The 4 month sleep regression and 3 tips to get you through
Whether you're still grappling with sleep deprivation or finally getting the hang of a routine, brace yourself for the 4-month sleep regression – for some families it's a real game-changer (and not in a great way). Your little one's nighttime sleep becomes a top priority for everyone's sake!
If your baby isn't quite at the 4-month mark, keep reading to be well-prepared. If you're navigating through this common yet challenging phase, here are some through evidence-backed solutions to tackle it.
So, what's the deal with the "4-month sleep regression," anyway? Rest assured (pun intended), a "regression" is actually a developmental milestone. It's those developmental leaps tied to physical milestones like rolling, crawling, and walking that tend to disrupt sleep the most.
Around this time, some babies are mastering the art of rolling over. In fact, the 4-month sleep regression involves a shift in your baby's sleep patterns. They're transitioning into sleep from a more awake state and waking up more fully between sleep cycles. Because they're now producing their own melatonin, the structure to the way they sleep changes, and they wake more frequently. To put it simply, your baby might have a tougher time falling asleep and wake up more often during the night.
Plus, your little one is now more aware of their surroundings than before. So, if they doze off in your arms or on the living room floor, waking up in their cot can be disorienting. They recognise the new scene but can't quite figure out how they got there. Naturally, this can be unsettling, leading to tears and your baby instinctively craves your comforting presence.
You might have come across the Wonder Weeks concept, referring to these milestones as "leaps" since your baby is learning new skills. Around the 4-month mark, according to Wonder Weeks, babies tend to show an increase in the "3 C's": crying, crankiness, and clinginess. Remember, this phase is temporary and will pass!
The disruption in sleep doesn't just affect your little one – it has a ripple effect on the entire family, and it's undeniably tough. Whether you were just finding your groove or enjoying a bit more sleep, it can seriously impact your overall well-being. Being perpetually tired makes everything else in life a bit harder. Fortunately, this phase won't last forever, but you may need to be prepared to make some changes to the way sleep happens in your home.
So, how long does the 4-month sleep regression stick around?
Some evidence suggests that this particular regression can linger longer than others, considering its impact on your baby's sleep patterns. In my experience, this regression can last for months, or until a baby learns to self settle. Of course, I only work with babies who have trouble with sleep, not those who are great sleepers!
Signs that your baby is gearing up for the 4-month sleep regression?
Remember, each child is unique and hits milestones at their own pace. If your baby arrived earlier than expected, it's essential to consider their corrected age based on their gestational age. This matters when setting sleep expectations. For instance, if your baby is 4 months old but arrived 6 weeks ahead of schedule, their corrected age would be 2 months, 2 weeks. When it comes to sleep, always go by the corrected age.
As your baby approaches the 4-month milestone, watch for shifts in their sleep behaviour. While they're reaching an important point in their development, it's unrealistic to expect them to snooze through the night like an adult. A solid 4 hour stretch is pretty good for a 4-month-old who likely still needs a couple of feeds overnight.
If you were hoping for a glorious 8-hour uninterrupted slumber, I hate to break it to you, this may not be something your baby is capable of doing for another few months. Let's face the facts so you can adjust your expectations accordingly. (Trust me, getting a full 5-hour stretch of sleep with a newborn feels like a victory in itself.)
Recognisable signs of the 4-month sleep regression include a fussier baby, a disrupted bedtime routine, more nighttime awakenings, a resurgence of night feedings, and the previously established schedule becoming harder to stick to.
So, let's dive into three straightforward strategies to help guide your 4-month-old toward better sleep. We get it – you just want some quality shut-eye, and we're right there with you. You adore your baby to bits, but dealing with day-to-day exhaustion is no joke. When your baby suddenly seems more irritable, these solutions can be a lifesaver during this monumental phase.
- Jump on your baby's sleep signals quickly. When it comes to lulling your newborn to sleep, it might feel like you're clueless, but you're not. You're likely picking up on different cries – one for hunger and another for comfort, perhaps. Swiftly responding to these cues helps build a strong bond of trust and security with your baby.
When you acknowledge your baby's sleep cues and address their needs promptly, it fosters a connection that translates to better sleep. Yep, it's all interconnected!
- Stick with your bedtime routine – consistency is key. Now, that doesn't mean you're bound by the clock's every tick. Minor adjustments are normal, especially when you're trying to get a wee one to sleep. Consistency helps your baby know what to expect, just like reacting promptly to sleep cues helps soothe their nervous system.
Even at such a tender age, the 4-month sleep regression is a prime time to stick to those nap and bedtime routines. It makes a world of difference for the whole family. Amid the baby-focused chaos, it's crucial to remember your own well-being too – your sleep matters!
Creating a nightly routine doesn't have to be an hour-long ordeal you dread. It can be as simple as feeding and humming a song while cuddling. A popular bedtime routine involves a bath; warm water has a calming effect and aids the drop in body temperature, setting the stage for quality sleep. Every baby is unique, so see if a gentle bath has a soothing effect on yours.
- Create a calming home environment with the 4pm rule. Believe it or not, one of the main reasons your baby might be fussy or hard to soothe at night is overstimulation. While the sound of the food processor and the glow of the TV might not overwhelm you, to a baby, every sensation is new and monumental. Come late afternoon, some babies (not all) get overwhelmed and melt down as it's just too much for their immature nervous system to cope with.
I've found maintaining a calm atmosphere between 4pm and 7pm to minimise fussiness. I know, it seems pretty early, right? But if it helps your newborn unwind, and avoid the dreaded witching hour it's definitely worth a shot.
Follow the 4pm rule to help your baby wind down and feel ready for sleep
- Do the last nap of the day in the carrier or stroller
- At home, turn down the TV volume and keep noises gentle
- Dim the lights if possible, or close some curtains/blinds
- Create a peaceful space away from noise – even if it's just for a little while, especially when your other children or partner get home
- Set up a separate quiet room for the evening so after their bath, your baby can fully wind down away from distraction and stimulation
- Research shows that babies sleep better in darker rooms. If you don't have blackout curtains, a dark sheet or blanket over the window can do wonders.
If you have older children, I get it – maintaining a serene environment can be a bit of a challenge, so just do what you can without stressing yourself out.
The last tip I have to help you through the 4 month sleep regression, is considering sleep training. This isn't as scary as it sounds, it's effectively helping your baby learn some independent sleep skills, so they can put themselves to sleep, and back to sleep overnight eventually, without needing your support at every waking. This is a polarising one, and may not be necessary for many babies out there!
Any questions? Let me know! I'd love to help you navigate this challenging time ♡