Developmental leaps at 4 and 8 months

Developmental leaps at 4 and 8 months

We have already discussed the different developmental leaps, growth spurts, and breastfeeding crises and their causes, such as the 15 to 20-day or 3-month breastfeeding crises. Today, we will look at what, at LactApp, we call a false breastfeeding crisis, which also exists. So what is that, a false breastfeeding crisis? Let us explain.

We call them “false” because, as a mother, you might think this challenging situation is related to your own milk supply. Still, in reality, it is a developmental stage or milestone your baby is going through while growing and maturing.

4-month crisis (or developmental leap)

From the age of 4 months, babies are more likely to wake up at night. During the night feeds, they are now more demanding and nervous. They suckle every few minutes and ask for the breast while crying. So many mothers mistakenly believe that their baby must be hungry, that they don’t have enough milk, and that the baby now needs to have commercial formula milk immediately.

What’s going on?

Breastfeeding is not to blame! Babies are born with only two sleep phases, and then, at around 4 months, they develop the additional sleep phases they are missing. This physiological evolution of sleep causes them to spend more time in a state of light sleep, which leads to an increase in the number of times they wake up at night. Somtimes this is also called the 4 month sleep “regression”.

And when they wake up, of course, they ask for more breastfeeding. This way, babies who may have slept for several hours or even slept almost through the night from birth start to wake up again. To make matters worse, in many cases, this can coincide with when the mother has to return to (paid) work, and the sum of all these factors gives rise to difficulties and worries for the mother. So, at this point, many breastfeeding journeys end.

But we can’t emphasize enough that giving your baby a bottle of artificial milk and/or baby cereal will not make your baby sleep better or sleep more. There is absolutely nothing that can be done; it is all just a matter of your baby’s development and maturing, and the only thing you can do is wait for your baby to achieve this developmental milestone of learning all sleep phases.

8-month crisis

Then again, between 8 and 9 months of age, things get complicated again, but breastfeeding is not to blame for it. During the day, babies are now very attached to their mothers. Babies who used to be OK with being held by almost everyone, from one day to the other, become shy, scared of strangers, and very attached to their mothers. If you disappear from their sight and go from one room to another, they get upset and start to cry as if they would never see you again. In addition, even though they breastfeed “normally” during the day, breastfeeding demand increases massively at night. It almost feels like as soon as your baby takes your breast out of their mouth, they start to cry desperately.

And to make things more complicated, these are neither peaceful nor gradual wake-ups when they wake up at night. Babies will go from being asleep to crying desperately without giving you any notice and leaving no time to react.

What happens?

Babies grow and develop. When they reach 8 months of age, they enter a complicated stage: the so-called separation anxiety. They begin to understand that they are a separate person from their mother and that their mother can “disappear”, that they can lose her, and that worries them a lot. To make things more complicated, they also begin to sense that something happens when they go to sleep and that life goes on while they are asleep. Sometimes, they fall asleep with their mother next to them, and then she is not there anymore, or they fall asleep in one room and wake up in another. They have a tough time with this. But if they can breastfeed and be close to their mother, everything is easier to cope with. For us mothers, this can be an exhausting time, but it should never be misunderstood as an unhealthy dependence on breastfeeding. Being able to breastfeed helps your baby to get through this emotionally complicated stage more peacefully.

So before you make any decision that you could afterward regret, consider whether your baby may be experiencing one of these false breastfeeding crises or developmental leaps.

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