What is this monster that has consumed my 4 month old????
This past week has been challenging to say the least. I have a four month old little girl who enjoys flexing her vocal chords when she’s not happy, in pain, tired or otherwise just a big cranker pants. My ear drums have been quite sensitive lately due to the wonderful shrill screams that I’m sure all my adjoining neighbors hear on a daily basis.
She’s also thrown me a curve ball with her sleeping patterns. Naps are awful. She may sleep for 30 minutes at a time or sleep for a four hour interval with multiple wakings in which she is crying nearly inconsolable until I shove my boob in her mouth.
And don’t get me started on the teething… yep I have an early teether! What joy! (Pickin’ up my sarcasm there?)
Many nursing sessions spent googling “What is wrong with my 4 month old?” has led me to a slew of developmental milestone explanations.
Milestone 1: The Wonder Weeks
The Wonder Weeks is research and information based on a baby’s mental development. A baby goes through an incredible amount of mental changes during their first year of life and wonder weeks corresponds to “Leaps” in their development. Think of it as growth spurts for the brain. During these leaps a baby may exhibit the 3 C’s. Crying, Crankiness and Clinginess.
This week, for example, my baby is knee deep into leap 4. This is a five week “stormy” period stretch in which babies start perceiving events. So the action of watching a ball bounce or watching a dog roll over is something baby can see as one smooth action. During this leap little munchkins will start reaching and grabbing things with greater success. That shiny necklace you’re wearing might become very tempting for little hands. All this grabbing leads to exploring these objects.
All this new information is exciting! And my baby is always looking around and not wanting to miss out on all the fun filled shows going on around her. But all this stimulation comes at a price. Her little brain is still not efficient like we are at filtering out unimportant information and background noise. So overstimulation happens with her A LOT! She then turns into a screaming or melt down crying mess at the end of the day, especially when her sleep has gotten messed up that day.
I’m not affiliated with them in any way but if you’d like further information on The Wonder Weeks there is a website and accompanying book (I haven’t read the book yet but the information on the site is fascinating).
There is also an accompanying app available. It’s a great $2 investment! It shows what week you’re in and detailed information about each leap. It’s not a “how to” resource but having the knowledge behind a difficult time period may help you realize that it’s not you mama!! And it’s very normal!
Milestone 2: Sleep Regression
The next 4 month issue that has come up for us is the dreaded sleep regression. After some research it’s unclear if there is a prevalent belief about what causes this period and if it’s even real. Some of the information that has made sense to me though is that the baby’s brain has moved into a new developmental stage where sleep cycles behave more like that of an adult’s brain. Moving from REM (dream sleep) to deep sleep takes longer and this may cause disruptions in baby’s ability to stay asleep. Like every new skill, there seems to be a learning curve. In the mean time naps are shorter for my little munchkin and she wakes crying often due to still being tired. And well, I’d cry too if I woke up after each and every sleep cycle!
Additionally a lot of parents experience an increase in night waking. Now I know I may get some hate mail but I have been blessed with a child that sleeps through the night. Definition being 5+ hours according to baby sleep people (that’s the legit title right?) However, her once very predictable schedule, asleep by 1030pm (she has always been more of a night owl and it works for us), wake around 5-6am, back to sleep till 830am, has flown out the window. She will wake at random times, some days at 2am, others 4 or 5am. One day she slept until 1030am… I definitely didn’t complain that day! All this after a solid three days in a row (gasp… are you ready for this) of sleeping 10 hours straight! It was almost like a cruel joke looking back. “Hey I have a fun game mom, I’m totally gonna get your hopes up on having normal nights sleep again and then I’m totally gonna mess with your head!”
Milestone 3: Early Teething
Then we have teething… and I guess having a baby that sleeps through the night is the yin to the screaming, crying, angry chomper-yang. I do find it cute the way she almost violently thrusts her fist into her mouth and it’s awesome to watch her coordination improve as she’s bringing her little pink and white striped giraffe rattle to her mouth to chew on. Perfect that his little nubs (ossicones according to my trusty sidekick Google) are nipple shaped and soft, since my baby hates anything plastic it seems.
Teething symptoms may start as early as 3 months for some babies! Although generally the first tooth (or teeth) don’t actually break their way through the gums until around 6 months. The most common symptoms are excessive drooling, increased biting and chewing and irritability.
If your little one seems out of sorts and displaying one or more of these classic signs, there might be a pearly white fighting it’s way through! The What To Expect website has a great comprehensive article about signs, symptoms and what you can do to help your little one!
There are also tons of sites to get information on teething if you consult the Googles. Although when it comes to remedies mamas, please do your due diligence and do some research. Just because someone tells you their bonafide miracle cure doesn’t mean that it’s safe or even right for you and your baby!
Milestone 4: Growth Spurt
At the 4 month mark I’m just waiting for the next growth spurt to hit. I know it’s coming… it’s just a matter of time before my nipples are sore and my breasts become uber engorged from the cluster feeding and yet more munchkin crankiness hits. Although, I’d be surprised if it got worse than what she’s already going through. I probably shouldn’t say that aloud. She’s probably in tune with my thoughts and just waiting for me to let my guard down. I’m on to you baby!
If you’re noticing your little one is a bottomless hunger pit, might be sleeping more than usual and those buttons on that onesie that fit three days ago won’t snap… well, you might have yourselves a bonafide growth spurt! Lots of useful info about growth spurts is out there, a couple of the many resources I’ve found useful are here and here.
And a special note to breastfeeding mamas… growth spurts are especially hard on you because doubt and fear tend to rear their ugly head when your baby doesn’t seem satisfied. But research has shown that your body is amazing and your breasts will feed that child. Cluster feeding is natures way of creating more supply for a greater demanding child. So hang in there! And if you do have concerns about supply consult your pediatrician, lactation consultant and/or your local La Leche League. A lot of mamas give up out of fear and misinformation. Knowledge is power after all!
All of this (and sometimes more) for one tiny human is a LOT to deal with! And being a loving mama to this little 4 month munchkin monster can be quite taxing. But hang in there and just remember that your baby needs your tender loving care through this exciting yet very challenging time in their existence. Being a baby is hard work but your tender embrace, soft voice and sweet kisses make it all better for your little munchkin.
May your patience be infinite and your frustration be sparse, and May God bless your journey.