What is your child’s ideal bedtime? The key to a good bedtime is knowing how long your child tolerate being awake before coming overtired. Know that number and schedule bedtime so they are fast asleep before overtiredness can occur – making it hard for them to fall asleep and stay asleep. Check out this chart with our WRB reccomendations: Max Awake Time Prior To Bed
Archives for January 2015
You have reached 4 months and your tiny, sleepy newborn is finally a sturdy, alert infant. He is now interested in his surroundings and smiling and socializing – it is such a fun time period, but it can also be a bit challenging because for many infants 4 months also represents their first major sleep milestone. While many refer to it as the “4 month sleep regression”, it is actually a sign that your child is growing and maturing and making an exciting leap forward. A sleep regression is defined as a cognitive, physical and/or emotional development that disrupts a child’s normal sleep pattern. A child younger than 4 months actually has not developed any sleep patterns – so it is not possible for a regression to have taken place! Up until now your baby’s daily needs have been random: he has slept when he wanted to sleep and eaten when he wanted to eat. Now suddenly his body is developing biological rhythms that tell him when he should be sleeping. Couple that with his new keen eye for observing his surroundings and his new social skills and you have a recipe for disaster….unless you understand his new needs and follow suit. So what does 4 month old need now to achieve sleeping success?
Your Baby’s Emerging Biological Clock
We all have internal clocks called circadian rhythms that are genetically controlled. These biological clocks have evolved from daytime (light) and nighttime (dark) cues. These biological rhythms make us feel drowsy at certain times and sleeping in sync with them will produce the most restorative and best quality sleep possible. As we age these times shift. Up until this point, the baby’s brain was too immature to sync with this internal clock. For this reason, his body had an easy time sleeping anywhere and at anytime. Now that his brain has started to mature, he is in need of a schedule that works with this rhythm – including a bedtime that fits in and allows him to sleep before he is overtired.
When Can Your Baby Catch This Sleep Wave?
I recommend a schedule where the first nap is starting between 8:30-9am, the second nap is starting between 12:15-12:45pm and the third nap starts about 90 minutes to 2 hours after he wakes up from his second nap. As his naps are just starting to develop, you will need to watch your baby for his sleepy cues and then get him down within these windows. Remember, at 4 months old your baby’s circadian rhythm is just starting to develop and will continue to evolve over the next few weeks; therefore you will see some inconsistency with napping. Some days will be great and others will be all over the place. You will need to be consistent with your approach and put your baby down for his naps in these biologically age appropriate windows – while not allowing him to become overtired. Having him on a schedule where he is sleeping during his biological sleep waves will allow him to achieve his best quality sleep, however he will still need to learn some self soothing skills. If you have not started already, this is a good time to allow him to learn to put himself to sleep.
Bedtime Needs To Occur Before He Becomes Overtired
Just as your baby could only tolerate being awake a short period between naps, bedtime is no different. If you baby can fall asleep for the night prior to becoming overtired, he will have the easiest time falling asleep on his own and staying asleep. To achieve this goal, bedtime should roll right into his daytime schedule and be about 90-120 minutes after he wakes up from his third nap. So if he napped from 3-4pm, bedtime would need be at 5:30-6pm. It is a common misconception that putting your child to bed this early will cause them to wake early. This is not true. An early bedtime that occurs before a baby can become overtired, actually allows them to sleep longer and later into the morning. It is very common for babies this age to start sleeping 12-13 hours a night at this point if they go to bed early enough.
Location, Location, Location
Remember that baby that could sleep anywhere and through anything? For most 4 month olds this is a thing of the past. Again, this is due to them reaching several social and cognitive milestones that make them extremely distracted by their environment. At this age it is critical to make sure that your baby is taking the majority of his naps in a stationary crib in dark, cool, and quiet room. This will ensure that he has he will be able to fall asleep without succumbing to all of the new and excited things around him. A nap on the go every once in a while is ok, but we want to make sure the majority are happening at home. Babies have better quality, more restorative sleep when they are sleeping in a stationary crib, bed, or bassinet. Vibrations or motion during sleep (like that which happens in a stroller or car seat) appear to force the brain to a lighter sleep state and reduce the restorative power of the nap.
A Consistent Routine
Babies actually crave routine in their daily schedules as it helps them know what to expect. They follow patterns and cues, so if we create a consistent soothing routine before sleep times then he will know to expect sleep to come next. Your pre-sleep soothing routine doesn’t need to be anything complicated and shouldn’t last more than 15 minutes. For naptime it can include a diaper change, a book, a song, and then into your baby’s crib. For bedtime maybe a bath, a message, a book and then again into the crib sleepy, but awake. Nursing or a bottle can be included in this routine as long as your baby does not fall asleep – I usually recommend them being the first step of the routine if you want them included. These simple steps will help your baby shift from awake mode to sleep mode with ease.
The Tip Take Away: This change can be frustrating as it has caused your baby’s sleep to seemingly take a step back, but I can assure you that this is a necessary step to getting him on a consistent schedule and allowing him to learn to be a great independent sleeper. If you adhere to the suggestions above, your baby will make this transition with ease.