The Dreaded 4 Month Regression/Progression
If you follow baby development App, The Wonder Weeks you will know well in advance that the 4-month leap is soooo long. Lasting about a month, all reports from mums going through this leap with their baby is that it is hard, really hard. It is often likened to the newborn stage with the return of frequent waking and feeding during the night and lots of fussiness and clinginess during the day, which ultimately equates to very little rest for mum. All of this arrives right at a time when many mums are starting to feel like they have a bit of a handle on this baby gig.
The brain development for baby at this time is huge. Recordings of baby’s brain waves show dramatic changes at this time, and baby’s head circumference physically increases between 15 to 18 weeks. If that’s not enough they are learning and perfecting new skills around this time too; like learning to roll, an increase in babbling with a new repertoire of sounds and intentionally grabbing at toys. All this new learning can lead to baby becoming frustrated and cranky, tiring quickly and sometimes seeming to be bored by usual activities or styles of interaction.
The 4-month developmental regression/progression can really rock a mum’s confidence with the onset of this rapid growth and development. Feeding and sleep cues can suddenly change as baby is no longer that wee newborn in the forth trimester. Even the way mum naturally holds and positions baby to feed has changed simply because baby is physically bigger and may not need as much support and guidance to get a good latch. Gone are the days that a feed fixed everything. Baby now starts to view feeding time as social interaction and may begin taking themselves off the breast for a ‘chat’ midway through a feed, which is very cute but not at 3am when mum just wants to get back to bed.
Know that baby is going through this too and together you will find your way. The way through this is one hour at a time. Take a breath mama, despite how you may feel, you are doing an amazing job of simply being there for your baby as they learn how to be in this ever changing and growing body of theirs. This is a time when mum needs lots of love and support. Almost like in the newborn times. The difficulty is that much of the offers for help have dropped off from those early days. However, this is a period when you need to call upon family or friends for meals and support again. If you don’t ask, they don’t know how to help or that you are even in need of help. Cut yourself some slack on the domestic duties and return to prioritising sleep, good food and really nurturing self. Not only is your baby learning new things, so are you mama.
Prioritise and actually scheduling in things for you. Be fluid with the rest of your schedule but do not budge or compromise the stuff that’s for you. If you are not on to this already, do it NOW! You will need it. Make the necessary calls and arrangements to make it happen. Whether it be uninterrupted nap time, a massage, coffee with a friend, yoga class or simply time to just be yourself and do absolutely nothing, make sure it goes in the calendar. I don’t know about you but if it’s not in the calendar it tends not to happen.
Seek out reassurance and support from good sources, for example, if you have questions about the changes in your baby’s feeding patterns or cues speak with a Lactation Consultant or call the Australian Breastfeeding Association Free Hotline for advice. Even if the session results in a kind work and a “that’s completely normal” conversation, it’s worth it for the peace of mind. You could also speak with a trusted friend about their experience during this time. Maybe drop in to see a Child Health Nurse you;ve had positive interactions with at previous visits, or make an appointment with a GP that you know and trust.
During this intense time of change reach for quality sources of support that are helpful, encouraging, empathetic. Plan and follow through on nice things just for you, like a postnatal massage for example. Avoid sources or interactions that you know are draining, unresourceful and leave you feeling down on yourself. This might be certain people in your world or perhaps certain social media channels/groups/threads. You wouldn’t allow your child to be spoken to or made to feel like this, so don’t allow if for yourself, particularly when your energy is low and emotions are high, it’s a vulnerable time, so take care.
Quick recap of key points:
- The 4 Month Regression is actually progression.
- Cut yourself some slack.
- This too shall pass, as it always does.
- Schedule in things for you that give you energy and allow you to recharge.
- Ask for help.
- Choose sources of advice carefully.
- raisingchildren.net.au; Australian Parenting Website, 4.-5 Months: Baby Development, https://raisingchildren.net.au/babies/development/development-tracker-3-12-months/4-5-months
- Van De Rijt, H and Plooij, F X and Plas-Plooji, X, 2019, Sixth Edition, The Wonder Weeks (Book); A Stress-Free Guide to Your Baby’s Behavior, The Countryman, USA.