One of the most common questions we get here at The Baby Sleep Site® is “How do I get my 4 (or 5) month old to sleep?” and that’s the question we are answering today!
While some babies can be challenging sleepers from birth, many will go through periods where they sleep well, only to regress. What’s a sleepy parent to do, if you couldn’t get your 14, 15, or 16-week old sleeping!? Let’s take a look at the 6 steps to help your 4 or 5 month old baby sleep.
As soon as you get your 14 or 15 week old napping well and sleeping peacefully in longer stretches at night, your 4 month old may start waking frequently again and taking tiny naps. What’s up with that?! 4 month olds are going through a rapid period of development and their brain is fundamentally changing. We call this the 4 month old sleep regression and once your baby goes through it, they will begin to cycle in and out of sleep cycles more like you and I. This change in sleep rhythms often presents a lot of sleep problems for parents who are helping their baby to sleep. 4 to 5 months is also a common age to stop swaddling, if you have not done so already.
How To Get My 4 or 5 Month Old To Sleep At-a-Glance
- Develop a consistent sleep routine
- Review your baby’s schedule
- Consider gentle sleep coaching/training
- Create a sleep plan for your family
- Gather support from your village
- Prepare for the next sleep speedbump
And, now for a few details…
1. Develop a sleep routine for your 4 or 5 month old
Setting the environment for sleep is crucial and part of cuing your baby it’s time for sleep is to have a consistent set of steps you do each sleep period, at night and at nap times. For those parents who aren’t that thrilled about strict routines, have no fear, the sleep routine does NOT have to be long. For instance, you can shut the curtains or blinds, change your baby’s diaper, read a short book (yes, we started at 4 months – you can thank us later for your budding genius’ intellect!), feed the baby (if appropriate), cuddle the baby for a few minutes, and then lay your baby down for sleep while saying a key phrase (e.g. “Sleepy time for baby. I love you. Night night.”).
2. Review your 4 or 5 month old’s schedule
For some 4 or 5 month old babies, their sleep schedule is fundamental to helping them sleep well. Some babies are more adaptable or less sensitive and not need a very regimented schedule, though for a lot of parents it’s a sanity saver! Since you may not know (yet) which type of baby you have at just 4 or 5 months young, I strongly recommend developing a good schedule to see what type of impact it may or may not have on your baby’s sleep. For all you know, that’s all you have to do! Some families, depending on their situation, can’t stick to a precise schedule as well as others, but just do your best. What type of schedule you ask? Check out our sample schedules here or make your own custom schedule!
3. Consider gentle sleep training (or coaching) for your 4 or 5 month old
If the previous steps haven’t significantly improved your 4 or 5 month old’s sleep and you’ve downloaded our free e-Book, 5 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep through the Night, it’s likely your 4 or 5 month old has sleep associations that need to be resolved with sleep training. Ideally, you’d get a professional assessment of your baby’s sleep challenges, but if you feel certain a dependence on parental help is part of the issue, then you may want to consider gently sleep coaching your 4 or 5 month old. This essentially involves helping your baby learn to fall asleep on their own, without as much help from you. Given your baby’s age and our experience, however, we do feel strongly this should be done using a hands-on, gentle sleep coaching method.
Want to see how Nadia and Brad sleep trained their 4 month old using a gentle sleep coaching method? Check out their case study here!
4. Create a plan for your 4 or 5 month old
If you’re considering gentle sleep training, you need to figure out what to do next. Some of us are planners and others simply “wing it.” If you’re not a planner, you can certainly skip this step, but if you’ve been trying to help your 4 or 5 month old sleep for awhile now, you’ve developed a routine, reviewed the schedule and plugging along without a set strategy isn’t working out so well, maybe a plan is just what you’re missing. After all, it’s hard to know how to get to where you’re going without a travel plan. Make the plan as detailed as you want it, but having a step-by-step plan helps you stay on track, committed, and consistent. Not sure where to begin or need help dreating your baby’s sleep plan? Consider making your own sleep plan or letting us create a Personalized Sleep Plan™ for you and your baby.
5. Get support for your 4 or 5 month old’s parents (you!)
We hear everywhere that “it takes a village” to raise a child, but gone seem to be the days where we have a lot of help nurturing our babies. I don’t know about you, but my mom came out for one week when my first baby was a newborn, but that was about it. 🙁 My husband and I were largely on our own. No Aunts to regularly hold the baby while I took a nap or enjoyed a (hopefully hot) meal. So, getting through this 4 to 5 month old trouble spot can be tough without support. We sometimes have to recruit our own village. Consider hiring a sleep consultant or asking your partner, friends, or family members to help you implement your sleep plan. Having a support system in place can make all the difference in the world in reaching your sleep goals!
6. Prepare for your 4 or 5 month old’s next speedbump
Now that you learned how to get your 4 or 5 month old to sleep, what happens next? Do you ride off into the sunset with a happy sleeper forever and ever? We certainly hope so! For some of you, yes, but many of you will get your baby sleeping well now, only to hit another speedbump in a few weeks or months. Babies grow and change a lot in the first few years, so be prepared and make sure you plan ahead, and have a game plan in place, before the next sleep regression or speedbump emerges. Babies start teething, crawling, walking, get a cold, and that can often affect sleep. In a few months, your 4-5 month old will start getting more mobile, and it might affect their sleep. What will you do when your baby starts waking at night, again, or won’t nap or both? The #1 rule is NOT revert back to old habits as if you had never made progress in the first place. As easy as it is for babies to fall back to old habits, it’s often way too easy for us parents to do so as well. So, don’t let that happen! 🙂