Everyone knows that their new baby won't sleep a lot during the first weeks. But, the biggest new-parent misconception is that once the baby passes the first weeks, sleep gradually but consistently improves. Many expect sleep to just get better and better until the baby is sleeping an 8-hour stretch at four months with none of those pesky nighttime wakeups.
Not so fast! The reality for many—if not most—babies is a bit of a roller coaster with happy victories alternating with frustrating regressions!
That said, below is a listing of what you might reasonably expect for your baby's sleep…along with descriptions of some of the common sleep problems many babies experience around the four month mark. (Please remember, each baby is unique and sleep schedules can vary widely.)
All parents want their infants to sleep well. But many don't know—but want to know—the nitty-gritty details.
In this article:
4-month old baby sleep needs
At four months old, babies sleep (or ideally need to sleep) for between 12 and 14 hours per day, according to researchers at Stanford Children's Health. This typically means 4 hours of daytime sleep and 10 hours of nighttime sleep, but your baby's sleep schedule doesn't need to match this perfectly - the important thing is that they get enough sleep, not necessarily when they get it.
Additionally, according to the CDC, if your baby averages at least 12 hours of sleep during each 24-hour period but no more than 16, they are within the range of what's considered "normal." Not all healthy six-month-old babies sleep the traditionally recommended 14 hours, so don't worry if your infant doesn't either.
How to establish a sleep schedule for a 4-month old
When you get the time to start developing your baby's sleep and nap schedule, you'll find that it's useful to make a note of when your little one usually sleeps, plays, and eats. Once you know this, you can start to build a schedule around their own natural routine by following the patterns they have set themselves.
You can revisit this every few weeks as your baby grows and changes to make sure that your current schedule still works for them and their habits.
The key to establishing healthy sleep habits and creating the most effective baby sleep schedule is consistency. Make sure that, for the most part, your baby's naps are at the same time of day and in the same place.
You might find that it's easier to plan for their morning routine first because - though this might seem backward - babies have a tougher time napping the more tired they get! You can then start to stretch out the sleeping hours day by day, until you finally reach timings that help your baby fall asleep without fuss at regular times that suit both of you.
4-month old sleep schedule
The sleep schedule above can be used as a guide for how you might manage your 4 month old baby's sleep - bear in mind that every baby is unique, though, so it's completely normal if your own child's sleep and nap schedule have different timings to this.
4-month old sleep regressions
We wish that we could say once you've established a good nap schedule and consistent bedtime routine that you won't face any more sleep hurdles, but sadly this isn't the truth!
Big developmental milestones such as crawling, walking and talking can lead to sleep regressions, where your baby starts to have trouble sleeping through the night and through naps again after several weeks of consistent sleep.
The first of these regressions usually comes at the four-month mark due to your baby's sleep cycles starting to mature into how they will be for the rest of their life.
We know it can be tough to face this barrier, but just know that you aren't facing it alone and that there's plenty of support out there - here's an article from baby sleep expert Rachel Turner on how to get past this tricky period!
Just remember that your baby's sleep patterns will settle down again soon (most babies start sleeping soundly again after a couple of weeks) and that your hard work creating the perfect sleep schedule wasn't for nothing!
Stay consistent, and your baby will start sleeping soundly through the night again in good time.
Tips for getting 4-month old on a sleep schedule
Once you have your four-month-old sleeping on a consistent schedule, you'll find that not only do your days as a new parent feel more structured, but also that you might be getting some sleep back too! Here are our top seven tips for when it comes to getting your four-month-old baby onto a sleep schedule:
No matter what your baby's sleep schedule looks like, consistency is the key to making sure it sticks and that your baby continues to follow it even through regressions and other tricky sleep periods.
By ensuring that your bedtime routine for naps and nighttime sleep takes place at the same time and in the same place every day, you're creating positive sleep associations for your little one that helps to let them know when it's time to go to sleep - when they've been awake for a couple of hours and they're being brought into your bedroom, they'll know that it's time to snooze!
Nested Bean Zen Sack
If you want to help your baby feel cozy and comfortable as they settle into their new sleep schedule, why not try our Zen One convertible swaddle?
With its detachable arm sections that allow you to continue using it as a sleep sack even after your baby has grown out of swaddling, this sleepwear also features a gently weighted pad to help mimic your soothing touch and teach your little one to self soothe with a little extra comfort through the night.
Put baby to bed drowsy
If your baby is put to bed when they're still wide awake, they might protest and want to spend more time playing and exploring - on the other hand, put them to bed when they're asleep and they might wake up and start crying for their mom!
If you put your baby to bed when they're drowsy instead of completely asleep, they are likely to be at their most calm, and you are also giving them a valuable opportunity to practice self-soothing, which is much easier if they're almost asleep to begin with.
Self-soothing is vital when it comes to sleep training, and can help your baby settle into a schedule by creating positive sleep associations that aren't reliant on a parent being there to calm them while they're falling asleep.
Give baby time to settle down
The importance of a soothing bedtime routine when it comes to getting your baby onto a regular sleep schedule can't be overstated!
By giving your little one some time to feel calm and sleepy - many parents find that a bath and a story before bed does the trick - you're giving them a better chance of falling asleep in the window that you want them to.
Follow the eat, wake, sleep cycle
This goes hand in hand with keeping your baby's sleep schedule consistent - by following the natural cycle of eat, wake, sleep, you can help your baby understand when it's time to snooze and when it's time for play.
The eat, wake, sleep cycle additionally means that your baby can take larger feedings when they're awake, which means fewer wakeups when you want them to be sleeping.
You should contact your pediatrician before introducing this method, but we think it's a simple and effective way of helping your baby settle into a new schedule without interruptions from feedings.
Create a calm sleep environment
Ensuring that the room your baby sleeps in is a quiet and relaxing space can go a long way when it comes to putting them on a consistent sleep schedule, particularly if you live in a busy city or apartment building.
You can achieve this by using blackout blinds to keep the room dark during daytime sleep (or nighttime sleep if there are bright lights outside) and getting a baby-safe white noise machine to blur out any background noise that might be distracting your baby from sleep.
Consider sleep training
If you haven't already, four months is a great age to start with sleep training, and this can go hand in hand with having a consistent schedule.
Whichever method you think is best for you, whether it's Cry It Out, Pick Up Put Down, or any other kind of sleep training, just make sure that you stay consistently with one and don't stop and start or mix them up.
Printable 4-month old Sleep Schedule
Above is a sample sleep schedule to demonstrate what sleep for your 4 month old might look like - of course, every baby is unique, and all families have different needs, so don't worry if yours doesn't look exactly like this!