Babies grow and change at an astounding pace, and every month brings new and exciting developments.
The first year of your baby’s life is a year of incredible growth and development. The average baby triples their birth weight by age 1 and grows up to an incredible 25 centimetres in that first year. And that’s not all — between birth and 12 months, your baby will learn to roll over, sit up, crawl, and perhaps even walk.
Your baby’s sleep patterns will change pretty significantly in the first year too, and so we put together a 5-part blog series about how our baby’s sleep needs and patterns change in the first 12 months of life.
Part 3: 3-6 Months
“A baby fills a place in your heart you never knew was empty.”
By 3 or 4 months of age, your baby is officially out of the newborn stage, and you may notice your little one’s sleep start to evolve into shorter daytime naps and longer periods of night time sleep – however please remember not all babies do this by 3 months. Your baby may start to create their own schedule naturally, then roll with it! But don’t worry if this doesn’t happen right away, they will be ready in their own time (give it another few weeks).
A 4 month old will need between 4 to 5 naps during the day and by the time they reach 6 months, they will have dropped their naps to around 3 or 4 naps a day. Don’t worry if these naps don’t happen at the same times each day. Some babies this age will nap very predictably, but others won’t until later.
The 4-month sleep regression
Sleep regression at 4 months is a real thing. It’s completely normal and most importantly, it’s temporary.But what is it and why does it happen?
Sleep regression is a phase when your baby’s sleep patterns shift – sleep becomes disrupted and comes in the form of short naps (e.g. 20 minutes instead of their usual 1-2 hours), frequent waking during the night, and they have a hard time going back to sleep.
Babies experience sleep regression when they are going through big developmental changes such as a growth spurt or brain development. Remember, your baby’s brain is constantly evolving as it adapts to its new environment and begins to learn new skills. At this time, your baby might be hard at work mastering how to roll over or sit up.
This is a point at which your baby’s sleep patterns change permanently, it’s also the reason why some babies who have been sleeping really well suddenly start waking frequently and sleeping a lot less.
While some babies will start to sleep through the night by this point, others won’t, and that’s perfectly okay – remember every baby is different.
However, by 6 months of age your baby should be sleeping for longer stretches at night and shorter periods during the day. This may not happen for all babies this age, many 6 month olds still wake for night time feedings – this is perfectly normal and you should never hold out on a hungry baby.
Here are some common sleep problems for babies this age and tips for how to solve them:
Refusing to sleep. If your baby puts on a big showdown at bedtime even though they appear to be tired, it may well be that they are over tired or overstimulated. You might want to introduce a relaxing routine before bedtime that offers plenty of time to unwind. Try a warm bath before getting them ready for night sleep or a gentle massage. You can sing softly or play a soft lullaby or read a short bedtime story. It’s okay to introduce a comfort blanket for security. Make sure to have the lights dim in their room – darkness increases your baby’s melatonin production (the hormone that tells your brain it’s time to wind down for sleep). If none of these do the trick, make sure your baby is active during the day, give them plenty of tummy time and room to practice moving their little arms and legs on a play mat or under a play gym. Whatever daytime activity you do to burn some baby energy will help prep them for a solid night of sleep. Whatever you do though, please don’t ditch naps – on the contrary, napping enough during the day will help your baby sleep better and longer at night.
Wide awake at night. Babies at this age will have longer stretches of sleep at night, they will wake fewer times for a feed and should settle straight back to sleep after a feed. When going in for night time feeds, keep the lights dim and avoid doing anything that might stimulate and excite them to avoid them from becoming wide awake. If they are wide awake in the middle of the night and are not upset, they simply might not be tired. If this is the case, try cutting the length of their daytime naps. While naps throughout the day are an important part of your baby’s development, shortening super long naps during the day can help them sleep longer at night. You might want to start by shortening their last nap of the day.
Trouble settling back to sleep. It’s normal for babies to stir and wake up in the night. Most babies learn to settle themselves back to sleep. If your baby is hard to settle at night and doesn’t let up, chances are there might be something bothering them. Do a quick comfort check before putting them down: Is their belly full, if they’ve just had a feed, have you burped them before putting them on their back, is their nappy changed, are they wearing comfortable and appropriate sleep clothing, are they too cold or too warm. The Red Nose Foundation don’t recommend a specific room temperature, instead they advice you check your baby by feeling their forehead, neck and chest – perhaps check your baby's temperature just to be sure.
Developmental milestones at 4 to 6 months
By 4 to 6 months, babies have generally doubled their weight since birth.
Your baby will have made a dramatic transformation from a totally dependent newborn to an active and responsive infant.
Your baby will lose many of their newborn reflexes while acquiring more voluntary control of their body. You’ll find them spending hours watching the movements of their hands.
At around 4 months, they will start to roll over. Once your baby is able to roll over, swaddling for sleep is no longer safe. If you haven’t already, now is a good time to ditch your newborn swaddle wrap and start using a transitional sleeping bag such as the Sleepy Hugs sleep sack allowing your baby to move their arms freely so they can hold themselves up if they roll over during sleep. The Sleepy Hugs sleep sack has a unique design that allows free arm movement with just enough security to calm the startle reflex that your child is likely to still be experiencing.
Here are some other milestones to look for:
By 4 months, your baby can lift their head and chest when they are on their tummy.
By around 4 months, your baby can grasp an object.
By 4 to 5 months, your baby begins to develop a social smile.
By 5 to 6 months, your baby can chew.
They can make and hold eye contact.
They enjoy looking at brightly coloured objects.
They become more communicative and expressive with face and body.