How to Survive the Sleep Regression at 4 Months

Congratulations on making it through the newborn stage! Just when you thought you’d finally figured out your baby’s sleep habits, the dreaded sleep regression 4 months rears its head. We’ve been through this rollercoaster ride of sleepless nights and fussy babies, and we’re here to share the knowledge and strategies that helped us navigate this challenging phase. So put aside a few minutes to read our blog and let’s dive into the world of the 4-month sleep regression!

Short Summary

  • Recognise signs to identify if your baby is going through this period.

  • Understand the 4-month sleep regression as a normal part of baby’s development and manage it with healthy sleep habits & bedtime routine.

  • Help your baby develop long term solutions like learning how to fall asleep a little more independently & adjusting their schedule if needed.

Understanding the 4-Month Sleep Regression

At around 4 months of age, your baby’s sleep patterns undergo a significant change due to the development of their sleep wake cycle. This is because their sleep cycles become more like an adult’s, cycling through light and deep sleep stages. As a result, your little one may start waking up more frequently during the night and have difficulty falling back asleep without some assistance. Don’t worry, this is completely normal and not all babies will experience the same intensity of sleep disruptions.

The 4-month sleep regression can last a few weeks but is actually a sign that your baby’s brain is developing and adapting to new sleep patterns. So, while it can be exhausting for you, it’s important to remember that this phase is a normal part of your baby’s growth and development.

The key is to establish healthy sleep habits, maintain consistent bedtime routine, and try not to introduce too many sleep patterns you don’t want longer-term, to help your baby sleep through this transition.

Recognising the Signs of 4-Month Sleep Regression

Baby lying on their back with Mum in background smiling

Are you wondering if your baby is going through the 4-month sleep regression? To figure this out, there are certain signs to look out for. Some common signs of 4 month sleep regression include increased sudden and more frequent night wakings, shorter naps, difficulty to fall asleep and increased fussiness. However, it’s important to remember that not all babies will display these signs, and some may breeze through this period with little disruption to their sleep.

If you notice these changes in your baby’s sleep patterns, don’t panic. The 4-month sleep regression is a normal – and amazing – part of their development and a good sign that they’re growing up just fine. Rather than stressing out, focus on helping your baby adjust to their new sleep patterns, their new sleep cycle, and develop healthy sleep habits that will benefit them in the long run.

The Science Behind Sleep Regressions

Baby having their feet tickled by Mum and giggling

The 4-month sleep regression can be quite frustrating – so it’s understandable to want to understand what causes it. However, the exact reasoning behind this sleep regression is still unknown. The main culprit is the changes in your baby’s sleep cycle. As they grow, their sleep patterns start to become more like an adult’s, going through various sleep cycles, including both light and deep sleep stages.

Advances in motor development, the early stages of teething and increased social awareness can also contribute to sleep disruptions during the 4-month sleep regression. Your baby may start waking up more frequently as they become more active during their sleep.

So, while it can be frustrating for both you and your baby, understanding the science behind sleep regressions can help you manage this phase and ensure your baby develops healthy sleep habits.

Strategies for Managing the 4-Month Sleep Regression

Baby sleeping on back in their cot whilst holding parent's hand

There are several strategies that can help you and your baby manage the 4-month sleep regression. In the following sections, we’ll explore these techniques, including creating a soothing bedtime routine, encouraging self-soothing, and ensuring proper sleep hygiene.

Creating a soothing bedtime routine is an important part of helping your baby through the 4-year journey.

Creating a Soothing Bedtime Routine

One of the most effective ways to tackle the 4-month sleep regression is to establish a consistent and calming bedtime routine. This helps your baby relax and prepare for sleep, as well as develop positive sleep associations. Some activities you can include in your bedtime routine are:

  • Feeding before and after the routine starts to fill up their tummies

  • Giving a warm bath

  • Baby massage

  • Changing them into their fresh sleepsuot

  • Reading a story before bedtime, even at this age

Sticking to a regular sleep routine is essential for good sleep habits and combating the 4-month sleep regression. Even if the timing changes slightly, try to keep the same activities in your routine. If you don’t have a bedtime routine yet, now is a great time to start..

Encouraging Self-Soothing Techniques

Teaching your baby to self-soothe and fall asleep independently is another key strategy in managing the 4-month sleep regression. Self-soothing techniques can be really helpful in getting a baby through sleep regressions and helping them sleep better. We find that if a baby is able to self-soothe, they do handle the regression a little better. For example, our first child – before we were sleep consultants – really struggled with the 4-month sleep regression. Our other two, who were excellent sleepers and who could self-soothe, were much better at handling this big change in their sleep.

Whilst we wouldn’t necessarily encourage you to start the process of helping your baby to self-settle indepdnently during the 4-month sleep regression, once it’s completed is a great time to get back on track and our Online Sleep Plan – with our proven method Comforting Through Change™ – can help you do this in around a week to 10 days.

Ensuring Proper Sleep Hygiene

Maintaining proper sleep hygiene is crucial for helping your baby develop healthy sleep habits and get the rest they need. A dark, quiet, and comfortable sleep environment can help your baby relax and drift off to sleep more easily, as well as stay asleep longer.

Some ways to ensure proper sleep hygiene include:

  • Using blackout curtains or shades to keep the room dark

  • Using a white noise machine or fan to mask any disruptive noises such as pets, siblings, traffict etc

  • Keeping the room at a comfortable temperature, ideally between 16-20 degrees Celsius (60-68 degrees Fahrenheit)

By focusing on creating a calm and soothing sleep environment, you can help your baby navigate the challenges of the 4-month sleep regression a little more easily.

4 Month Sleep Schedule

A 4 month sleep schedule can look very different depending on the family. At this age, some babies can be doing 3-4 long naps – which means their wake windows are a little longer – or they can be cat-napping and napping 5 or 6 times per day. It’s also dependent on a family’s routine, as some families prefer to be more at home and sleep will generally be longer and more frequent; other families prefer to be out and doing stuff, which can then change the routine.

We would recommend that most babies in this age range need around 15-16 hours of sleep over a 24 hour period with that ideally being around 11 or 12 hours at night, and the rest during the day. 

Navigating Daytime Sleep Challenges

During the 4-month sleep regression, your baby may also experience daytime sleep challenges, such as short naps and overtiredness. Addressing these issues can help improve your baby’s overall sleep quality and make nighttime sleep easier.

Little baby's face being stroked by Mum's hand whilst asleep

To tackle daytime sleep challenges, you can try the following strategies:

  • Pay close attention to your baby’s wake windows, ensuring they don’t stay awake too long and become overtired. The wake windows we recommend at this age are around 1-1.5 hours (usually thiis 1 hour after sleep of around 40-60mins, and 1.5 hours if the nap lasts longer than 1 hour).

  • Darken the room during naptime to create a more conducive sleep environment.

  • Make minor adjustments to your baby’s awake time or nap length to find the optimal sleep schedule.

  • Do contact naps or naps on the move, i.e. the pram, to ensure naps are happening and reduce some of that overtiredness.

  • Always ensure you have that power nap before bed, ending around 1-1.5 hours (depending on duration of the nap) before bedtime, which is in line with your baby’s wake window. This will make the bedtime a little less challenging than it would be if your baby was overtired.

By implementing these strategies, you can help improve your baby’s daytime sleep.

Nutrition and Sleep Regressions

Baby with blue eyes breastfeeding

Nutrition can play a role in sleep regression, with your baby potentially becoming hungrier during this period. Ensuring your baby is well-fed during the day can minimise night wakings and help them sleep better.

To ease true hunger at night, try the following strategies:

  • Offer more milk or formula during the day

  • Have longer or more frequent feeds

  • Cluster feed before bedtime

These strategies can help ensure your baby is getting enough nutrients and reduce the likelihood of waking up hungry during the night. In saying that, our second child, who had dropped all night feeds himself at 11 weeks, just woke for a single feed each night for a week during the regression period. They are growing at this age so they may need extra feeds, even if they had reduced that before the regression.

When to Seek Professional Help

While the 4 month regression is a normal part of your baby’s development, it’s important to recognise when it’s time to seek professional help. If the sleep regression is causing a lot of stress for your family, and your baby’s health is being affected, it might be time to consult a sleep consultant.

Remember to check your baby’s development, ensure they are eating enough, not in the middle of a growth spurt, and growing well before making any permanent changes to their sleep habits. A sleep consultant can provide guidance and support in managing your baby’s sleep to get back on track once the regression has ended. If you do want some help, our Online Sleep Plan can help you with this. If you need some more one-to-one coaching, please contact us.

Long-term Sleep Solutions

In addition to the strategies discussed earlier, it’s important to implement long-term sleep solutions to help your baby develop healthy sleep habits. In the following sections, we’ll explore sleep training methods, adjusting sleep schedules, and monitoring developmental milestones.

Sleep training involves teaching your baby to fall asleep independently, without relying on sleep association like falling asleep in your arms, and stay asleep for longer periods of time. It doesn’t have to mean Crying It Out, we promise.

Sleep Training Methods

Sleep training is the process of helping your baby learn to fall asleep independently and sleep through the night without relying on certain sleep associations. There are various sleep training techniques, and it’s important to choose a method that works for both you and your baby. You can find all of the main methods here, though we use own method – Comforting Through Change™ – which is room-based, and highly supportive.

Before starting any sleep training, ensure your baby is developmentally ready and not going through a growth spurt or illness. Remember that sleep training is a gradual process, and it may take some time for your baby to adjust to new sleep habits. Be patient and consistent, and soon your baby will be sleeping better and longer.

Adjusting Sleep Schedules

Mum supporting young baby's feet

As your baby grows and develops, their baby’s sleep needs will change. It’s important to adapt their sleep schedule accordingly to ensure they are getting the rest they need.

Here are some tips for establishing a consistent bedtime routine.

  1. Start the routine at the same time every day.

  2. Include activities such as a bath, reading a book, or singing a lullaby.

  3. Create a calm and soothing environment in the bedroom.

  4. Stick to the routine even on weekends or during travel.

By following these tips, you can help keep your baby’s sleep schedule on track.

Make minor adjustments to their awake time or nap length if needed, and be mindful of your baby’s cues for sleepiness. By being flexible and responsive to your baby’s changing sleep needs, you can help them develop healthy sleep habits that last a lifetime.

Summary

The 4-month sleep regression might seem like an insurmountable challenge, but with the right strategies and understanding, you and your baby can navigate this phase with confidence and as little impact as possible. By establishing a soothing bedtime routine, encouraging self-soothing, maintaining proper sleep hygiene, and implementing long-term sleep solutions, you can help your baby develop healthy sleep habits that will benefit them for years to come.

If you aren’t able to to solve this yourself, a sleep consultant can help you. We are the leading sleep consultants in the UK, so please reach out if you do need help.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does 4 month sleep regression last?

The 4-month sleep regression usually lasts about two weeks, though it can vary between babies. Taking steps to avoid forming any potentially bad habits during this time will help your baby learn how to self-soothe and link sleep cycles on their own.

Creating a consistent bedtime routine is one way to help your baby adjust to the sleep regression. This should include a calming activity such as a bath, a story, or a lullaby.

How do you know if it’s the 4 month sleep regression?

If your infant’s sleep suddenly worsens around 4 months of age, with increased fussiness and multiple night wakings, it could be a sign of the 4 month sleep regression.

Pay attention to your baby’s sleep patterns and watch out for any changes that may indicate a sleep regression.

When should I expect my 4 month sleep regression?

You can expect your 4-month sleep regression to start around 3-4 months of age, when signs like fussiness, multiple night wakings, and a hard time falling asleep will occur.

This regression typically lasts for a week or two. If it’s lasting 4-6 weeks, you may find it’s no longer the regression, but instead the new sleeping patterns.

Are all babies affected by the 4-month sleep regression?

No, not all babies are affected by the 4-month sleep regression to the same extent. They all go through this huge change, but some babies are more impacted thna others.

Can nutrition affect my baby’s sleep during the 4-month sleep regression?

Yes, nutrition can affect your baby’s sleep during the 4-month sleep regression. Ensuring your baby is well-fed during the day can help minimise night wakings and improve their sleep.

Is there a 5 month sleep regression?

Technically, there can be a 5 month sleep regression if the baby’s development into sleep cycles has happened a little later. Often this can happen when a baby is born a little premature and their corrected age is more around 4 months, and their born age is 5 months.

The 5 month old sleep regression signs will be exactly the same as the 4 month sleep regression signs, which we have detailed above.

Is there a 3 month sleep regression?

The 4 month sleep regression can happen anytime in the 4th month, and often that is when the baby is still aged 3 months. 

There is alot of change going on for babies at this age but any big sleep regression at 3 months, especially if the baby is close to 4 months old, is likely the 4 month sleep regression.

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Images by Estelle Thompson Photography

Company Name: The Daddy Sleep Consultant Ltd

Company Number: 13226982

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chris@thedaddysleepconsultant.com

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