The 4 month sleep regression has reared its ugly head and left you completely exhausted. You’re at your wits end looking for a solution. And, you’ve come to the right place.
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.
We’ll answer all your questions about this troublesome stage in this guide - including what is the 4 month sleep regression? When does 4 month sleep regression start? How long does 4 month sleep regression last?
You’ll discover the signs of 4-month sleep regression and we’ll offer tips on how to overcome them so you and your child can once again get a good night’s sleep. It’s time to make sleepless nights a draining problem of the past. So, what is the 4 month sleep regression.
Meet our expert
Certified Sleep Sense™ Consultant, Owner, Hello Sleep
What is the 4 month sleep regression?
First things first…what is the 4 months sleep regression?
A 4 month sleep regression is a period of time when your baby suddenly wakes frequently during the night and fights/refuses to sleep when previously they had been sleeping well in good sleep patterns.
How long does the 4 month-old sleep regression last?
Now, how long does 4 month sleep regression last?
The 4-month sleep regression usually lasts anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks. It takes time for your baby to adjust to this new sleep cycle, which is what’s causing them to wake up more frequently.
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.
Usually, this transition is 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.
Be Consistent- Have the same routine for bedtime and naps, regardless if mom or dad is putting the child to bed. The routine should be the same every night to remain consistent. - Rachel Turner
While exciting, these milestones can get distracting come bedtime. Make sure you’re engaging baby during the day and giving them time to develop any new skills, so they’ll be less likely to try practicing in their crib at night.
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.
What’s happening at 4 month sleep regression?
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!
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. More on that later. First, let’s look at the signs of 4 month sleep regression.
"Sleep regressions can also occur at 6 months, 8 months, 10 months, 12 months, and 18 months, with the 4-month sleep regression being the most common sleep regression."
Cognitive and Physical Milestones at 4 Months
The 4-month sleep regression often coincides with significant developmental milestones.
At around this age, your baby is becoming more aware of the world, developing better motor skills, and perhaps even beginning to roll over. This cognitive and physical development is exciting but can also disrupt sleep patterns.
The Neurological Aspect
Your baby's brain is going through substantial changes during this period. These changes can alter sleep cycles, leading your infant to wake up more frequently.
Understanding that this is a part of their natural development can be comforting for parents who might otherwise be concerned.
How Milestones Affect Sleep
Because of these developmental leaps, your baby is more alert and curious during waking hours. This increased activity level can impact the ability to settle down for sleep.
Some babies also wake up because they've discovered a new ability, like rolling over, and want to practice it - yes, even in the middle of the night. Learn more about baby sleep milestones in our blog.
Signs of 4 Month Sleep Regression
By understanding the signs of 4 month sleep regression, you can better prepare and manage this challenging period. Here's what to look out for:
If your once-sleepy newborn suddenly seems like an insomniac, you're likely entering the realm of the 4-month sleep regression. Babies who previously slept through most of the night may now start waking up frequently, seemingly without reason.
Babies undergoing sleep regression often show increased irritability or fussiness. Lack of sleep affects everyone's mood, and babies are no exception. You may find that the normally easy-going demeanors transform into fussier, harder-to-please attitudes.
Shorter Naps, More Often
You may notice that your baby's daytime sleep also suffers during this time. Naps may become shorter, or your baby might resist daytime sleep altogether. This is particularly challenging for parents as it often means there's no respite from the constant demands of a wakeful baby.
Change in Appetite
Interestingly, many parents report a noticeable change in their baby's eating habits during the 4-month sleep regression. Some babies seem hungrier, perhaps in an attempt to find comfort or due to increased activity and wakefulness.
Resisting Sleep Routines
If your baby was getting into the groove of a sleep routine, you might find they start to resist it around the 4-month mark. They might cry when put down, or struggle to fall asleep even after their usual bedtime routine.
Inconsistency is the New Consistency
Perhaps one of the most bewildering aspects of the 4-month sleep regression is the sheer unpredictability of it all. Just when you think you've cracked the code, your baby might throw you a curveball. One night they might sleep peacefully only to be wakeful and crying the next.
Enhanced Awareness and Distractions
At around four months, babies become increasingly alert and aware of their surroundings. This newfound curiosity can interfere with sleep, as every noise, light, or movement becomes exponentially more interesting than sleep.
We have a complete guide on the signs of sleep regression if you’d like to learn more. But for now, let’s get into the tips for 4 month sleep regression you’ve been searching for.
10 Tips for 4 Month Sleep Regression: Make Sleepless Nights a Problem of the Past!
Now, we’ve talked all about the signs of 4 month sleep regression and how long they last. The question is, what can you do to overcome this challenge and finally get consistently good sleep every night? Below, we’ll share 10 tips for 4 month sleep regression. Here’s how to get newborn to sleep at night.
1. Slowly break sleep associations
Learning to sleep independently can be hard for babies—and negative sleep associations 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.
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.
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.
5. Put baby down drowsy, but awake
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 newborn babies.
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 REM 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 a newborn bedtime routine!
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]
Want a Free 4 Month Sleep Regression Survival Guide?
If you are tired of your newborn baby fighting sleep, get through the sleep regression with this pre-sleep checklist, helpful mom hacks, and a wakeup-tracker.
“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
Differentiating Between Medical Concerns vs the Typical Four Month Sleep Regression
It's usual for babies going through a sleep regression to be fussier, to wake up more often, and to have irregular sleep schedules. These signs are generally nothing to be concerned about and are part of the natural progression.
But, how can you differentiate between the normal four month sleep regression and something more serious?
If your baby shows signs of extreme discomfort, such as persistent crying that doesn't abate with soothing, signs of illness like fever or vomiting, or a significant change in eating habits, it's a good idea to consult your pediatrician. These symptoms could be an indicator of medical issues that need attention.
Parents often have a sixth sense when it comes to their child's well-being. If something feels off to you, don't hesitate to seek medical advice. It's always better to be cautious, as some medical conditions can manifest subtly.
Common questions about four month sleep regression
Before we wrap up this guide on the four month sleep regression, here are some of the most common questions we get asked at Nested Bean.
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 it altogether. However, you can prepare for it by working on breaking sleep associations ahead of time.
I find that the other major contributor to this 4-month fiasco is that up until this point parents have either been putting their baby to sleep with a pacifier, by rocking them, by breastfeeding them to sleep or some similar technique where the 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 baby wakes up means that she’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.
To make the sleep regression easier on you and your baby, make a point of breaking these sleep associations before the 4-month mark, you will improve the baby sleep habits. 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 sleep regression.
Does every baby go through the 4-month sleep regression?
While the 4-month sleep regression is most common, not all babies experience it. You may luck out and have no trouble at the 4-month age mark. However, sleep regressions also commonly occur at 8 months, 10 months, 12 months, and 18 months. Your baby might experience all sleep regressions or none of them!
What is the link between the stages of sleep and the 4 month sleep regression?
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!"
Considered the first "true sleep" stage. This is where people tend to realize, once woken up, that they actually were sleeping.
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.
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.
Adults cycle through the four 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 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 deeper than 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. This adjustment period is the primary cause of the 4-month sleep regression.
Other developmental milestones, like learning to roll over, can also contribute to the 4-month sleep regression.
Can the 4-month sleep regression happen before or after 4 months old?
The 4-month sleep regression could begin as early as 3-months-old or as late as 5-months-old. It’s more about when your baby’s sleep cycle starts changing—for most, it’s right around the 4-month mark, but it could be a little earlier or a little later. Every baby is different!
How much should a 4-month-old sleep?
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. A sleep schedule might start to take shape. Now you’ll be able to get them on a more consistent nap schedule and can start to expect a bit more sleep at night.
Does swaddling help with the 4-month-old sleep regression?
Yes, swaddling can help babies calm and sleep better during the 4-month sleep regression. However, some babies might also be learning to roll over around the same time, which makes swaddling unsafe.
Before trying to swaddle to combat the 4-month sleep regression, consider if it may be time to stop using a swaddle - which you can learn about in our guide to what age to stop swaddling. If so, you can learn how to transition out of swaddle in our blog.
Otherwise, if your baby is in the clear, consider using the Zen One™ swaddle. It’s gently weighted on the chest and sides to provide extra soothing comfort, plus the breathable mesh sleeves are removable. So once baby does start showing signs of rolling over, they can still wear the Zen One with their arms free.
If swaddling is no longer safe, the Zen Sack™ can give similar comfort during the sleep regression thanks to the gently weighted Cuddle Pad™ on the chest. Learn more about the benefits of swaddling in our blog post. You can also discover other swaddling techniques or gain tips on choosing between a sleep sack vs swaddle.
How is the 4-month sleep regression different than other sleep regressions?
The sleep regression is the most common of all the sleep regressions and is most directly linked to a permanent change in your baby’s sleep cycle.
Although a regression is defined as a 'reversion to an earlier mental or behavioral level,' this one’s actually a ‘progression.’. Once you're through the 4-month sleep regression, your baby will have officially moved into the sleep cycle that they'll essentially follow for the rest of their life!
Learn more about the differences between the 4 month sleep regression and others in our blog. We have similar breakdowns on the 8 week sleep regression, 6 month sleep regression, 8 month sleep regression, 10 month sleep regression, 18 month old sleep regression, 4 year old sleep regression, and more.
Can Zen Sleepwear™ help with the 4-month sleep regression?
Gently weighted Zen Sleepwear can offer extra comfort during an extra fussy time, like the 4-month sleep regression. Many parents have said that using Zen Sleepwear helped their baby get through the 4-month sleep regression more easily. Parents who introduce Zen Sleepwear during a sleep regression also see improvements in sleep.
If your baby is used to and likes to be swaddled, our weighted swaddle, bamboo swaddle, zipper swaddle, or arms up swaddle (which is the best transitional swaddle) are great options, especially if baby is still experiencing Moro reflex.
For babies who have already started learning how to roll over, our weighted sleep sack, bamboo sleep sack, or winter sleep sack still offers comforting gentle pressure but gives baby a little more freedom. We have a guide to the benefits of sleep sack in our blog if you’d like to learn more.
Explore our weighted sleepwear today and discover what makes it such an invaluable resource in your parenting arsenal!
What else should I expect at the 4-month mark?
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. Learn more about the newborn nap schedule in our blog.
Key Takeaway on 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.
Learn more about navigating the ups and downs of baby sleep in our blog. We have guides to common questions like when do newborns start sleeping through the night, when do toddlers stop napping, how to soothe a teething baby at night, why do newborns sleep so much, when do babies start to roll, when to stop using sleep sack, why swaddle baby, and more.
Otherwise, put these tips on 4 month sleep regression to the test and hopefully, overcome the frustrating, demoralizing four month sleep regression for good!