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

Just when you thought you had bedtime beat: your baby is fussy and wakeful. Not to worry; after helping hundreds of new parents navigate the dreaded 4-month sleep regression, I’ve got 10 tips you need to get things back on track .

Meet our expert

Rachel Turner

Certified Sleep Sense™ Consultant, Owner, Hello Sleep 

What’s happening?

At 4 months, even good sleepers suddenly experience a 2-3 week sleep regression, when they won’t sleep and wake frequently at night.

The good news? 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.

The challenge? At this age, your baby’s also learning to roll over, absorbing language, recognizing faces, becoming more active—all milestones that can contribute to sleep regression.

Is it normal?

Very normal—although it can be trying for mom and dad. Newborns only experience two sleep cycles a night. But at 4 months, your baby starts cycling through 4 stages of sleep, like adults.

Suddenly, she’ll spend more time in a lighter, non-REM sleep stage, causing more frequent wake-ups. And it may take her a little time to adjust.

What can I do about it? 

Knowing it won’t last forever can be a comfort—but here’s what you can do in the meantime.

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. 

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. A lightly weighted swaddle (if baby isn’t rolling over yet) or sleeping bag will help keep her calm and cozy.

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

It’s not uncommon for babies to experience an increase in appetite during a sleep regression. The 4-month regression often coincides with a growth spurt that will make baby extra hungry.

How to do it: Don’t be afraid to give them what they ask for. 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.


5. Put baby down drowsy, but awake

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, 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, especially now that they’re spending more time in lighter sleep stages.

How to do it: Get a white noise machine for the nursery to block out any potential disturbances and read up on baby sleep cycles.


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.

How to do it: Consistency is key. 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 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.

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 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.  


4-month sleep regression Survival Guide

Get through the 4-month 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

 

Common questions from tired parents

Related links

8 solutions to get your baby to sleep through the night

Christina Alario

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49 comments

  • Thanks for this. This is the reason for all the long nights. Im on baby number 3 and i didnt know this was a thing, this sucks. Im a single mom with no one to help me at nights. So im always tired. So thank god my other 2 are at school all day so i can nap when baby does. Thanks for all the helpfull info..

    Michelle on

  • Thanks. I am a worry grandmother who hears from her son the worries and unsettling time he and his partner are going through because their 4 month old baby is hardly sleeping at night . He has to go to work tired from sleep deprivation. I will ask them to use the sack and blackout the windows.

    Virginia Ferro on

  • This is a very helpful blog! It totally explains what we are going through. We used a slew consultant to help ya get our infant into a really good routine and she has been an incredible sleeper ever since! She is now 5 1/2 months old and hitting a major regression. I thought we cruised right past the 4 month regression but it sounds like maybe we are just hitting it a little late.

    Can the regression happen a little after 4 months? More like 5 1/2 months?

    Mariah on

  • Very helpful indeed
    My daughter is currently undergoing 4months sleep regration
    It been hell on me

    Celestine Okang on

  • Wow, thank you for all the info. I thought she had a night wakings because of milk allergy, she started just by the end of the 3 to month, this is our 5th week of not sleeping well, waking up, refusing to nap and going back to sleep. I have a feeling that growth spurt is also part of it too at the same time. I am still breastfeeding and is hard to cut down on the habit of falling asleep at the breast when she just falls asleep, I don’t want to wake her just so she learns to fall asleep by herself. Before this she did manage to fall asleep when drowsy by herself and I was so happy about this, than regression comes in and is all over.
    I hope is not long until the end of this awful sleep cycle for the little one and for me. I am exhausted but trying my hardest to be strong for my baby. In the end of the day they are the ones who go through a major changes in their life’s and we need to help them get through this as best as we can.
    All the best of luck to everyone out there who is going through this. It will stop eventually.

    Justyna on

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