Baby Care: 4 Month Old Baby
Your baby is really becoming their own little person at 4 months and will be showing you they truly have their own unique personality. You may already be seeing character traits which remind you of someone you know, perhaps yourself or your partner being replicated in miniature form. But maybe your baby is totally different from what you are familiar with and will keep you guessing all the time.
You’ve had a few months now to get to know each other and become more confident in knowing what helps to keep your baby happy. This really is the essence of parenting in the early months. To be able to predict what your baby could want and then be able to provide them with it. There will be times when this is easier than others. Expect some days to be more difficult and challenging and try not to let it erode your confidence.
Feeding and Sleeping
Your baby may sleep for shorter periods through the day now and for longer, continuous sleeps overnight. They still need to sleep during the day though, no matter how they may try to convince you otherwise. Day sleeps influence night sleeps so avoid thinking that if you keep your baby is kept up through the day they will sleep better overnight. This simply is not true. Try to settle them in the same way both day and night and avoid rocking or feeding them to sleep.
Four month old babies can really begin to make their wishes known. They can start protesting when settling, even if they have never done this previously. Try to concentrate on keeping calm yourself and involve your partner as much as you can. Check the baby sleep information on this site and make some choices about what works for all of you.
Your baby’s feeding will be an efficient and well-paced process by now. Any early difficulties you could have had with latching and sucking are likely to have improved and your baby has become more competent at feeding. Breast milk or formula will supply all your baby’s nutritional needs at this age, with the current recommendations to introduce solid food at 6 months. This is thought to reduce the risk of allergies developing and allow the gut to mature enough to be able to digest solid foods adequately.
Your baby is really getting to know you and other people closest to them. If you have older children, you’ll find your baby is almost as responsive to them as they are to you. The first year is a time when babies learn who they can trust and who will provide them with what they need to grow and thrive. They really are like sponges at this age, with brains which literally mould as a result of how they are nurtured. If you go to your baby when they cry, aim to care for them in a sensitive and loving way and feel empathy for them when they are distressed; then your baby is only going to benefit from this style of care.
Keep your baby away from the television and any screen at this age. Avoid thinking you need to place them in front of “stimulating” programmes which will help them to learn. The current recommendations from experts are that children have no screen time for the first 2 years of life. While you can’t keep them away from a TV screen for 2 years you, your face and your voice can provide your baby with the only brain stimulation they need at 4 months and for the next few months too.
Your baby may have developed some head control in the last month or so, but at 4 months they still won’t be able to keep their back steady. Avoid forcing them into a sitting position just yet, they are still too young. When you pick them up you’ll be finding they are nearly able to keep their back and neck in alignment though. Just make sure you continue to support their head when you are cuddling them, especially when they are tired and grizzly. Babies’ heads are very large in proportion to the rest of their body and it can be hard work to support it for more than a few minutes.
This is the month when many babies start to roll. Generally, this is from a back to front direction first and after a couple of weeks, back the other way. Being able to practice every day will help of course, which is why floor time is so important. Just don’t expect your baby to stay on their floor rug for the whole time. You’ll find they are able to get into all sorts of wonderful positions and angles at four months.
Babies are very adept at communicating their feelings but until they learn to speak, every need is heralded by crying. By 4 months your baby’s vocal range has changed so there will be higher pitched squeals, louder cries, coos, gurgles and babbles. This is a gorgeous age when you may feel as if you are starting to get some feedback for all your hard work.
Babies can double their birth weight from 4-6 months, though bear in mind weight gain is only one indicator of growth. Look for fat on your baby’s thighs and tummy, upper arms and face. If they seem long and thin, with little fat or flesh on their bottom, make sure you have them checked by your child’s paediatrician or GP. The first year is a time of rapid growth, not just for the body but for the brain as well.
If your baby had an adverse reaction from previous vaccinations or you were concerned about how they coped with the first course, then make a point of raising this concern with the provider. Taking our children to have vaccinations attended to is not one of the more pleasant tasks of parenting. But it is necessary and for such as short period of discomfort, the benefits it provides are significant. If you don’t feel you want to take them yourself, go with your partner or ask a family member or trusted friend to go with you.
Watch your baby’s legs as they kick and wave them around. Keep them away from tables and chairs when they’re on the floor and ensure they have a clear range to move around on. You will find you need to keep your floor extra clean now; your baby will be like a magnet in picking up bits of grime and dust. Try not to be too particular about cleanliness though. Science tells us that a certain amount of dirt and exposure to germs primes the immune system and reduces the likelihood of allergies and sensitivities in childhood.
Keep the pets away from your baby, no matter how gentle you think your animals are. Get into the habit of closing the door to the room where your baby sleeps and avoid letting your baby or a pet share the same sleeping surface. Send your pets for regular check-ups and always wash your hands after handling your animals. Although you may feel your pets are members of your family too, it is possible for some infections to transfer from animals and even wildlife, across to humans.
Play and Interaction
Keep a supply of rattles, noisy toys and shakers on hand. At 4 months your baby is learning the early skills of cause and effect and will think they are oh so clever when they can make such wonderful sounds. Crunched-up paper, especially cellophane is a particular favourite at this age – just make sure you are the one in control of it.
You’ll find most toys find their way into your baby’s mouth, including your chin and nose. This is the age when babies start to grab their parents’ faces and latch onto any prominent feature. Being drooled on by another person has probably not been high on your list of priorities, but somehow it’s rather fun when it’s your own baby who’s doing it.
Limit your baby’s time in their cot, bouncer, pram and sling now. So much of their development is based around movement and having supervised, unrestricted floor time.
What About Mum?
Mornings may be fine for you now, especially if you’re feeling the benefits of more sleep overnight. But by the afternoons, you could be feeling your energy starting to wane. Make sure you aren’t skipping meals and are eating breakfast and lunch. Some mothers still get to the middle of the day when their baby is 4 months old and find they haven’t had time to eat. The basics of self-care are just as important now as they ever are. If you don’t nurture yourself and fuel your body, you cannot be in the best possible position to care for your baby.
If it’s been a few months since you invested some time into yourself, try to now. Many mothers have their hair cut and a trip to the beautician just before their baby’s birth, but these can now be seen as “luxuries” when spare time is virtually non-existent. Try to book some time when your partner can care for the baby, arrange for a hairdresser to come to the house or go with a girlfriend who has a baby too. You can care for each other’s baby when it’s your turn and that way, you won’t feel as if you are missing out.
You may be finding your emotions are more even now and you feel more like your old self. Many women go through an experience of “maternal shock” when they have a new baby; the adjustment to parenting can be so significant. Other women just seem to take the whole event in their stride and go with the flow. We tend to take our personalities into our parenting roles – it is impossible for one not to be influenced by the other.
Surround yourself with friends and family who will support you and help you feel good about the job you are doing. Avoid being around people who criticise you or make you feel that what you are doing is not good enough. This is often more about their own feelings of low self-worth than being a fair and accurate assessment of someone else.
Your Sleep Needs
Enjoy an early night if it fits in with your baby’s sleep habits. Even if you can’t drop off to sleep immediately, get into the habit of having a warm shower, a drink of milk, reading, listening to the radio or just winding down. Some women find relaxation tapes and music particularly helpful in switching off the stressors of the day. If your older children are protesting about going to bed, develop a settling routine for them which encourages a predictable, wind down time. Routine is everything to small children and they thrive in households where boundaries are clear and parents are unified.
Make a point of ensuring your bedroom isn’t the general dumping ground for the household. Creating an atmosphere of calm rather than chaos, comfort and peace can only help.
If you feel as if you’ve been hibernating in the last few months, then it’s time to emerge again. See a movie, go for walks, meet up with friends and generally connect with other adults. One activity per day is enough when you have a 4 month old and often mornings are a better time to organise something. Older children can still need day time sleeps until they are around 3 years of age and it is no fun trying to keep them up if they’re tired.
Try to share the household tasks with your partner and avoid seeing your job now as caring for the children and the house. There is a tendency for many partners to view the time when they come home from work as being “off duty” or for rest. Mothers at home don’t have this liberty and this issue can create tension because of its unfairness. Talk honestly with your partner about how you feel and negotiate some workable solutions.