New Baby, Who Dis?
If you feel like your baby is practically a new baby overnight, you’re not imagining things. Suddenly, your sweet little swaddled bundle of joy is smiling, reaching for toys, and is that—laughing?
Yup, it’s true! Your baby will most likely start laughing this month and can we just say, there is no better sound in the world than the first baby belly laugh? Also, be prepared to be amazed at the lengths you will go to try to elicit that little baby laugh. You’re both in for some major changes this month, from feeding to sleep to settling into more of a schedule.
4-Month-Old Baby Milestones
At 4 months old, your baby will be reaching some exciting milestones. There is a lot of physical and developmental growth that happens around the 4-month mark, and sometime this month you can expect your baby to:
- Show expression when “talking”
- Have different cries for hunger, pain, or being tired
- Respond to affection
- Reach for toys with one hand
- Recognize people and familiar objects from a distance, like a pet or favorite toy, or even a bottle
- Hold head up steady without help
- “Stand” on legs when their feet are on a flat surface
- May start to roll from stomach to back
- Pushes up to elbows when doing tummy time
- Shake a toy
Remember that all babies develop at their own pace, but if you have any concerns at all about your baby’s development, or if your baby isn’t smiling at all, can’t hold her head steady, or isn’t making any sounds at all, you can talk to your doctor.
Your Growing Baby
A lot of growth happens during this month for your baby. Here’s what to anticipate during month 4 for growth and feeding.
How much should a 4-month-old baby weigh?
According to the World Health Organization’s infant growth charts, the average weight for a 4-month-old baby girl is just over 14 pounds, while boys will weigh in at close to 15 and a ½ pounds.
However, every baby grows at different rates, so the best way to gauge your baby’s growth is with their own individual growth chart, which your doctor will monitor at their well-child check-ups.
How much should a 4-month-old eat?
On average, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, at 4 months, your baby will drink between 4-6 ounces about every 4 hours during daytime hours if you’re formula feeding. If you’re feeding your baby breast milk, your baby may also drink more at night than an exclusively formula-fed baby, because breast milk is digested more completely. A formula-fed baby should not eat more than 32 ounces per 24 hours.
If you’re nursing your baby, you might be relieved to find that your 4-month-old’s feedings will start to space out a bit more. Instead of the every-two-hours, round-the-clock feedings that a newborn infant needs, a 4-month-old may nurse on more of a regular schedule, such as wake-up, snack/nap time, lunch time, post-nap, and bedtime. However, you should continue nursing on demand and keep in mind that your baby will most likely nurse more whenever he or she is growing.
My baby is acting more hungry than usual—is that normal?
Your baby may also have a growth spurt this month. During a growth spurt, your baby is growing and developing at a tremendous rate in a short amount of time.
On average, infant growth spurts tend to occur around 2, 4, and 6 months old, and anytime your baby has a growth spurt, you may notice a disruption in normal habits—your baby may have interrupted sleep, may seem more fussy than normal, may want to be held more, might need an extra nap, and may eat more than usual as well.
Special Considerations This Month
This month, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
- Colic should start to disappear. If your baby has been dealing with colic, he or she should be growing out of it by now. If your baby is still spitting up a lot, is very fussy and inconsolable, or seems gassy, be sure to speak with your doctor to determine what else could be going on.
- Time for that 4-month-check-up! At 4 months, your baby is due for another well-child check-up and another round of vaccines. Be sure to keep all scheduled appointments so your baby can stay on track. Your next well-child check-up will be at 6-months old.
- Continue tummy time. Supervised tummy time helps ensure your baby’s neck and head muscles grow strong and developed enough, which will be important for sitting up, eating, and of course, crawling.
- Vitamin D drops. If you’re exclusively breastfeeding, be sure to continue giving your baby the recommended Vitamin D drops from your doctor. Breast milk does not naturally contain Vitamin D, and it’s an important vitamin for babies to get until they are old enough to get it from other sources.
- Can I start solid foods this month? You should discuss starting solid foods with your doctor if you feel your baby is ready, but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breast milk or formula for the first six months of a baby’s life.
That Sleep Regression Though
You may have heard a thing or two about the infamous 4-month-old sleep regression and allow me to assure you: it can be very, very real. I myself have witnessed my own baby, a wonderful sleeper from day 0 in the hospital, go from a baby who would sleep all night, to a baby whom, practically overnight the day she turned 4 months old, stopped sleeping.
I tell you this not to scare you, but to validate that if you’re the parent of a 4-month-old who suddenly has seemed to turn into an entirely different baby at night, know that you are not losing your mind and it’s not just you—it’s the 4-month-old sleep regression.
The good news, however, is that there is a valid reason behind the regression and it’s usually very temporary, about 2 weeks or so. Remember all that growth we just talked about? Well, that’s a large factor in the regression. The 4-month-old stage also marks a massive shift in brain development for your baby, which can impact their sleep. The brain changes are so marked, it’s almost like your baby has to “re-learn” everything they learned in the 0-3 month stage.
Knowing this, you’ll want to focus on doing everything you can to support your baby learning good sleep habits while working through the sleep regression. It might be helpful for you to keep in mind that the sleep regression is temporary and it’s related to the growth your baby is going through, so there is a real reason for it.
You could try following a 4-month-old sleep schedule that looks something like this:
- Wake-up time: 7 AM
- First nap: 9:30-11 AM
- Second nap: 1-3 PM
- Bedtime: 6-7 PM
- Total amount of sleep per day/night: 12-15 hours
As your baby is a little bit older and is eating more during the day, you can also try some different techniques at night to help your baby learn how to sleep better, such as:
- Providing the opportunity to self-soothe
- Putting your baby down to sleep drowsy but awake
- Spacing out nighttime feedings
- Offering other self-soothing techniques other than feeding right away, such as rocking, patting your baby’s bottom, or a pacifier
Taking Care of You
Although it might feel like the world expects you to “have it together” by now, it’s important to remember that if your baby is 4 months old, you have only been a parent for about 16 weeks—and more importantly, all of that time has been spent parenting a baby that has been constantly changing while you have been busy physically healing and recovering as well.
One study found that symptoms of postpartum depression tend to be the highest between 0 and 4 months postpartum for women. And when you think about it, that really makes sense. Your sleep has been all over the place, feedings have been constant, your body has been physically recovering, and the amount of changes that have been thrust on you, from work to your relationship, to the very way you are able to eat a meal or brush your teeth, are staggering.
Honestly, sometimes it amazes me that any of us make it through parenting intact.
But truly, mama, even at 4 months, remember that all of this is still brand new to you, that you are still very much in recovery mode both physically, mentally, and emotionally, and that you can and should reach out for professional help anytime you are struggling. There are so many resources available now, more than ever, to parents, from telehealth therapy to parenting groups online to even help by text, so don’t hesitate to look for support if you are struggling.