10 Tips for Surviving the 4 Month Sleep Regression Posted on 02 Mar 17:17 , 0 comments

You’d probably never heard of a sleep regression before having a baby – and even then, you may not have come across the term until your baby suddenly stopped sleeping well and you found yourself sleep-deprived and desperately searching google for reasons why and solutions to help.

If that search has brought you here, you’re in luck. We have 10 tips from real moms and a certified sleep consultant that will help you survive the 4 month sleep regression. We’ll also fill you in on everything else you need to know about the 4 month sleep regression, like:

What is a sleep regression?

What causes the 4 month sleep regression?

How long does the 4 month sleep regression last?

Can you prevent the 4 month sleep regression?

We’ll also give you a quick run-down on 4 month old sleep, PLUS those 10 tips we mentioned! So, without further ado, here is your guide for surviving the 4 month sleep regression.

What is a sleep regression?

A sleep regression is a period of time, usually anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks, when your baby suddenly wakes frequently during the night and fights/refuses sleep in general after previously sleeping well. The most common sleep regressions occur at 4 months, 8 months, and 18 months. The 4 month sleep regression is by far the most common of all sleep regressions.

Because the 4 month old regression is usually the first, it’s often the hardest for parents. However, the 4 month sleep regression is also a sign that your baby’s sleep cycle is maturing and they are reaching some important developmental milestones! Certified sleep consultant Rachel Turner of Hello Sleep, explains the silver lining to the dreaded 4 month sleep regression:


“The good news is that it’s not, in fact, a regression at all. A regression is defined as “reversion to an earlier mental or behavioral level,” and that’s actually the opposite of what your baby is experiencing. When it comes to the four month “progression,” I’m happy to report that this is a one-time thing. Once you’re through this, your baby will have officially moved into the sleep cycle that they’ll essentially be following for the rest of their life!”

Rachel Turner, Certified Sleep Consultant

Understanding 4 month old sleep

The 4 month old mark officially ends the newborn stage – bittersweet, right? Your baby is growing, becoming more curious, and settling into routines. For the first 3 months of your baby’s life, they spent more time asleep than awake, but now you’re noticing she’s staying awake a bit longer between naps, learning to grasp and maybe even in the beginning stages of learning to roll over. At 4 months old, your baby needs about 12 to 15 hours of sleep for every 24 hour period.

Typically, 4 to 6 month old babies will get 6-8 hours of their sleep during the night, with 1 to 2 awakenings in between to feed. From 4 to 6 months old, your baby will start staying awake longer in between sleeps and you’ll notice more distinct sleeping patterns emerge. Now you’ll be able to get them on a more set nap schedule and can start to expect a bit more sleep at night.

4 Month Old Sleep

The 4 month sleep regression, however, is sure to mess with your newly set schedule. You may have felt like you just got the routine down pat and your baby started sleeping for long stretches at night, then BAM! The 4 month sleep regression hits hard, and you have a fussy baby fighting naps and waking up every hour during the night.

What causes the 4 month sleep regression?

The 4 month sleep regression is most directly linked to a permanent change in their sleep cycle in which your baby will experience more time in a lighter, non-REM sleep stage which causes them to wake up more frequently.

To understand what’s happening to your baby during this sleep cycle change, you must first learn a little about sleep in general. There are more stages to sleep than simply “awake” and “asleep.” These different stages make up your sleep cycle, which we go through several times a night.

Stage 1

The initial stage we're all familiar with where you can feel yourself drifting off, but don't really feel like you've fallen asleep...like when your husband is falling asleep on the couch and you nudge him and he says, "I'M NOT SLEEPING!"

Stage 2

Considered the first "true sleep" stage. This is where people tend to realize, once woken up, that they actually were sleeping.

Stage 3

The deep and regenerative stage. Also known as "slow wave" sleep, this is where the body starts repairing and rejuvenating the immune system, muscle tissues, energy stores, and sparks growth and development.

Stage 4

REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This is where the brain starts to kick in and consolidates information and memories from the day before. It's also the stage where we do most of our dreaming. 

We as adults cycle through the stages and either wake up or come close to waking up. Think about how you’ll barely wake in the middle of the night and shift positions or open your eyes for a split second before falling right back to sleep. Newborns, however, only experience two of the four stages of sleep: stage 3 and stage 4, or REM, and spend about half of their time asleep in each stage.

As a newborn, you were most likely able to rock or nurse your baby to sleep, and then put her down without her waking.  This is because she jumps right into that deep sleep stage. Around 4 months old, your baby will start cycling through all 4 stages of sleep, instead of just two.


“When this change takes place, our little one moves from 50% REM sleep to 25% in order to make room for those first two stages. Although REM sleep is light, it's not as light as these 2 new stages that they're getting used to. With more time spent in lighter sleep, there's more of a chance that baby's going to wake up."

Rachel Turner, Certified Sleep Consultant

It takes time for your baby to adjust to this new sleep cycle, which is what’s causing them to wake up more frequently. Usually this transition is also coupled with additional milestones. Around the same age, your baby might be in the beginning stages of learning to roll over, they’re also absorbing more language, recognizing faces, and just becoming more active and alert in general.

If you'd like to learn more about sleep cycles, check out our article Your Baby's Sleep Cycle.

How long does the 4 month sleep regression last?

Typically, the 4 month sleep regression lasts anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks. Sleep regressions don’t look the same for every baby. For some, it only takes a few days to a week to adjust to their new sleep cycle and other developments. For others, it can take weeks.

Our tips for surviving the 4 month sleep regression come from parents who have lived it and sleep experts to help you manage, whether it’s only a few days or the full 6 weeks! The Zen Swaddle or Zen Sack can also help make the 4 month sleep regression easier, as it's weighted pads provide soothing comfort to your baby that mimics your embrace.

Zen Swaddle helps with 4 month sleep regression
Real Mom Review

Kicking 4 month sleep regression's butt with this swaddle. My little one sleeps much more peacefully since we got it, no more restless nights for baby and momma! I would love one for myself!" 

-Ms. Ashley. 3/29/2017

Can I prevent the 4 month sleep regression?

Because the 4 month sleep regression is due to inevitable changes in your baby’s sleep cycle and development, there’s really no way to avoid the 4 month sleep regression.

Although the 4 month sleep regression can’t be prevented, there are ways you can prepare for it that can help make the experience a bit easier. Certified Sleep Consultant, Rachel Turner, finds that one of the biggest factors to the 4 month sleep regression with most of her clients is previously established sleep habits, or sleep associations:


"The other major contributor to this 4 month fiasco, I find, is that up until this point, parents have either been putting their baby to sleep with a pacifier, or by rocking them, or by breastfeeding them to sleep, or some similar technique where baby is helped along on the road to falling asleep. These sleep associations can be very sneaky indeed, because although they may be helpful in getting your little one to that initial nodding off stage, the lack of them when they wake up means that baby’s not able to get back to sleep again without some outside help. When this starts happening every half an hour, parents can find themselves in a nightmare."

Rachel Turner, Certified Sleep Consultant

To make the 4 month sleep regression easier on you and your baby, make a point of breaking these sleep associations before the 4 month mark. Instead of using a sleep aid or creating a sleep association, focus on creating a soothing bedtime routine and getting into a schedule to prepare you for the inevitable 4 month sleep regression.

10 Tips for Surviving the 4 month sleep regression

The 4 month sleep regression may be unavoidable, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. We surveyed mom who have been through the 4 month sleep regression and consulted a certified sleep consultant to find the best tips to help you survive the 4 month sleep regression.

Slowly Break Sleep Associations – This works best if it is done in preparation of the 4 month sleep regression. But if your baby’s sleep associations are still present when the 4 month sleep regression hits, try to put an end to them now. Work your way up to this slowly…now that the sleep regression has set in, do what you need to do to get your baby enough sleep. If that means occasionally nursing him to sleep or giving him the pacifier, go ahead. But try and slowly cut back. It will be tough, but better for you and baby in the long run.

Rely on Swaddling – If your baby previously responded well to being swaddled, keep doing it. And if you haven’t tried it yet, now might be the perfect time to introduce it. Whether or not you’ve swaddled before, try the Zen Swaddle. Its gentle weight on the chest and sides helps mimic touch and offer extra comfort, especially during an extra fussy time like the 4 month sleep regression. It can also teach your baby to self soothe and get back to sleep on their own.

THE ZEN SLEEP SYSTEM: Helping parents survive sleep regressions.

If your past the swaddling stage, the Zen Sack can still help soothe your baby! It's lightly weighted chest provides a more swaddle-like sensation that traditional sleep sacks that keeps babies calm and helps them sleep better.

Zen Sack helps with 4 month sleep regression
Real Mom Review

“I wish I would have found and tried this [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."

-FDH, 11/18/2016

Black Out – your baby’s environment plays a huge roll in how they sleep. Rachel, our certified sleep consultant, says many parents think their baby’s room is dark enough already or think their baby might not like the dark. However, the darker, the better! “Newborns and infants are not afraid of the dark. They are, however, responsive to light. Light tells their brains that it’s time for activity and alertness, and the brain secretes hormones accordingly, so we want to keep that nursery absolutely pitch black during naps and bedtime.”

Put baby down drowsy, but awake – You’ve probably heard this one before. It’s basically a rule of thumb in the baby sleep world. This is going to help teach your baby how to get to sleep on their own, and can also help you start breaking those sleep associations. When you get baby clam and they appear drowsy, put them in the crib or bassinet right then instead of waiting until they are fully asleep.

Put baby down drowsy but awake during the 4 month sleep regression

Keep it Quiet – Rachel also advises parents to mask noise with a sound machine, “The other archenemy of daytime and nighttime sleep is noise. Whether it’s your dog barking at the neighbor walking by, the Fedex man dropping off another Amazon Prime shipment on your doorstep or your husband having a coughing attack, eliminate that noise. With your little one spending more time in lighter sleep, noises will start to easily awake them, so a white noise machine is a great addition to your nursery.”

Stick to your Routine – Although the 4 month sleep regression might make it difficult to stay on your normal schedule, try your best to keep up with your regular routines. Skimping on your routine during sleep regressions will make it that much harder to get back to them once the sleep regression is over. Mom’s who’ve been there before agree:


Brianna K. wrote: "Consistency is key! We tried the best we could to stay on our schedules and the regression eventually passed. If you are feeling overwhelmed, don't be afraid to ask for help." 

Adjust Baby’s Bedtime – To compensate for less/shorter naps during the day, many parents say it helps to move baby’s bedtime up. If they’re fighting sleep during the day and waking up frequently at night, they probably aren’t getting the amount of sleep they need, which only adds to the fussiness of the 4 month sleep regression. Putting them to bed earlier (sometimes this requires dropping the last nap) can help get them some extra hours of Zzz’s.

Give them time to practice – If your baby is also reaching a milestone like rolling over around the same time as the 4 month sleep regression, make sure you’re giving them plenty of time to practice their new skill during the day so they’re not as distracted by it at night.

Feed as much as needed – Zen mom, Amy S., noticed “during regression times baby wanted to eat A LOT more!” Lots of babies experience an increase in appetite during a sleep regression. Don’t be afraid to give them what they’re asking for. The 4 month sleep regression often coincides with a growth spurt that will make baby pretty hungry. Throwing in a dream feed at night might also help your baby sleep a little longer.

Feed as much as needed during the 4 month sleep regression

Don’t do it alone – The 4 month sleep regression can be utterly exhausting. If you have a partner or friends and family around willing to help, let them. To take care of your baby properly, you need to take care of yourself – and believe it or not, your own overtiredness can rub off on your baby. Switch off with a partner on night shifts, or have a friend over during the day so you can get the rest you need! Take it from Zen Mom, Eileen R., “even for a little bit it’s amazing what some “me” time can do for you.”

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