4 Month Sleep Regression: The Ultimate Guide to This Exhausting Stage

4 Month Sleep RegressionThe 4 month sleep regression is a time around 3 to 4 months old when your baby’s sleep patterns change, and your baby begins to go through sleep cycles — light sleep to deep sleep and back again. As a result, your baby may wake frequently at night and take short naps. Sleep regressions are exhausting but you can help your baby sleep better! Here is the ultimate guide to getting through this period based on my 15+ years as a sleep consultant.

What is The 4 Month Sleep Regression?

The 4 month sleep regression means your baby is likely waking up excessively in the middle of the night and/or taking short naps. This regression can also be known as the “3-month sleep regression” or the “5-month sleep regression,” too, since it starts any time after 12 weeks and usually before 20 weeks old. This is a completely normal time period in your baby’s life.

What are the Signs?

The 4-month sleep regression signs usually include one or more of the following:

  • Waking a lot at night (even when they used to sleep in long stretches) – waking every 1-2 hours at night is common.
  • Taking short naps of 20-30 minutes, sometimes 45 minutes.
  • Can’t be put down awake (or even asleep sometimes!) Baby wants to sleep only in your arms or a carrier/sling.
  • Irritability and Fussiness (though that can be simply due to sleep deprivation!)
  • Needing to be put back to sleep the same way each time (e.g. rocking or feeding back to sleep).

These are the most common signs we hear from families reaching out to us.

Why do our 4 month old babies sleep worse than ever before and why doesn’t it improve?

The 4 month sleep regression marks a permanent change in your baby’s sleeping habits. Before your baby hit the 4 month mark, your baby’s sleeping patterns were very simple and straightforward.

Newborns and young babies sleep deeply much of the time. (This explains why many (not all!) newborns and very young infants tend to sleep anywhere, through anything!)

After 4 months old, though, all bets are off! As your baby’s brain matures, around the 4 month mark, their sleeping patterns change – they become more like yours. Now, they are cycling between light and deep sleep more often – just like you. For some of us lucky parents, our babies start all of this as early as 2 or 3 months old. That means it’s the 3 month sleep regression instead!

Is This Sleep Regression Normal? Is it Really That Bad?

When you look at it this way, it’s clear that the 4 month regression (or 3 months or 5 months) is a very normal, very healthy developmental milestone, just like learning to walk and talk. So if your baby is currently going through the 4 month sleep regression, congratulations – their growth and development are right on track! 🙂

But also, if your baby is currently going through the 4 month regression or 5 month sleep regression – you have my deepest sympathies ;). That’s because (as many of you well know) your baby’s new ‘grown-up’ sleep patterns produce WAY more night waking and short naps.

Every time your baby cycles out of deep sleep and into light sleep, there’s a good chance they will wake up – and once your baby is up, they will more than likely need your help to fall back to sleep. They may not know how to get into their next sleep cycle which is what causes the sleep disruptions.

The 4-month sleep regression can be bad for some babies leading to waking every 1-2 hours at night but it isn’t so bad for all babies.

Need help with your baby's sleep? Contact Us Today!

When does the 4 month sleep regression start?

The 4 month sleep regression can start any time after 8 weeks old, though some babies don’t sleep well from birth. This regression can also start as late as 5 months. The most common age is 3 months to 4 months old.

How long does the 4 month sleep regression last?

The exhausting 4 month sleep regression peaks for around 2-3 weeks. Some babies will begin (or go back) to sleeping well while others have sleep habits that need to be actively changed in order to help them sleep better.

When does the 4 month sleep regression end?

The regression doesn’t ever “end” in the strictest sense of the word. It is a permanent change to your baby’s sleep patterns. However, establishing healthy sleep habits such as a bedtime routine and gentle sleep coaching can go a long way to ending this particular sleep regression!

Is the 3 Month Sleep Regression the Same Thing?

Yes, the 3-month sleep regression is the same as the 4-month sleep regression. 3 month olds sometimes stop sleeping through the night and fight sleep. You are simply a “lucky” parent who has a baby who is developing early in this area. Some babies are 2 months old, some are 3 months old, while most are nearly 4 months old.

Is the 5 Month Sleep Regression the Same Thing?

Yes, again, all babies develop at their own rates. So, while 4 months is the most common age to start this regression, some babies will be 5 months old. This is actually favorable because babies who are a little older are usually more ready to be unswaddled and learn how to self-soothe. More on that below.

4 Month Sleep Regression: How To Manage It Right Now

Here’s the thing to remember about the 4 month sleep regression: it doesn’t go away. It’s different in that sense than other sleep regressions that happen at 8, 9, or 10 months, and the toddler sleep regressions that happen at 18 months and 2 years old. Those sleep regressions ultimately pass in a few weeks, and your little one’s sleep returns to normal. Not so with this one. The changes that happen with the 4 month sleep regression are permanent.

But don’t let that thoroughly depress you! There are ways you can move past the 4 month sleep regression, and teach your baby a new way to sleep.

In the beginning, though, here’s our advice: cope as best you can. If you are in the early days of the regression, you are no doubt exhausted beyond all measure and feeling utterly frustrated. This is normal. Spend the next few days/weeks coping, while you formulate your sleep training plan.

YouTube video

10 Tips to Survive The 4 Month Sleep Regression Short-Term

(see below for long-term solutions)

How can you cope?

Here are a few strategies you can use to encourage your baby to sleep more during the 4 month sleep regression until you’re ready to move past it for good. See below for 10 more tips:

1. Continue helping your baby fall asleep in the way he has been falling asleep up until now.

If you’ve been nursing or rocking your baby o sleep, keep doing it, for now. Same with co-sleeping or holding to sleep. Yes, these are sleep associations that will ultimately hinder your baby’s sleep, and that you’ll need to wean away from later. But don’t worry about that right now – for now, do what you need to do to help your baby fall asleep.

2. Swaddle and/or offer a pacifier

If swaddling or offering a pacifier is working, keep it up. And, if you haven’t, try these as techniques to help soothe your fussy baby, and to temporarily promote more sleep until you begin to work on moving past this for good (see below). If you are experiencing the 3 month sleep regression, it’s even more likely you will need to keep swaddling for a few more weeks.

Is your baby is breaking out of the swaddle and that’s why they are waking up at night? Start using a sleep sack. While sleepwear may not be a cure-all, it could improve sleep enough to allow you time to get a plan together as to how to move forward.

If you are experiencing the 5 month sleep regression, it’s more likely you can stop swaddling and transition to a sleep sack.

Looking for a sleep sack?
Check out our Top 10 Best Sleep Sacks

3. Offer a dream feed

This isn’t a fool-proof strategy, but it works well for some babies. Offer a dream feed and ‘top-off’ right before you go to bed, and it may help your baby sleep a bit longer at night.

4. Use the swing if you have one

The swing can be a great way to soothe your fussy baby and to help induce a nap that wouldn’t otherwise happen ;). Just be sure to supervise your baby while he’s sleeping in the swing – you don’t want to let them sleep there for long periods of time.

5. Darken the Bedroom

If your baby is having trouble napping, consider darkening the room to encourage longer naps.

6. Set your baby up for success

If you’re putting your baby down at the “wrong” times for sleep, this can have disastrous results. Be sure to follow an appropriate 4 month old schedule. The right sleep schedule can do wonders!

Experiencing the 3 month sleep regression? Use our 3 month schedule.

Experiencing the 5 month sleep regression? Use our 5 month schedule.

7. Check your baby’s development

Before you consider moving forward to permanently change your baby’s sleep habits, you may want to double-check their development is on track, you are feeding them the “right” amount, they aren’t going through a growth spurt, and they are growing well. Use our Ultimate Guide to Your 4 Month Old Baby to do a quick check.

Experiencing the 3 month sleep regression? Use our 2-3 Month Baby Sleep Guide.

Experiencing the 5 month sleep regression? Use our 5 Month Baby Sleep Guide.

8. Use white noise

If you aren’t already using white noise, definitely consider adding that to the bedroom. Learn how and why to use white noise here. Even babies going through the 5 month sleep regression can benefit from white noise.

9. Start researching

Now is the time to do more reading and research about baby sleep if you haven’t already. Learning more about the 4 month sleep regression is a good first step, but learning more about your baby’s sleep needs is crucial to being successful with moving past the sleep regression for good. Downloading our free e-Book, 5 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Through the Night is a great next step. We break down 5 simple no-cry ways to help your baby sleep better. And, it’s completely FREE!

10. Ask for help!

This time period, especially if it’s the 5 month sleep regression, is very exhausting! This is the time to lean on friends and family members. Let other people hang out with the baby while you take a nap.

These 10 tips should all be viewed as short-term solutions to help you rest up in preparation for starting to work on teaching your 4 month old baby a new way to sleep. Read below for 10 tips on how to move past the 4 month sleep regression for good.

Parent Story from Maggie Bales

Maggie, Mom testimonial about her baby's sleep“I am so happy with my experience with The Baby Sleep Site. My sleep consultant was phenomenal. I contacted the site after my little guy went through the 4 month sleep regression. He started to only sleep in 20-minute increments, so I resorted to co-sleeping out of necessity. They were able to help me to adjust his eating schedule and napping schedule while educating me on the process along the way. She was always quick to respond to my emails, which were often several times a day – including weekends. While my son is not quite sleeping through the night yet, I am happy to say that he is in his own room and in his own bed! His sleep stretches are growing. He is also napping in his own bed now! This has freed up my day considerably! I couldn’t be happier with my experience with The Baby Sleep Site. I’ll recommend your services to friends and family. I hope that I don’t need any more sleep help, but if I do, I am confident that The Baby Sleep Site will be able to guide me on the right path.”
-Maggie Bales, MI

10 More Tips to Move Past the 4 Month Sleep Regression For Good

Once you understand the 4 month sleep regression and catch up on a little sleep in the short-term, it’s time to start teaching your baby a new way to sleep. This process is called sleep training, or sleep coaching. But, opposite to what many believe, sleep coaching is about more than simply whether to let your baby cry it out or not.

We approach baby sleep from a holistic standpoint. We believe that sleep training without looking at “everything” is a bit like trying to get healthy by only looking at diet but without looking at exercise, sleep, water intake, other lifestyle choices, etc. It is the holistic combination of MANY things that makes us successful at meeting and exceeding sleep goals.

Here are 10 tips to move past the 3-4-5 month sleep regression for good:

11. Learn how much sleep your baby needs

Not knowing how much sleep your baby needs can set you on the wrong path right from the start. Not all babies sleep 12 hours at night and 4 hours during the day at this age. Similarly, if your baby is only sleeping 10 hours at night and 2 hours during the day, he isn’t getting enough. Set realistic expectations upfront.

12. Figure out how many naps

Should you offer 2 naps, 3 naps, or 4 naps at this age? Check the baby nap chart to see if you’re offering enough sleep periods each day.

13. Don’t keep baby awake too long

Over-tiredness is one of the main reasons babies take short naps or wake up a lot at night. Having the right schedule is very important to success in sleep!

14. Avoid napping mistakes

The better a baby naps during the day, often the better they sleep at night. Be sure to avoid these 7 common napping mistakes.

15. Feed your baby more during the day

As babies get older and more active, they increase how much they need to eat during the day. And, the more they eat during the day, the less they need at night! Check this baby feeding chart to make sure you’re feeding your baby enough during the day.

16. Be cautious about solids

Some parents think starting solids might help their 4 month old sleep better. But, will starting solids really help sleep? Not always. Learn when to start solids and consider waiting a bit longer.

17. Don’t get up too early

Did you know that light stimulating our eyes is what signals our brains to wake or sleep? Be sure not to start the day too early even if your baby is waking up too early.

18. Put your baby down awake

Putting your baby down awake after a consistent bedtime routine allows your baby to learn the skill of going to sleep such that he or she will learn to fall back to sleep. This means your baby can learn how to sleep through the night and take long naps. But, does your baby need to be drowsy? Learn what drowsy, but awake means and how hard you should work on it.

19. Change your baby’s sleep associations

If you downloaded our e-Book, 5 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Through The Night, you have now learned what a “sleep association” is. Once you are ready and feel your baby is ready, you will want to start gradually changing these sleep associations so your baby can sleep more on their own. This is where more traditional sleep training comes in. There are many techniques and methods to do this – the one that you choose will depend on your family’s unique circumstances, on your baby’s temperament, and on your own unique parenting philosophy. Read more about baby sleep training methods here and signs your baby is ready for night-weaning here.

20. Re-evaluate once in a while

Babies grow and change very quickly in the first few years. Every so often, and especially if sleep begins to get worse again, you may need to re-evaluate your baby’s sleep. Do they need a new schedule? Are they developing new sleep habits that aren’t working? Are they going through another sleep regression? Be prepared for your baby to change and continue to keep learning about your baby’s sleep needs, so you’ll know what to do.

Following these tips for your 4-month-old should help you get back on track with sleep in no time!

We’re here if you need more help with your little one’s 4 Month Sleep Regression!

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115 thoughts on “4 Month Sleep Regression: The Ultimate Guide to This Exhausting Stage”

  1. My 19 week old (4.5 month old) has been trained to sleep on his own for a couple months now. I just do his routine before naps and bed and I put him down awake and he takes care of the rest. At the beginning of his night sleep he was getting a 5 stretch basically every night. He had also started stretch naps out at the end of December. Suddenly he is waking more at night, really fighting going down for naps, and getting frustrated at bedtime. I am really trying my best to get him sleep, but I am worried th past couple days of trying to get him to sleep however I can (i.e. holding, rocking, swing, etc.) Is going to undo all this hardwork I out into getting him to sleep on his own in his bassinet. I am lost at what to do and worried I may have to sleep train all over again. I am not sure if this is regression, but I am just wondering if there is any advice for this situation?

  2. Hi. My son is 4.5 months old. For the past 2 weeks, he has been having short naps (30 or 35 minutes). I follow a consistent nap routine and follow his sleepy cues. I put him in his crib awake and he usually falls asleep on his own within 5 to 10 minutes. After he wakes up, I leave him in his crib to see if he’ll fall back asleep. He usually cries for a few minutes, then sleeps for a minute. He does this on and off for about 30 minutes, and then just cries. I’ve tried so many tricks to try and help him nap longer, but with no success. And I know he’s not hungry because I feed him close to when I put him down for a nap. I realize he’s going through the 4-month sleep regression, but want to know if there’s anything I can do to help him nap longer. And wondering if it’s ok to let him cry for so long after he wakes up. Thanks.

    • Hi Kristina,
      Thanks for visiting The Baby Sleep Site! I’m sorry to hear you’re struggling so hard with your son’s naps. It’s hard to know exactly what’s going on without knowing more about his schedule and other sleep, but short naps can be a symptom of the 4 month regression, as you mentioned. Sometimes waiting this out can help, as your son learns how to fall back asleep on his own through the regression, but if it’s been ~4 weeks with no luck, I would recommend getting some more help. Our sleep consultants answer questions in the Members Area chat once a week, which might be a good fit for you if sleep is otherwise going well, or of course we offer the consultation packages, too. Please hang in there – the regression can be tough! Good luck 🙂

  3. My baby turns 4 months on July 6. He is currently 15 weeks old. I believe he started his 4month sleep regression last week with waking every 45 min and ONLY sleep in my arms after long bouts of crying. Two days ago, after really focusing on naps and routines, he started sleeping better but still needs to be rocked to sleep.I only had one day with successful drowsy but awake. Last night and this morning he digressed again and needed to be held and rocked for 20min before being laid down. Is this up and down normal right now?
    Is he still too young to sleep train?
    When do I start weaning sleep associations?

    So confused. Thank you!

    • Hi @Catherine – Thanks for writing to us! Sorry to hear that your baby is going through the 4 month sleep regression right now! We know how tough this can be, and you’re not alone! Sleep training can definitely be confusing too! We’re here to help, and he’s not too young to start working on teaching him to sleep on his own! If you’d like some one on one expert help, you can read about all of our sleep consultation packages and purchase from here:
      Thank you again and hang in there Catherine! If you need any assistance at all, please let us know. We’d love to help you get started ASAP!

  4. Is it normal for my 16 week old baby to have very light restless sleep throughout the night? Previously very peaceful deep sleep. She is now tired during the day and sleeping restlessly more than previously. She is also twitching and startles very easily.

    • @Clare – Thank you for reading and for sharing! Babies’ sleep transitions from more of that deep, wonderful pre-4 month old sleep to more of the light/deep sleep cycles we adults are more familiar with. With this transition comes more restless sleep for sure. We have tons of information about what to expect at this age with sleep and hope you find more useful information on our site or with one of our sleep consultants. Please also be sure to use your daughter’s healthcare provider as a resource if ever you’re concerned about anything to do with your daughter’s health. Hang in there, Clare!

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