“Sleep at this point is just a concept, something I’m looking forward to investigating in the future.”— Amy Poehler
It’s going to be a while before your child has a “social life” — but your baby is busy learning the basics now. You may start noticing some of these behaviors in your baby during months 4-5:
- Looking at other children with interest
- Laughing during tickled and play time
- Crying if their play is disrupted or during a quick transition
- Asserting themselves
- Playing during meals
During this time of rapid learning, you can help your baby understand social cues and support their emotional development through interaction. Need some ideas for how to engage with your little one?
- Talk to your baby (we know, it’s weird, they can’t talk back!) and make eye contact. Using real words and language (no gah-goos) is best for language and brain development but you can use sweet, soothing tones that feel natural.
- Narrate what you’re doing (ex/ “I’m changing your diaper now” “I’m getting ready to feed you”) and ask your baby questions.
- Show empathy. Babies and kids learn from what you do, not what you say. Want to instill empathy? Model positive responses to a difficult situation.
- Get out and about as best you can. New experiences are good for children’s social development—and your own sanity! Exposing your baby to new adventures (even small ones like a walk around the block) can help them discover the world around them.
- Don’t force it. If your baby isn’t loving a particular social situation, don’t push them. Let your little one go at their own pace.
While playdates, play groups, and baby classes can be fun, these activities are not actually critical to your baby’s social development. (As the saying goes, baby classes are for parents!) Your little one’s social skills will primarily come from you as well as siblings and other caregivers around them. Daily engagement such as chatting, snuggling, playing, and exploring together are all the socialization your baby needs.
Solving Sleep Setbacks
At 4 months old, many babies can sleep 10-12 hours at night, still waking up for a feeding or two. They may also take two to three naps a day. Sounds simple enough, right? Er, not always. Maybe you’ve heard about the dreaded “four month sleep regression” in which babies suddenly start struggling with nighttime sleep again. Here’s the real deal.
For starters, the term “regression” can be a bit misleading, as these aren’t actually a setback, but a change in “sleep architecture.” (Try throwing around the term “sleep architecture” more if you want to sound like a parent who really knows their stuff.)
Healthy newborns sleep a ton and usually wake from things like hunger, dirty diapers, or alertness—but as they grow, babies start to sleep longer stretches during the day and at night. (For the lucky few, some babies even sleep through the night by 3-4 months!) However, around month four, there is a whole lot of growin’ going on with your baby. Even their sleep is maturing. So, at this age, they may start to shift from constant sleep to dynamic sleep. What does this mean?
Sleep stages follow a predictable order and flow together in 60–90 minutes cycles during the night. The end of these cycles are marked by a brief waking period and are the cause of most “sleep problems.”
If your struggling with a four month sleep setback, here are some tips to help you get back on track:
- Let your baby practice falling asleep on their own in the place where you want them to sleep all night.
- Start a little nap and bedtime cue (e.g., singing a specific song, rocking, bouncing, comforting), and when your baby is tired, put him/her in the sleep space awake.
- You don’t need to force the crib if your baby isn’t ready to fall asleep there on his/her own but you can begin to show them that the crib is a reasonable place to sleep.
- Full feedings during the day and just before bed can help prevent your baby from getting hungry in the middle of the night.
- If you haven’t done so already, establish a bedtime routine and stick to it. This can include a bath, changing clothes, reading a bedtime story, or singing a lullaby.
Not every sleep struggle is easily solved, and sometimes your specific baby and situation need a more personalized approach. If you’re struggling with helping your baby get enough sleep, you can reach out to WellNested — we have sleep experts on hand that can help you create a plan that works for you.
On a Roll!
Wondering whether you need to stop swaddling? If your baby is rolling from back to front during play or tummy time, it’s a sign that yes, you are out of the swaddle phase. The AAP recommends that once babies start trying to roll over, you should stop swaddling them right away. You can try a sleep sack instead which allows their arms to be free so they can push themselves back onto their back if needed.
Once a baby can roll over, it’s actually considered safe for them, even in their crib and during nap or night time, to roll to their tummy. However, you do still need to follow safe sleep guidelines such as keeping their crib clear of toys, blankets and bumpers and putting them down to sleep on their back. Another note on rolling: It’s extra important not to leave your baby unattended on a high surface like a changing table or other stand/counter because they are at risk of rolling off.
INFOGRAPHIC: SOLUTIONS FOR THE 4-MONTH SLEEP REGRESSION
- Choose the place you want baby to sleep all night
- Use sleep cues (singing, rocking, lights out) before nap and bedtime
- Put baby down to awake but tired (yawning, rubbing eyes)
- Don’t force the crib if your baby isn’t ready
- Offer full feedings during the day and just before bed
- Establish a bedtime routine — and stick to it!