Does the "Four Month Regression" really exist?


Dozens of ads for sleep consultants and many parenting magazines warn parents about the "four month sleep regression."  But does it really exist?  Best you ask your doctor but here is my observational opinion on this topic.  I propose it is a made-up term used to explain why a baby who has not yet learned self-calming skills and who is therefore being helped to go go sleep  -  and who is still receiving night feedings at the age of 4 months... begins to awaken more frequently overnight and takes longer and longer to put to sleep at bedtime and for naps.

Many families report that to  me: "He was a pretty good sleeper at 2- 3 months, needing only a quick breastfeed to put him to sleep and only 2 feedings overnight.  Then he hit 4 months and he is waking now 4-6 times overnight wanting a feed and it's taking longer, bouncing, etc. to get him to sleep for naps and nights.!"  Parents begin to wonder why this consistently happens around the 4 month mark.

I believe It happens because parents haven't known how to begin to shape their baby's sleep  before by the 2-3 month mark. They have not yet helped their baby learn how to fall asleep on her own, nor have they known to  stop night feedings overnight (11 hours) as soon as the 12 lb. mark was reached.  Help to fall asleep and feeding overnight become huge expectations by 4 months of age.  These habits are now very strong and harder to break.

Developmentally at 4 months babies experience  a burst of social interest.   So if a 4 month old is still getting even one overnight feeding, this new social development encourages him to wake up more often for the reward of seeing a parent and getting fed.  Parents wrongly think this means a growth spurt is happening so they up the feedings. (This is not necessary because a baby can meet any growth spurt just by feeding a little longer during the normal daytime feeds.)   Very quickly baby begins to look forward to the overnight visits and leans to "call out" more often for the thrill of these social occasions.  

It takes longer to help your baby fall asleep for the same reason.  So you rock and rock and bounce and then feed more and very quickly everyone is completely exhausted.

My advice is to do Sleep Shaping by 2-3 months and for 4 month olds it's time for serious sleep training. 

Self-calming skills are the key! 

"Being There" for Your Family

Being There for Your Child

“I always want to make sure I am there for my child!” This heartfelt statement made by a mother of a 9 year old boy symbolizes the strong feelings all parents have around the fear of letting their child down. For some parents, these feelings are intensified if they, themselves, felt that a parent wasn’t there for them when they were young. In that case, the impulse may be to bend over backward to avoid repeating past mistakes or risk failing your own child in any way.

In our effort to keep a certain balance in our parenting, it is important to think about what being there means for your children at each stage of their development. How close and how far they really need us to be often depends on the age, the stage and the situation. Let’s look at some examples.

For a newborn baby it means being fully present, temporarily giving up almost all other interests, holding and feeding as if there were no tomorrow. Soon, however, being there for that baby may mean stepping back a bit from constant holding and giving him the freedom to fuss during his “tummy time” on the floor or cry as he tackles the job of learning to fall asleep on his own.

Being there for your 3 year old who has fallen and hurt himself badly means holding and comforting him until he feels better. By contrast, however, being there for siblings who are quarrelling with each other may involve leaving them to work it out.

For a 6 year old who is starting a new school, being there for her may mean going early to meet the teacher, making sure your child has supplies she needs, and walking her to the classroom door. But walking away when it’s time for the parents to go and trusting her to muster the courage to stay, is also being there for her in an age-appropriate way.

It’s all in the timing of our steps in this complicated parenting dance. Sometimes we need to dance up close, sometimes we dance at a distance and sometimes... we need to dance out of sight. Which to do when - is every parent’s dilemma.

Some adults seem to have a natural sense of this dance, lucky people. But I observe that when parents aren’t exactly sure, many play it safe by dancing up close all the time. Wanting to keep their children safe every moment, wanting them to feel secure, and above all wanting them to have high self-esteem, parents may end up doing “excessive” parenting. With that, they risk raising children who are unable to deal with adversity, who have fewer self-calming skills, who have difficulty making decisions, being resourceful on their own and who may be afraid to make mistakes.

These dance steps! How can we get them right? First, remember that they are very small steps. A little one up, a little one back. One small miss- step is not going to make or break a childhood. Second, when considering your position on this dance floor, take into account the individual child’s developmental needs, the particular circumstance and your child’s temperament. So, with a certain child you might dance up closer on Monday for the doctor appointment than you would on Thursday night when homework is not done but due tomorrow.

Last, expect to get it wrong sometimes. You’ll inevitably look back and think you should have given more support or that you gave too much...but you’ll have done your best at the moment and thank goodness that’s all children ask of us.

Helping Your Child Learn to Play Indepently

Little kids learn through play, not by being taught.   I bet most of you are already quite aware of the beneficial effect on a child’s brain development from being allowed to play with a variety of age-appropriate toys and other household objects. 

 

You, like many parents, may delight in your initial role of “helping” your baby play and “making the toys come alive” for your toddler.  You participate every time you are asked and your baby or toddler may start to cry or call you back whenever you move away.

Now it’s time to offer a new type of learning. As your child grows and is able to reach for things and eventually becomes mobile, your role as playmate should fade into what might be called a facilitator of your child’s play.

 

When parents gently fade their role as entertainer or playmate, a child slowly becomes able to play directly with the play objects, enjoying the presence of an adult nearby, but not demanding direct involvement at all times.

 

Of course some babies and toddlers will be resistant as the parent moves away.  If this is the case, a parent can initially make their absences brief and for a purpose, saying, “I’ll be right back, I have to pour my coffee.”  It’s important that you allow your child to protest (and even follow you, crying) without letting it upset you or causing you to return immediately. 

 

Soon, the times you spend engaged elsewhere will occupy more and longer stretches (70% of your day?) and your time actually on the floor playing will be scattered through the day in segments of about 15 minutes at a time  (30% of your time?). 

 

During your increasingly extended times away from the role as entertainer, it is important to maintain a rather boring demeanor (to your child, anyway) – actively giving about 95% of your attention to what you are engaged in.  You can add in humming a tune, turn on the radio or play a CD to fill the air and give further clues to your child.  If you answer every little squeak or plea for attention, your child may continue to press you to start some entertainment.

 

Once your child comes to accept that your play times together will still occur through the day at your initiation (avoid giving in to begging or whining) your child will become “resigned” to figuring out ways to play without your presence or coaching or constant involvement. 

(This may take a while as your child continues to test to see if he can change your mind.)

Question: Will your nanny or home caregiver be willing to handle her day the same way? The answer is that you’ll need to explain that It’s best if she gives herself breaks during her day so your baby or child continues up the road toward happy, independent play.

 

Are You On A Slippery Slope?

Are You On A Slippery Slope?

Most parents admit to being somewhat tired and stressed these days. With two working parents, arriving home at the end of the day after picking up kids at daycare, the last thing they feel up to is a handling a melt-down. “I’ll just let it go this time. I’m just too tired to deal with it.” But by giving in to a demanding toddler - are you starting down a slippery parenting slope?

AND SUDDENLY YOU ARE AT HOME WITH A BABY!

AND SUDDENLY YOU ARE AT HOME WITH A BABY!

The crossover line is thin. Very thin, in the sense that one day you are still a member of the Pregnancy Club where you’ve gotten to know some new friends, bought new clothes and with whom you’ve been enrolled in a 9-month course on birth and delivery, with enough books to last through three deliveries. You’ve made a birth plan, studied signs of pre-term labor and most likely you’ve made friends with your midwife or Douala.

Sibling Squabbles

Sibling Squabbles

“Squabbles between siblings are inevitable and necessary. The less I do, the better.”

Many parents are surprised to hear my advice on how to handle sibling rivalry.  And most parents I hear from are exhausted from the job they have taken on as referee.  Trying to referee doesn’t work and in fact can increase the number of

Distraction as a Discipline Tool? Um, No.

Distraction as a Discipline Tool? Um, No.

Notice how once a baby learns to crawl she gets her hands on everything in sight?  It’s a wonderful moment for your baby but parents scramble to figure out what to do about this little octopus.  “We just distract him away from the cord to play with something else,”  one father told me.”It works most