What has happened to my 4 month old baby??Dec 16, 2022
So you've finally found your groove and feel like you've got a handle on this whole parenting thing?
You've made it through the #fourthtrimester and your baby is now smiling, you've got feeding (sort of) worked out and life is just starting to feel a bit more 'normal'.
Then all of a sudden your once calm, placid baby has gone from an almost regular pattern of feeding, sleeping and playing to a baby who:
- doesn't want to be put down
- is impossible to feed and seems to get upset any time you offer them a feed and
- fights sleep
This my friends is the spectacular end to the fourth trimester which arrives in the form of a massive leap forward in your baby's growth and development. So let's have a look at what is going on here...
Too often I hear well meaning family and friends lamenting the “four month sleep regression”. This isn’t a sleep regression... this is a skills acquisition.
Four months is when your baby is starting to develop the idea of object permanence. That’s the awareness that when something disappears it isn’t gone forever. Think of how cute it is to play peek a boo with a baby 🥰 they’re so surprised to see you again, no matter how many times you do it. That’s because it isn’t until about 8 months old they really understand that when they can’t see you, you’re still there. To them, if they can’t see you, you’ve disappeared completely.
This is why your four month old wants to be attached to you like velcro. Because when they’re not, their world all of a sudden seems overwhelming and scary.
You mama, are their safe space.
Their home base.
And while we're talking about new skills- right up until this point your baby hasn't been able to see a whole lot. Their eyes could only focus on distances of less than 30 cms away, and even then they really only saw in mostly dark and light shapes rather than true focused pictures. Which incidentally is about the distance from mums nipple to nose when bub looks lovingly into your eyes while being held or fed. Your (somewhat blurry) face is just about all your baby has really seen in focus for 4 straight months. But guess what happens around 4 months old??
Four months old is when your baby is now able to focus on objects that are further away. All of a sudden your baby is able to SEE all those fun and interesting things that they knew were there all along- after all they could hear them- but they just didn't know what was making all those cool sounds. Dogs, toys, TV, birds, other people... there is all of a sudden a whole world that they didn't yet know about! Of course they will be distracted and eager to get out into it. And unfortunately for us as parents, the easiest time to do this is when we are devoting our attention to trying to feed them. Most of the rest of the day they are either asleep or immobile, lying somewhere and unable to explore. BUUUUUT, when they are in our arms looking at the world they are in the mood to explore!!
So while we're talking about exploring... I know it's tough when all you want to do is sit down and have a break from all the 1001 things that you need to do as a parent... but unfortunately your little darling has other ideas. They don't want you to leave them alone, they don't want you to sit down, they just want you to be their one person carriage ride through the world. And it is EXHAUSTING! You see, your baby has a huge problem- they've cottoned onto the fact that this world is bigger and more exciting than they ever realised... but they also know that this body of theirs is not yet able to take them to explore it.
So what can you do about it?
Well, first and foremost the most important thing to understand here is that all of this is totally NORMAL. Your four month old baby is not broken, doesn't need fixing, or sleep training, or behaviour management... they are simply a 4 month old baby who is growing and developing NORMALLY.
But let's also give you some concrete tools and tips to help to get you through this time.
- There is no such thing as a 'bad' sleep→ any sleep that your baby gets is good as it resets their sleep clock and helps to reduce sleep pressure. Try to stop worrying about making each and every sleep/nap "perfect" and just get on with your day. Bub will sleep when they feel the need to do it.
- Baby wearing can be a game changer for a clingy, tired baby. If you don't already own one, a baby carrier can be the perfect way to not only keep your clingy baby close, but also get naps on the run.
- Offer feeds as normal but don't worry too much if your bub is too busy to feed during the day→ often they will make up from this overnight and that is totally NORMAL. This is not a sleep regression, it's simply a baby who was too busy to get their calories in during the day, doing the smart thing and making up for that overnight. Your bub will self regulate their intake as long as you keep offering it to them through out the 24 hr period. They might feed in smaller amounts, more frequently and this is also OK.
- Be kind to yourself and try to take a break when you can. You remember how busy the newborn period was? Well this is just another one of those 'high needs' periods in your child's life. So put everything that can be put on hold- on hold- and go back to basics→ feed, cuddle, sleep, repeat.
- When in doubt, add water. Tired, cranky baby? Try a bath. Tired, cranky mama? Try a shower together. Skin to skin time helps your body to release oxytocin (a great hormone for tired and cranky mama's to be releasing into their bodies!) and can help your baby to co-regulate their emotions. So lots of skin to skin cuddles, with or without water, is just what this doctor ordered!
So, there you have it→ 4 months of growth, development and love in a nutshell.
You are doing a fabulous job mama. You are the ground beneath your babies feet as they learn how to exist in the enormous world around them. You are the sun, moon and stars and you are the best person in the world for this job.
As overwhelming as it may seem sometimes when you can’t put them down... life can be pretty overwhelming for a four month old too 💕.
So, hold your baby when you can, and build a village who can hold your baby when you can’t. You’re not meant to do it alone. Four months can be a tough time. Ask for help and be kind to yourself.
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