You may notice in the last few weeks your 4 month old isn’t sleeping soundly, they’re not falling asleep like they used to, taking short naps, the bedtime routine is a struggle or they are waking frequently at night.
Hello 4 month sleep regression!
Table of Contents
The 4 month sleep regression may actually happen anywhere around the 3-5 month mark. If your baby was premature, sleep works off their adjusted age.
This may be completely different to how they previously sleeping a couple of weeks ago, or it may have always been bad and it’s just got worse!
Not all babies will ‘hit’ the 4 month sleep regression. All babies sleep will pass this milestone, but like everything, some will be hit hard and others will sail through.
Technically this isn’t actually much of a regression at all! It’s actually a huge physical leap in your baby’s sleep and a big developmental milestone.
Is This Sleep Regression Normal? Sleep, cycles and stages.
Sleep has various ‘stages’. As adults, we cycle through these stages or sleep cycles. We go from an awake state, to drowsy to light sleep, then deep sleep, then back into the lighter sleep stages.
We then have a partial waking before transitioning into the next sleep cycle.
As an FYI, It’s these partial wakings that cause issues! More on that later…
In the newborn stage, babies fall asleep and stay asleep in a pretty much constant fashion, no real cycles, just some active sleep (where you notice their little eyelids moving around) and some quiet sleep. They then tend to wake for milk, because they’re uncomfortable (nappy change) or they’ve had enough sleep. These phases may last 10 minutes or (for some) end up being all night!
Newborns also don’t produce much melatonin of their own, making their circadian rhythm (body clock) rather unpredictable. You may notice day-night sleep is confused and they sleep longer stretches for naps than their night sleep.
If your little one giving you sleepless nights then they might be going through the 4-month regression.
Here are some telltale signs to look out for:
- Your baby is waking up more frequently than usual without any obvious reason, they’re busy practising new skills during the day, like rolling over, and suddenly seem much more aware and attentive to their surroundings.
- Maybe they’re getting easily distracted while eating, or finding it hard to nod off anywhere other than their crib. Be patient, this too shall pass.
Why does the 4 month sleep regression happen?
Perhaps your 0-3 month old was having some wonderfully long stretches of sleep. Then your beautiful sleeping baby changes…. but this period is completely normal.
The change may look different for each family but typically their sleep patterns will change. They may have difficulty falling asleep for naps or nights, wake often (sometimes every 30 minutes), and seem to have ‘lost’ their ability to self soothe.
At this point in your baby’s life they start having more ‘adult-like’ sleep cycles, lasting around 45 minutes to an hour. It consists of stages of sleep called NREM and REM sleep.
At the end of each sleep cycle your baby will have a partial waking. We do this as well. If there’s no change to your sleep environment you’ll close your eyes and fall asleep again.
However… if you currently have sleep associations that help you fall asleep, whether that’s rocking, feeding, motion, patting etc then you’ll wake and look for that sleep association to be ‘restored’ before being able to fall back to sleep.
The same is true for all children post 4 months. I work with many toddler and pre-school families. If a parent remains in the room as their child falls asleep, the child wakes later on and goes huh?! Where are they?! They’ll then cry, or if old enough, get out of bed to find you. This, combined with bouts of separation anxiety can cause sleep problems.
If your baby starts to learn more independent sleep skills then they’ll wake in the same environment that they are used to sleeping in and don’t look for another feed or to be rocked or held. They’re more likely to fall asleep independently.
What are the signs of 4 month sleep regression & top tips to survive it
One of the tricky elements of the 4 month sleep regression is that many parents don’t quite know what it is when it hits them!
So, we may put the increased feedings down to a growth spurt or teething. After a few nights of feeding our baby back to sleep, they get rather used to it. Then your baby’s sleep habits start to change and their sleep wake cycle can involve feeding back to sleep (or other means).
For families that recognise the change in their baby’s sleep patterns, this phase may last a few days, or even two to six weeks.
7 healthy sleep habits to conquer the 4 month sleep regression
Looking for a way to conquer your baby’s sleep regression? Try incorporating these 7 healthy sleep habits into your routine! These tips not only promote better sleep for your little one, but they also create a peaceful and soothing environment for both you and your baby.
Say goodbye to sleepless nights and hello to restful slumber with these helpful tips to help you survive the 4 month sleep regression.
1. Establish a consistent bedtime routine
Creating a consistent bedtime routine for your little one not only helps establish a sense of structure, but also leads to better sleep By providing clear and calming cues, such as a warm bath and a soothing lullaby, your baby can learn to associate these activities with winding down for the day.
Plus, having their own sleep space can promote a sense of independence and comfort, leading to a peaceful night’s rest for all.
2. Are they hungry?
If you’re feeding them every 30 minutes, or they’re only taking small sips and falling back asleep then it’s more likely to be a sleep association. What’s their feeding pattern in the day?
Even if your baby feeds frequently, perhaps you could expect them to do at least a two hour stretch at night without needing a feed.
So any wakes shorter than that could be resettled without a feed.
3. Introduce your little one to new experiences
Ah, the joys of parenthood! Trying to get some consistent zzz’s while navigating through the ups and downs of baby’s sleep patterns can be challenging. However, on those well-rested days, it’s the perfect time to introduce your little one to new experiences and skills.
Building good sleep habits may require some experimentation and tinkering, but it’s all worth it in the end. I hear mums say they popped to the loo and came back and baby was asleep!
So keep seeking out those opportunities for growth and development, both for baby’s sake and your own sanity!
4. Build familiarity with their sleep space
The more your baby sleeps and naps in their sleep space the better. Even if your daily routine involves a lot of running around, making time for a mid-morning or mid-afternoon nap in their crib can make all the difference.
The more familiar it feels, the less a baby will need your help when baby wakes.
5. Nail that sleep environment
Transforming your baby’s sleep routine can be challenging, especially if they struggle with partial wakings. However, by creating a unique and calming sleep environment, you can help reduce these disturbances.
Setting up a room with minimal light, adding soothing white noise, and maintaining a consistent temperature between 16-20 degrees can all contribute to a more peaceful slumber for your little one.
6. Avoid overtiredness
Being a new parent is not an easy job, especially when it comes to managing your babies sleep schedule and over-tiredness can be a real nightmare, making it almost impossible for your baby to drift off and stay asleep.
Luckily, there’s a hack that might just save your sanity: wake windows. By paying attention to your baby’s natural rhythms and nap needs, you can create a schedule that works with their body clock instead of against it.
If you want to know more about wake windows I have the perfect blog about how much sleep your baby needs which you can read more about here.
7. Manage your expectations
For sure, we all know someone who’s baby slept through the night from the moment they were born. However sleep regressions typically affect most babies at some point.
Babies start sleeping ‘more predictably’ from 5-6 months old, after the 4 month sleep regression has settled and they’ve moved on in their sleep development.
When will my baby’s sleep pattern improve?
If you feel much of this blog describes what’s going on for you right now don’t worry, it will end! Most parents experience sleep deprivation of sorts as they support their baby to sleep in the first months or years of life.
Whilst it’s great to hold or feed your baby to sleep, you may want to try and teach them some more independent sleep skills with some gentle sleep training.
When they’re consistently falling asleep independently you’ll usually start to see they’ve started sleeping longer stretches at night too.
Final thoughts from a child sleep consultant
If you’re a parent, you know how precious those moments of holding or feeding your little one to sleep can be. But have you ever considered teaching them some independent sleep skills? It may seem daunting, but with some gentle sleep training, you could see some amazing results. Imagine your baby consistently falling asleep on their own and even sleeping for longer stretches at night!
If you’re struggling with the infamous 4 month sleep regression or experiencing some sleep pattern difficulties with your child, don’t hesitate to reach out for help.