The “4 month sleep regression” is a period when your baby’s sleep patterns change and causes baby to wake frequently at night and take short naps. Sleep regressions are exhausting but you can help your baby sleep better! Learn 20 tips based on my 10+ years as a sleep consultant to get through this frustrating and exhausting period.
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.
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.
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 are working, keep it up. 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.
If 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 Baby Sleep Guide.
Experiencing the 5 month sleep regression? Use our 5 Month Baby 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
“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, which has freed up my day considerably! I couldn’t be happier with my experience with The Baby Sleep Site and will 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 caught 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 and 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, limiting tobacco and alcohol, etc. It is the combination of several things that makes us successful at meeting and exceeding sleep goals.
Here are 10 tips to move past the 4 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 and, 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
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! If you need more help, we have a multitude of resources at your fingertips below.
4 Month Sleep Regression Case Study
Want more information about how to help your 4 month old sleep well? Check out our detailed case study about Nadia, Brad, and their 4 month old, Abigail.
Read the specific steps we took to help Abigail learn to sleep in longer stretches at night and to take better naps – and how we helped to change those sleep associations that were keeping her awake! Just join our VIP Members Area, and access the detailed case study instantly. And that’s not all – our VIP Members Area is packed with additional premium content and resources: e-Books, assessments, more case studies, live chat with a sleep consultant, and more. It actually costs less to join than buying products separately! And best of all, members receive 20% of all consultation services – that savings alone can actually pay for the cost of the membership!
Help For The 4 Month Sleep Regression
Now, trust me when I say that this process is much easier said than done! Actually teaching your baby a new way to sleep involves lots of work for many families, and can take weeks to accomplish. Some families can do this on their own, with the help of books and other resources. If you feel ready to tackle your baby’s sleep challenges on your own and need to read up on sleep training, you might consider taking a look at our e-Book, The 3-Step System To Help Your Baby Sleep.
But while some families can go it alone, other families find themselves needing additional help. That’s precisely why we are here – to offer that additional help! I created The Baby Sleep Site® in 2008 with the goal of offering personalized, individualized sleep help to exhausted families, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
So, how does this system of individualized help work? It’s simple – you purchase a consultation package and connect one-on-one with a trained sleep consultant. After learning more about your family’s unique situation and sleep struggles, your consultant creates a Personalized Sleep Plan® just for you, and then provides additional help and support along the way, as you implement the plan at home. Simple, and effective!
Ready for help?
If you are ready to move past the 4 month sleep regression, and you feel ready to teach your baby a new way to sleep, take the first step today! Browse our list of consultation packages, and choose one that looks best for your family.
Once you purchase, you will receive an e-mail with instructions about how to log in to our Helpdesk. Once logged in, you can create your account, fill out your family’s sleep history, connect with a sleep consultant, and get started! Then, in a matter of weeks, you will be able to add your name to our long list of well-rested parents :).