A: First of all, great job getting baby sleeping and napping before 4 months! I know it takes a lot of work to accomplish that and can tell you are taking your baby’s sleeping (and yours) very seriously.
Most babies seem to hit a development milestone around the 4-month mark, and it’s extremely common to see things all of a sudden change or be different from what they were before. The most common name for this would be the dreaded “4-month sleep regression.” It’s one of the most searched terms on Google for babies and gets a lot of attention because it can be very drastic. We choose to call it the “4-month developmental change.” It’s kind of like some internal switch gets turned on inside baby, and she is more aware of her surroundings and what’s going on. (It’s not just baby suddenly forgetting how to sleep or regressing from sleep.)
If you’re like most parents, it means the things you were doing to get your baby sleeping through the night previously are not going to work for you anymore. For example, if you were rocking your baby to sleep or using a pacifier, your daughter is now “smarter” and not wanting those things, which we call “sleep crutches.” So now, more than ever, you have to teach your baby how to go from fully wide awake to fully asleep without the help of anyone or anything and put her in the crib without those crutches.
She will protest a bit but will learn to go to sleep without them if you give her the chance. If you don’t teach her to do it on her own without those crutches, you might be looking at many months—if not a year or more—of bad sleep, and that’s what we want to avoid.
Solid feedings every three to four hours during the day and a consistent wake time in the morning can help regulate baby’s daytime schedule and caloric intake. As long as she has proper feedings during the daytime, is not sick and doesn’t have any other issues, you can be confident baby simply needs to learn to go to sleep without the crutches she’s been used to prior to 4 months. Good luck!
—GRETA ZUDE, baby sleep consultant at My Baby Can Sleep