 months, and your now-toddler will dip down to just one nap. This shift in daytime sleeping patterns can have an affect on what happens at nighttime, especially if bedtimes are not adjusted when naptime changes. Many other factors may play a role in baby sleep as well: cutting teeth, developmental changes, major milestones like walking and talking.

The baby sleep regression experienced at nine months old  is likely caused by developmental changes, according to the Baby Sleep Site. Your baby is likely a little “wired” from all the leaps and bounds s/he is making physically and mentally. That combined with the dropped nap can cause some nighttime wakings. For the same reasons, expect a sleep regression again at 18 months.

With all these potential baby sleep regressions on the horizon, it helps to lay down a good foundation for healthy sleep habits early. Regular naps, early bedtimes and reliable routines, and a consistent approach to your baby’s sleep style are essential. These tools and routines will help you get through it too.