The phrase “sleeps like a baby” is an unfortunate misconception. While it is true that babies, especially newborns, sleep a lot. They do not sleep for long periods and are often easily awoken.
Many parents of infants struggle with sleep issues, including getting their baby to fall asleep, sleep regression, and unnecessary middle-of-the-night wakeups. If you are one of those parents, this article is here to help!
This article covers common infant sleep problems around four to five months old and suggests tips to help. However, not all babies develop at the same rate, so some of these sleep issues may occur slightly before four months old and some slightly after.
The good news is, with a bit of patience and the correct know-how, most sleep problems resolve within a few weeks. So while it may seem like your little one will never sleep, keep the faith and try some of the tricks and tips we’ve included below so that both you and your baby can get a good night’s rest.
Common 4 and 5-Month-Old Infant Sleep Problems
Mixing up day and night
When babies are in the womb, they are often lulled to sleep by their mother’s movements during the day. And while there is light in the womb and your baby will open their eyes around twenty-five weeks gestation, they do not understand day or night. So if you have not helped your baby understand the difference between day and night, they may still be mixing up the two.
Help your baby learn the difference between day and night by making daytime bright, noisy, and stimulating and keeping nighttime dark and quiet.
Parents are often afraid to make noise during the day because of their napping baby, and understandably so, but you shouldn’t shy away from normal household noises, even when they’re napping, because it will help acclimate them to day versus night.
Keep naps short and sweet if your baby is struggling to fall asleep at night. While it may be tempting to let your little one take a long nap so you can get some housework or rest yourself, letting them nap for more than a few hours at night means you are setting yourself up for frequent nighttime wake-ups.
Unnecessary nighttime feedings
Most babies need at least one, possibly two nighttime feedings until they are about four months old. However, as they move past the fourth month and into the fifth, you can probably remove one of those feedings. Many babies engage in “comfort feedings” because they’re body has grown accustomed to waking up to eat at a specific time, but their body no longer needs those calories.
If you hear your baby fuss and it’s only been a few hours since you put them down for the night, let them go for a few minutes to see if they will fall back asleep. If they continue to fuss, offer them feeding but with 1 or 2 fewer ounces per bottle, or if nursing reduces the time by a few minutes. You can gradually offer fewer and fewer ounces until they no longer wake up.
Offer more calories during the day and consider introducing solids such as rice cereal, fruit purees, or baby oatmeal during daytime meals.
Sleep regression is a common phenomenon in babies. It usually occurs around 4, 8-10, and 12 months. At four months, your baby’s brain has hit a critical developmental stage, and it wants to interact with everything it sees and hears.
You’ll notice sleep regression if your baby was beginning to develop a predictable sleep pattern but then is suddenly wide awake when they used to be sleepy.
Stay with your baby’s established routine for bedtime and make sure they are getting adequate sleep during the day; overtired babies and children have even more difficulty falling asleep.
Changes to their routine
Around this time, your baby’s sleep needs may begin to change, resulting in sleep disruptions. For example, five-month-olds will take two to three naps a day for roughly one to two hours each and sleep roughly ten hours at night.
Pay attention to your baby’s cues as they will begin to need less sleep during the day and more at night. If they sleep too much during the day, they won’t be sleepy at night, especially if their afternoon nap runs long.
Not able to self soothe
Babies begin learning how to self-soothe around four to five months old—learning how to self-soothe is an important developmental milestone. Babies who do not learn to self-soothe will have trouble settling down for sleep or falling back asleep during nighttime wakings.
Allow your baby to fuss for a few minutes before rushing in when you hear them cry. After three months old, you can stop responding immediately to every cry. Allowing your baby to fuss provides them an opportunity to self-soothe. You can offer them a pacifier to help them self-soothe; alternatively, some babies will already have begun sucking their fingers or thumbs.
While it can be difficult for some parents to listen to their baby cry, there is a difference between your baby’s fussing because they want some attention and a cry that merits a quicker response, such as hunger, pain, or fear.
Other Causes for Sleep Problems in 4-5 Month Olds
Additional sleep problems that can occur around four and five months are:
- Schedule changes
- Discomfort – wet diapers, the room is too hot, or too dark, etc.
Having a baby means disruptions to your sleep schedule and learning all the ins and outs of baby sleep schedules. While it can be frustrating when your baby is struggling with sleep, remember that all problems have solutions, and with a few weeks’ patience, your baby’s sleep should be back on schedule!