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10 Tips for surviving the 4 month sleep regression: an expert weighs in

 

Just when you thought you had the bedtime routine down, your baby is fussy and wakeful again.

Not to worry; after helping hundreds of new parents navigate the dreaded 4-month sleep regression, friend of Nested Bean and Certified Sleep Consultant Rachel Turner has 10 tips you need to get things back on track.

Meet our expert

Rachel Turner

Certified Sleep Sense™ Consultant, Owner, Hello Sleep 


In This Article
     

Meet our expert

What's happening?

Is it normal?

What can I do about it?

Sleep regression Survival Guide

Common Questions from New Parents

 

What is the 4-month sleep regression?

What’s happening?

At 4 months, even good sleepers suddenly experience a 2-3 week sleep regression, when they won’t fall asleep and wake frequently at night, and sleep through the night seems a long way off.

The good news is that it’s not actually a regression at all—it’s more like a progression: a sign your baby’s sleep cycle is maturing. She’ll be on this new cycle for the rest of her life and into toddler sleep.

At 4-months, your baby is learning to roll over, they are absorbing language, recognizing faces, becoming more active—all amazing milestones that can (unfortunately) contribute to the 4 month sleep regression. Helping your baby sleep well again with healthy sleep habits can be a challenge.

Is it normal?

Very normal—although it can be trying for mom and dad as you might already know! However, because not all babies are alike, it won't always manifest in the same way, or even at the same time for each one(the '4 month' sleep regression can actually happen a few weeks before or after the 4 month milestone).

While one person's baby might be waking up during naptime, another might be tricky to put to sleep at night - and for an unfortunate few, baby might not want to sleep at all!

How long does it last?

It's important to remember when your baby is going through a sleep regression that it won't last forever, and doesn't mean that your sleep routines have been completely forgotten. Sleep regressions typically last for a few weeks at the most, and may even be as short as a few days in some cases.

If a sleep regression has lasted for longer than 6 weeks, or if your baby is also not gaining weight, growing, wanting to eat, or urinating and/or defecating an unusual amount, you should contact your pediatrician.

What causes it?

As a newborn, your baby only experienced two sleep cycles a night. But at 4 months old, they begin cycling through 4 stages of sleep patterns just like adults.

Suddenly, she’ll spend more time in a lighter, non-REM sleep stage, causing more frequent wake-ups. While trying for mom and dad, the 4-month sleep regression is very normal. 

Help your little one adjust with sensible sleep training to improve sleep patterns - segue into “what to do: how parents can help.”

What to Do: How parents can help

 

1. Slowly break sleep associations

Learning to sleep independently can be hard for babies—and a negative sleep association can make sleep regression even more challenging. Many newborns have sleep problems caused by a sleep association, but with sensible sleep training, independent sleep can be achieved.

How to do it

Cut back gradually. If your baby is still used to being nursed to sleep, try moving the last feed of the night back by a few minutes each night. Get more tips on sleep associations from an expert.

2. Use lightly weighted sleepwear

During the 4-month sleep regression, a little extra comfort can go a long way to help sleep problems. A lightly weighted swaddle (if baby isn’t rolling over yet) or sleeping bag will help keep her calm and cozy while falling asleep.

How to do it

Start with some extra cuddles as part of your bedtime routine, then dress baby in gently weighted Zen Sleepwear™ to help them self-soothe through the night.


3. Feed as much as needed

The 4 month sleep regression often coincides with a growth spurt that will make the baby extra hungry. When feeding your baby it is not uncommon for babies to experience an increase in appetite during the time.

How to do it

Don’t be afraid to give them what they ask for. When you feed your baby an extra-long feed or a dream feed before you head to bed might help your baby sleep a little longer.


4. Black out the nursery

Newborns aren’t afraid of the dark, but they do respond to light; it tells their brains that it’s time for activity. So at bedtime, the darker the better—especially during a sleep regression.

How to do it:

Keep the nursery dark by putting black-out curtains on any windows letting natural light in and avoid turning on the lights for any middle of the night feeds or diaper changes - this will reinforce healthy sleep habits and help baby get back to sleep.


5. Put baby down drowsy, but awake

It's sometimes hard for parents to get their baby to fall asleep. Getting baby in the crib before they’re totally asleep helps teach them how to fall asleep independently—it’s also going to help you break those sleep associations.

How to do it

Once you get baby calm and they appear drowsy and ready for baby sleep, put them in the crib or bassinet right then instead of waiting until they are fully asleep. This can also help with sleep training.


6. Keep it quiet

Any extra noise is going to distract baby from sleep and achieving baby sleep, especially now that they’re spending more time in light sleep stages.

How to do it

Get a white noise machine for the nursery to block out any potential disturbances and read up on your baby's sleep cycle.


7. Stick to your routine

The 4-month sleep regression might make it difficult to stay on your normal schedule but skimping on your routine will make it that much harder to get to it once the regression is over. The goal is to get baby to fall asleep and achieve sleeping through the night.

How to do it 

Consistency is key for healthy sleep habits and battling a sleep regression. The timing may change, but keep your sleep routine activities the same. Don’t have a routine yet? Now’s a great time to start one. 

 


8. Adjust baby’s bedtime

To compensate for shorter naps during the day, try moving bedtime ahead. Not getting enough will make your baby overtired, only adding to the fussiness of the 4 month sleep regression.

How to do it:

Depending on their daytime sleep schedule, move bedtime up by an hour or more so they can get some extra Zzz’s. This might require dropping their last nap of the day.


9. Give them time to practice

The 4 month sleep regression usually coincides with babies learning to roll over. Your baby is trying to master this new skill and might think bedtime means practice time instead of baby sleep time.

How to do it

Incorporate plenty of tummy time into playtimes during the day so your baby won’t be distracted when you’re trying to get them to fall asleep or go back to sleep.


10. Don’t do it alone

The 4 month sleep regression, while only temporary, can be utterly exhausting. Be sure to take care of yourself: your own overtiredness can actually rub off on your baby.

How to do it:

If your partner, family, or friends want to help, let them. Switch off with a partner on night shifts or have a friend over during the day to squeeze in a nap for yourself. 


3 things to know about sleep regression[Infographic]

important things to know about sleep regressions

4-month sleep regression Survival Guide

Get through the sleep regression with this pre-sleep checklist, helpful mom hacks, and a wakeup-tracker.

Baby in Zen Sack

New mom sleep hacks

“I wish I would have found and tried the Zen Sack sooner! I decided to try it after dealing with sleep regression for the last few weeks. The first night I put this on my 4 month old son was an immediate improvement. He started sleeping through the night again! It's safe to say I love this product."

- Amazon Customer, 11/18/2016

 

Sleep needs for 4 month olds

At 4 months old, your baby will need around 14-16 hours of sleep per day. This could be split across 3 naps that are 3 hours long each and one longer nighttime sleep of 6 hours, for example.

But what matters here is the total, not necessarily when your baby has their sleep. Not all babies want to sleep at the same time, and working parents might struggle to put their baby down for a nap for the same amount of time as an online guide written for a totally different family. All that matters is that your baby - and yourself - are getting the amount of sleep they need to be happy and healthy.

Sleep regression survival tips

Here are a few quick tips for surviving this tricky period of sleepless nights:

  • Have tummy time and playtime with baby during the day to keep them stimulated and prevent any pent up energy from being carried over to nighttime or naptime sleep
  • Talk to other parents who have been through this period for advice and for a shoulder to lean (or nap!) on
  • Try our Zen Sack, which is gently weighted to mimic your touch and to help your little one fall asleep again, even during the 4 month sleep regression

Takeaway: surviving the 4 month sleep regression

We know how tough a sleep regression can be at any age, and because the 4 month sleep regression is many parents' first experience with sleep regressions, it can feel even more overwhelming. If you follow the tips listed above and make sure to take care of yourself too, you'll find that this period becomes much more manageable and that your baby will be sleeping soundly again in no time.

Common questions from tired parents

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Ask the Experts: Co-sleeping 

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50 comments

  • Thank you so much learning about this reduced my anxiety as a lonely single young mother

    Eduarda Camala on

  • Thank you! I thought I was going crazy. My baby just turned three months but I believe she’s on her sleep regression stage. She is fine during the day, her naps are on schedule but during the night it’s terrible putting her to bed. I lay her down and half hour later she’s awake. It goes on and on till about 2 am when she can finally go to sleep. I needed some help because the people I asked never went through this so this gives some clarity.

    Sherilyn on

  • Thank you so much… im facing the fact what you said..
    I am little confused about my baby (4 month).. now my mind is clear and thanks for the tips aand clarification.. thanks a lot.

    MathiRajan on

  • Our baby is the best. He smiles and laughs. Tries talking to everyone. Seems like he is coming along pretty well but he is going through this regression very hardly. My wife does an amazing job with our little pumkin face and i want to be more of a help to her. She found this recently and I am taking the day to read everyone’s experiences with this process. We wish you the best with your children and their developments! This is extremely helpful and i know a lot of families are very appreciative of this site and these articles. Thank you so much everyone who contributed.
    Sincerely, Coast2Coast

    Michael on

  • My baby have been good sleeper first 3 months. As she stepped into 4th month, she started to sleep shorter duration like 30 minutes then she is up again. Its was rather exhausting to keep rocking her back to back. I am a working mum, i come back home tired and at times i snap at my LO for being cranky. So I thought of looking up the net for a solution to this and here I am. Thanks alot for the 10 tips. I feel like an useless mum who could not understand my baby. Feel so bad. I love her so much.

    Shree Sam Yogan on

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