Was your baby a good sleeper, right from the start? Did you hear how other parents were struggling and you were so thankful you weren’t? Is your baby now approaching the age of four months and things are starting to change? Agh, what to do?
Before I give you some tips let me first explain what is happening. Your baby is experiencing a milestone where she is learning new things and becoming more aware of the world. She is perhaps learning how to roll over and is grabbing onto things. This is a very exciting time for her but also can interfere with her sleep needs.
Additionally, your baby is developing circadian rhythms, which means instead of sleeping anytime and anywhere, she now has an internal clock to dictate sleep times. Her sleep cycles resemble those of an adult. Instead of spending so much time in deep NREM sleep, she can awaken more easily and more often. With these changes, your baby may not be getting the sleep she needs. She can become overtired, causing her cortisol level to rise, which is making the situation even worse.
What You Can Do
- Up until now it was okay for your baby to sleep anywhere. Now is the time for your baby to sleep in the same place, with a consistent soothing routine. Consistency is key, and the soothing routine of rocking, singing, cuddling- whatever you choose, will become a strong sleep association for your baby.
- Make your baby’s sleep environment dark. Your baby is now producing melatonin. Melatonin is the sleep hormone, which is affected by light. When it is dark, melatonin production increases, which naturally means she will be able to fall asleep easier and stay asleep longer.
- Your baby is now much more aware. Sounds and noises can affect her ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. If you don’t already have a white noise machine in the nursery, now is the time to get one.
- Your baby now needs an earlier bedtime. Good chance your baby has been going to bed at 7,8 or even 9pm. But if your baby is not getting enough sleep during the day, waking often during the night and earlier in the morning, bedtime needs to be adjusted. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking, “if she sleeps less during the day she will sleep longer and better at night.” This in never the case. Make sure you adjust bedtime so that your baby is getting the required 15 hours of sleep needed in a 24-hour period.
- At this age, you are no longer looking for sleepy signs to determine nap times. Instead there should be a defined morning and afternoon nap that corresponds with your baby’s sleep wave. There will also be the need for a short power nap later in the afternoon so she can get through the dinner hour without being overtired and cranky.
Still Not Sleeping?
If your baby is still not getting the sleep she needs and is experiencing several night wakings and seems to be over-tired, now is the time to implement sleep training. Sleep training will set your baby up to be a great sleeper and a well-rested baby.
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Angela Walsh is a Family Sleep Institute, Certified Infant and Child Sleep Consultant and the founder of Babes in Sleepland. She helps sleep deprived babies, children and families, get back on track and get the sleep they need and desire. To learn more about Angela and how she can help you, visit her website: babesinsleepland.com Also get sleep tips, the latest research on baby and child products, and be part of her weekly Q and A at her Facebook page: Babes in Sleepland