Oooooooh sister - did you just google how to sleep train a 4-month old? Are you at the end of a rope searching for the deep secrets of baby sleep? I feel you.
If you are clicking through on articles about sleep training a 4 month old, chances are high that you have been suffering some rough nights. Maybe you even started your research a little while ago, have discovered that 4 months is the earliest you can begin sleep training….and now here you are - READY.
No judgement here.
Listen. I have been there. There is this scene in The Little Mermaid when Ursula turns King Triton - a personification of the mighty Poseidon no doubt, into a disgusting little blue skin tag with a sad beard.....
There he was, king of the ocean, mighty and beautiful, turned into a shriveled piece of tuna fish clinging to the seafloor.
Without exaggerating, that is the exact picture of what happened to me during my son’s long struggle with sleeplessness. The resemblance is uncanny.
I dragged myself across the four month mark, having been startled awake by a crying baby every two hours (or less) without exception.
I was a nasty little sea slug of a person, and >> I.was.miserable.
In the end, my child had a medical problem that made the supine position excruciating. It was a bummer that lasted longer than anyone should have to endure. But assuming you do not have a medical problem, your child is healthy and weighing over 14 pounds (I swear that poundage matters), there is no reason that your baby shouldn’t be sleeping well.
You have come to the right place.
However, before you dive into “sleep training,” I need to send you an important resource and a couple of articles. I know it sounds like a gag, but I am serious. This is the right way to do things....
Good sleep is right around the corner, but it isn’t magic, and “crying for hours on end” is something we absolutely do NOT want. Like you, I want to avoid undue stress - which is more than possible. This is going to be easier than you think, but you have to do things in the right order, with respect for your baby’s needs.
Start with my 25 Sleep Tips, and begin getting your waking hours (AM) in order. Good nights really and truly begin with good days. Good AMs, good PMs, and good BMs - that's my motto. Download my 25 SLEEP TIPS now by clicking here or below.
You also need to read these two blog posts:
I recommend that you pin this post and come back to it once you have completed these things. I will also be sending you a small sequence of support materials when you opt-in for my free sleep tips. No catches, nothing will bombard you - but you will get the support you need to have real + lasting sleep success with as little pain and more ease than you thought possible - promise.
Other great resources include the books The Dream Sleeper, and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Dream Team Baby (who author The Dream Sleeper) have an excellent website, appropriate website. They have truly excellent sleep tips for an array of ages and problems.
Let’s Dive In // You Got This
1 >> Make a Choice
Okay. I hate to make you feel like I am pulling the rug out from under you, but there are several different methods to sleep training. How you sleep train will depend mainly on how close your baby is to doing his night (is he waking once or every other hour), your baby’s temperament, and your beliefs about crying and baby well-being.
Before you make your choice, I would also suggest that you research the actual work and writings of Dr. Richard Ferber, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical and director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital Boston.
I say “his actual work and writing” because if you google “Ferber” you are going to get a tractor-trailor load of very angry opinions from people who have obviously never read, and categorically misunderstand his work.
I include is credentials because…..his credentials are amazing. Don’t tell me this guy hasn’t studied the effects of short bursts of crying on the infant brain. He has literally every form of instrumentation and the best scientists in the world at his disposal. For your research purposes though, you should not search “Ferber” but maybe “graduated waiting” or “graduated response.” (they are the same thing, but with less mom-vitriol)
2 >> Stick to your choice
The worst thing you can do is go back and forth and thus accomplish nothing but the solidifying of your child’s rock hard will. Inconsistency leads to very very strong willed babies (and rats, and monkeys, and people with a gambling problem….and everything else we have ever studied).
Here is my best advice for sticking to your choice: imagine that it is 2 AM and your baby has been crying for 15 minutes. What are you asking yourself? What are you worried about? Take care of those things and try to find your answers. Research until you have made your decision and then go for it.
If having a sleep consultant will make you better at sticking to it - then that is $150 well spent. If talking to your pediatrician and having their consent seems right - then do that.
3 >> Get your own rest
Don’t start this process when you have a huge work deadline or if you're sick, exhausted, or experiencing a major life stressor. Because stick-to-it-ive-ness matters, you will need to be in a calm, relaxed, strong state. Your brain is neurologically wired to lose itself when you hear your baby crying for any length of time. The more well rested and confident you are, the easier it will be to stay in your wise mind.
4 >> Learn more about crying and your baby’s cries in particular
Not all cries are created equal. As you have read in my other posts, there is a frustrated cry that communicates, “Ack this is annoying but I am just about to figure this out; don’t mess with me.” There is a cry that is actually more like fussing and protesting, “I am okay, but I would rather if you were in here.” There is the worst cry of all, that can only be found when you are familiar with the rhythm of your baby’s cries, which is called “the extinction burst,” and there is a cry that says, “I really need you.”
Don’t tell me that a 4 month old baby needs you every single time that they cry in the middle of the night. That isn’t true and the chances are high that I actually have read more about it and know more than those who say otherwise. I hate to be like that, but you know....sleep MATTERS. And a lot of the dissenters say stuff like: if you aren’t responsive to every.single.cry your baby will have poor attachment.
I am OBSESSED with responsive parenting. Responsive parenting is my gold standard and the focus of BOTH of my digital courses. I have done the work and reading. You can still be a responsive parent and allow your child to occasionally cry.
5 >> Plan your first 24 hours
When getting ready to sleep train, many parents make the mistake of focussing just on the 12 night time hours. They gear up and dive in at 7 pm. But really, you should be strategically preparing your baby for his upcoming night that entire day.
You want to make sure he is fed, well napped. That he is getting plenty of love and cuddles and a ton of predictability. He is about to learn something huge. It is going to feel so good to him and you both!
Like I said, I don’t know any other website that cares more about responsive relationship than I do. An important part of responsive caregiving, is making sure that your child gets what they need to flourish. It is good to remember that there are a lot of research studies indicating that poor sleep is really bad for baby’s development. So sometimes, doing a couple of nights of sleep training is the most responsive thing to do.
Hopefully, your sleep training experience is quick and easy because you have already downloaded my sleep tips, read the other blogs, and done all the preliminary things. A lot of times, sleep problems clear up with those things alone. But if you’re at the place where training is necessary, I hope that these tips are a good encouragement.
You have the whole world of possibility in you. Your potential to for greatness is incredible. You are and will continue to be a great parents. Seize that hope and that reality. Make sure that you are positive, excited, and ready to conquer this next phase of great sleep - because you totally will…..