Over the years, we’ve had countless parents come to us for help with their 4 month old baby’s sleep. Why? Simple… It’s the 4 month sleep regression. This article will explain why “good” sleepers sometimes turn “bad” around the 4 month old mark. This is also known as the 4 month sleep regression. For most babies, the 4 month sleep regression occurs right around the 4 month mark, but for some babies, it happens a bit earlier (around 3 months) or a bit later (around 5 months). Some babies experience the 4 month sleep regression relatively mildly and very briefly. For others, the 4 month sleep regression is a very, very rough phase marked by lots of crying, and that lasts pretty much indefinitely.
4 Month Sleep Regression: How Your Newborn Baby Sleeps In The Early Weeks
Yes, this is an article about the 4 month sleep regression, so we really should be talking about 4 month old babies, right? We will, in just a moment. First, we need to back up to the newborn phase. When a newborn sleeps, she cycles between “active” and “quiet” sleep (also known as REM and non-REM sleep) but does not have the distinctive stages of sleep she will have as she grows older and her brain matures.
We’ll avoid too much technical talk here. (That’s one reason we have this website, so you won’t have to learn the whole history of sleep if you don’t want to – or can’t stay awake to!). If you are interested in knowing more about our biological rhythms and how we sleep, in more detail, I highly recommend the book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. Newborns spend a lot of their time in deep sleep, which is why it’s hard to wake them up (even to eat!) in those early days. They do startle awake when they cycle into “active” sleep, which is one reason swaddling can be so effective.
The 4 Month Sleep Regression Changes Things: How Your 4 Month Old Baby Sleeps (And Sometimes Your 3 Month Old Baby, or 5 Month Old Baby)
We all go in and out of light and deep sleep. As adults, we might change positions, look at the clock, or re-position our pillow. Up until now, you may have rocked your baby or simply given him a pacifier and he slept for hours without waking up. Well, at 3 or 4 months old, your baby is now sleeping more like an adult. Now when she falls asleep, she does not enter deep sleep right away, and if you lay her down before she is in deep sleep, she is likely to wake up and you will start all over helping her to fall back to sleep again and again.
4 Month Sleep Regression Patterns: First, Your 4 Month Old Baby Enters Deep Sleep…
Initially in the night, your 4 month old will enter deep sleep relatively quickly, within 30 minutes (this changes as we get older). However, as I said, we all cycle in and out of light and deep sleep. A child’s sleep cycle is about 40-50 minutes. So, your baby will briefly awake 40-50 minutes after she has been asleep. To put that in perspective, if you are holding your baby to sleep, you would need to hold her for at least 30 minutes to make sure she’s in deep sleep and then she might wake up 15 minutes later. Sound familiar?
Overall, though, your baby’s deepest sleep is in the early part of the night, so after that first sleep cycle, she might sleep just fine for a few hours. So, you’re golden, right? Just hold her for an hour? Nope!
4 Month Sleep Regression Patterns: How Your 4 Month Old Baby Sleeps The Rest Of The Night…
The technical definition of “sleeping through the night” is 5 hours of continuous sleep (i.e. no feedings) and many babies can/will do this by 2 or 3 months old. The beginning of the night is your baby’s deepest sleep, and after the first 5 hours (if not sooner, depending on just how challenging he is), he will cycle between light and deep sleep, but the deep sleep won’t be as deep as it was at the beginning of the night. This is where the problem of sleep associations really come into play. If your baby needs your help to go to sleep at the beginning of the night, sometime after midnight or so, he will continue to need your help every 1 or 2 sleep cycles (that means every 40 to 90 minutes, or as I often hear: every 1-2 hours).
Between 4-6 a.m., approximately, is the lightest sleep of the whole night (parents’ complaints alone make this true, in my experience, aside from my reading). In the very early morning hours (about 30 minutes to an hour before waking up), he will again go into the very deep sleep.
Although babies commonly wake up early, be sure it is truly their waking up time and not just this lighter sleep and that they are having trouble sleeping. You might notice they want a “nap” just 30 or so minutes after “waking up”. What you experienced was a night waking, not starting the day.
4 Month Sleep Regression Symptoms
Many parents want to know what the 4 month sleep regression looks like. That will vary from baby to baby, of course, but here is a short list of 4 month sleep regression signs:
- Changes in appetite (baby may eat more or less than usual)
- Lots of night wakings (these will seem out of the ordinary, especially if your baby had been sleeping longer stretches recently)
- Increased crying and fussiness (often, the fussiness will be the inconsolable kind, and nothing you do to comfort your baby will work as well as it usually does)
- Missed naps and/or shorter naps
4 Month Sleep Regression Explained
As we’ve established, all babies go through these changes in their sleep patterns. However, how your baby reacts to these changes will depend on unique factors. Some babies experience a week or two of fussy, interrupted sleep, and then go back to sleeping soundly at night and taking restorative naps. Other babies, however, are thrown all out of whack by the 4 month sleep regression. They go through weeks and weeks (sometimes even months) of lots of night wakings and missed naps. These babies (and their poor parents!) are hit hard by the 4 month sleep regression and exhibit a lot of the symptoms mentioned above.
If the 4 month sleep regression is a truly bad sleep regression for your baby – how can you cope? Well, we generally advise parents to get to the root of why the 4 month sleep regression is causing disruptions. Usually, negative sleep associations are to blame. Babies who have become accustomed to being rocked, fed, and/or held to sleep continue to need their sleep associations. Now that their sleep patterns have changed, they need them all. Night. Long. Of course, mom and dad can’t sustain all that rocking and holding in the middle of the night. Soon the whole family is exhausted and overwhelmed.
What’s a Parent to Do?
In general, I’d recommend waiting a few weeks, to see if your 4 month old baby’s sleep improves. If it doesn’t, then it may be time to make changes. Work on weaning your 4 month old from his sleep associations. You might also want to work on establishing a gentle 4 month old baby schedule. I would urge you not to wait indefinitely. I talk to parents of 12 month olds and even 3-5 year olds who are still waiting for their “baby” to grow out of their sleep problems.
For more tips on how to cope with and solve your baby’s 4 month sleep regression problems, read our other 4 month sleep regression article: The 4 Month Sleep Regression: What It Is and How To Fix It.
Want more information about how to help your 4 month old sleep well? Check out our (VIP Exclusive) detailed case study about Nadia, Brad, and their 4 month old, Abigail.
Read how they helped Abigail learn to sleep longer stretches at night and take better naps. You’ll also learn how they helped to change sleep associations that were keeping her awake! Not a VIP Yet? No problem. Join our VIP Members Area and access the study instantly. You’ll also enjoy TONS of other VIP resources!
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128 thoughts on “4 Month Sleep Regression Explained (sometimes 3 and 5 months too)”
My 3.5 month old was sleeping amazingly…until 3 weeks ago. He was sleeping 9 hours at night, without a swaddle, and falling asleep with his pacifier but self soothing with his hand once it fell out.
For the past 3 weeks, he’s been going down to sleep without a problem (normal routine: diaper change, put on PJs, story/song, bottle of pumped milk, burp, into basinette). Then, around 2 am he’s up fussing (picking up and throwing down his legs, making noises but not really crying, and cannot settle), pulling out his pacifier but no longer self soothing with his hands, and this can last hours. I’ve tried nursing him and he’ll fall asleep but as soon as I put him in the basinette, he’s back to fussing again. So I don’t think he’s hungry. After hours, he’ll fall asleep on my chest and then I can successfully transfer him back to the basinette. The only thing of note is that sometimes he passes gas, but that doesn’t seem to settle him either.
I know this is probably a normal sleep regression. I know some people say it can last up to 6 weeks. But I simply cannot get him to settle in the middle of the night. Any advice would be completely appreciated!
Hi @Julie –
Thanks for writing to us about your (almost) 4 month old! It sure sounds like the 4 month regression is going on over there, and yes, many do not outgrow this for weeks, months, or even years! For help through this, feel free to use the tips on this page, and I’d also recommend taking a look at this schedule and making sure that naps and bedtime are at good times for him:
I hope that things smooth out soon Julie! If you need more help, please contact us for more information!
My 14week old baby used to sleep all the way through till 6/7am but the last week or so she has been waking at 2am and 4am. I do her feed at 7pm and I change her nappy then half sleep feed her at 10pm. When she wakes during the night I do not feed her I just try settle with dummy as I know she’s not hungry (tried feeding the first 2x but she would just fall asleep in my arms)
So I think it’s like you say she can’t settle herself at night 🙁
Thank you for your comment! I’m sorry to hear that your 3.5 month-old is going through the 4 month sleep regression! It is definitely a tough time, so please hang in there. If your baby is overall healthy and once she is 4 months-old, we do recommend doing some gentle sleep coaching to help her start to learn to sleep independently, and re-settle herself when she’s not hungry but is waking at night. I’d recommend checking out our sleep training series, which takes you step-by-step on how to set up for sleep coaching, select a good method for your family and baby, and make a plan. The first article in that series is here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/sleep-training/sleep-training-from-no-cry-to-cry-series-part-1/
We do also offer the DIY Express Sleep Plan or the personalized consultations with a baby sleep expert if you need more support through the process: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-toddler-sleep-consulting-services/
I hope this helps! Please let us know if you have any questions!
I have a 3 month old baby. She wakes up evey two hours in average for feeding sometimes 1.5 hour and sometimes 2.5 hour. I breast feed her and she takes one breast only for 3-5 min each time. I dont have enough milk supply so sometimes I formula feed her ( she used to have (50-60 ml every two hours and now it is 90-120 ml every two hours)
She has statred missing day naps or having very short naps (30- 45 min) which is frustrating and I cannot do anything during the day!
She wakes 4 times every night which is killing me and I feel I have aged 10 years in this 3 month?.
She recently refuses to take my breast during the day and I have to pump. She takes it at night only when she is super skeepy otherwise she wont take it!
I saw your 3 month old feeding schedual which shiws feedings every 2-2.5 hour. I thought babies should be fed every 4 hour at this age!
Please help me???
@Samira – Thank you for reading and for sharing with us. Feeding young babies can be quite exhausting and confusing! Though babies your daughter’s age aren’t feeding quite as frequently as she did even 6 weeks ago, their tummies are still quite small and require frequent fill-ups. Your baby’s healthcare provider can help you understand best how often/much you should expect your little girl to eat as he/she will take into account all of your daughter’s health needs when making a suggestion. Please consider double checking with him/her, Samira. Hang in there!
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